24 Belvedere Estate

Birding Journal – Sinhagad

Posted on | June 5, 2012 | No Comments

This has been on my mind for a while now.
A record of my birding trips that I can share with anyone interested.
And Sinhagad seems like a good trip to start with.

We started from Mumbai at 3.30am on Sunday.
Six of us in a Scorpio, with Jeetu at the wheels.
A minor delay as we hunted for a fuel station – ultimately found one a little before the Mumbai-Pune expressway.
Jeetu lived up to his reputation.
We crossed Khandala in the blink of an eye.
And reached Pune outskirts in no time at all.

Sinhagad Valley is very close to the Sinhagad Dam, a few miles out of Pune.
Almost adjacent to Khadakwasla.

A cup of chai later, we were at the entry to Sinhagad Valley.
The road becomes too narrow for a vehicle to pass.
There are 2-3 parking areas run by locals.
It being Sunday, the parking was almost full.

From the parking, it’s a 5 minute walk into the Valley.
There are two routes:
The left one goes into the Valley.
The right one goes up the hill to the Sinhagad Fort – I guess trekkers prefer this.

We chose the left trail and walked a bit ahead.
There is a clump of mango trees right there – a beauty of a spot.
We walked past this spot only to return here quickly.
Fact is, once the Sun is up, the rays hit this side first.

Birds spotted here:
Small Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Blue-Tailed Bee Eater, Green Bee Eater, Bay-Backed Shrike, Indian Robin, Common Iora, Baya Weaver, Ashy Prinia, Indian Gray Hornbill, Woodshrike, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Fork-Tailed Drongo, Purple Sunbird, Oriental White Eye, Brahminy Myna, Laughing Dove – to name a few.

We didn’t need to do anything.
We just waited and they all arrived at the spot.
One by one.
The Bee Eaters literally performed for us. In numbers.

If you sit quietly near the clump of Mango trees, you’ll see most of the birds.
The Indian Gray Hornbill was a lucky spotting – thanks to a tip-off from a birder I met there.

The irritant?

A group of students who were behaving as if this was a picnic spot – loud, disturbing, completely unwelcome.

Given the volume of visitors (trekkers, serious birders and general public) – birding spots like the Sinhagad valley needs stricter monitoring.
The picnikers need to be kept out.

With the monsoon barely a few days away, guess I might get just one more trip this weekend before everything gets drenched.

If I do, the update will come here.

For a glimpse of some of the images captured at Sinhagad, try either of these links:

Flickr : Click Here

Facebook : Click Here

If you ‘like’ the FB page, you’ll automatically be updated every time I post a new image there.

Maybe I’ll figure out one of those link-backs to the FB page to this blog.

And yes, one tip. If you intend to go to Sinhagad Valley, go on a Saturday morning or a weekday.

That way you’ll avoid the Sunday rush.

And hopefully see more of the bird kind :-)

Airtel – 1. Customer – 0.

Posted on | January 16, 2011 | No Comments

“Good afternoon. This is Sheetal. How may I help you?”

“Hi Sheetal. My number is 98*******0. I wish to surrender this number.”

“Thank you for the number Sir. How can I help you?”

“I want to surrender this number, this connection.”

“Why Sir?”

“This is a Delhi number. I moved to Mumbai a few years back but kept this number alive. I don’t really need it and there is no point incurring roaming charges on it.”

“So you don’t want this number?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Sir I can give you an option. We can transfer this number to Mumbai.”

“Meaning?”

“We can give you another number in Mumbai with the last five digits same as this one.”

“I already have a Mumbai number with the last 5 digits same as this. I want to surrender this number.”

“You are sure Sir?”

“Yes I am.”

“Sir I can give you a second option. We can put this number in suspension for 3 months. So you will be charged zero rental. As long as you don’t use this number, you will be charged nothing. But if you use this number in this period, you will be charged.”

“Madam, I do NOT want this number. Can you please take in the request to surrender it?

“You are sure Sir?”

“Yes I am.”

“Sir I will give you a third option. Why don’t you gift this number to a relative? Your wife?”

“Madam, we all already have mobile connections here in Mumbai. I don’t need this number.  Can you PLEASE log in my request?”

“So you are convinced that you want to surrender this connection Sir?”

“Yes. I am.”

“Okay Sir. I can see you have no outstanding amount to be paid. Please note this service request number.”

“Tell me.”

“******.”

“Thanks. By when will this process complete?”

“Sir you will need to give me an alternate contact number.”

“96*******0.”

“Thank you for the number Sir. You will get a call from us soon on your alternate contact number.”

“Great. But what for?”

“They will ask you these same questions I asked, once again.”

“Why??”

“You will have to convince them just like you convinced me Sir.”

“Meaning??”

“You have convinced me. You will now have to convince them Sir. Once you do that, they will surely disconnect your number.”

“What???”

“Thank you for calling Airtel. You are speaking to Sheetal.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This transcript is 99.99% accurate, barring a word or two that I may have missed. Needless to say, I am still awaiting the call back from Airtel Customer Care.

P.S. The name Sheetal is purely representative.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(19.01.11) UPDATE: The call-back happened today. Yes, the lady who called began going through the same motions again. I had to, tad rudely, cut her short. I’ve been assured the number will be disconnected by the 21st.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(20.01.11) UPDATE (1): Spoken too soon. Yet another lady called, asked the same questions, again. Now assures the disconnection will happen in 7 working days. Sigh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(20.01.11) UPDATE (2): And YET another lady called, asked the same questions, again. Assures the disconnection will happen in 2 working days. Grrr.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(31.01.11) I destroyed the SIM Card. Checked after 4 days. Number disconnected. Case closed. Phew.

Where was I?

Posted on | November 14, 2010 | No Comments

It’s not that I’ve been too busy to blog.

But since a few weeks I’ve been posting a series for afaqs.com – a popular advertising and marketing site.

If you are interested in a lighthearted take on advertising, here are the links to the posts:

Liftman’s Log 1.01

Liftman’s Log 1.02

Liftman’s Log 1.03

Liftman’s Log 1.04

Liftman’s Log 1.05

Liftman’s Log 1.06

Liftman’s Log 1.07

Liftman’s Log 1.08

Liftman’s Log 1.09

The series will continue till I get bored.

Or you do.

Dear Brother Kalmadi

Posted on | August 3, 2010 | No Comments

Dear Brother Kalmadi,

Greetings.

Kallu, our village gambler, says a special ‘yo’.

Ever since the glorious wikipedia told us that your middle name is also Kallu, he has been wearing a special friendship band in your honour.

Wait, he says ‘yo’ again :-D

Brother, we are aware of the trouble surrounding you.

Brother Twitter has told us.

So have brother IBNLive and sister NDTV.

Everyone seems to be doubting you.

But they do not see what we see.

You have replaced ancient Business Sense with new-age Business Benevolence.

Is it true that you bought an umbrella for more than 6000 rupees?

Benevolence 2.0!

Brother, we are with you. Seriously.

Myself, Talli, Jags (Jaggu) and of course Kallu.

Last night, just before placing the last order in our country liquor bar, we formally formed the Committee of Organized Comrades of Kalmadi.

C.O.C.K. will be spearheaded by Jaggu, our village cybercafe owner and internet expert.

C.O.C.K. has a single-minded agenda.

Every time someone accuses you of building leaky stadiums, hanky-panky-deals, etc, simply send us an e-mail with that person’s address.

We will send Bajrangi, our village wrestler to sort him out.

Trust us, we guarantee the results.

And Brother, as a confidence building measure, we, on behalf of C.O.C.K., invite you to purchase the following items at these special rates from us:

  • Buffalo Milk – 800 rupees/litre (water mixing 70 rupees/litre extra)
  • Country Liquor – 250 rupees/pouch
  • Bansi’s old cooler (1 year old, good condition) – 18000 rupees.
  • Broomstick – 600 rupees a piece.

All items will be delivered on advance payment with proper stamped receipt.

Okay?

So much for now Brother.

Bajrangi awaits your signal.

Meanwhile, ignore all those aspersions and keep that eye on the games.

Like Talli said just before he broke the bottle on Dhania’s head last night:

Only someone as uncommon as you can make the Commonwealth Games a success.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

P.S. Since the bank account of C.O.C.K. has still not been opened, we are accepting only cash payments for now :-D

Gullible’s Travels – 2

Posted on | July 29, 2010 | No Comments

I am, what you can call, a reformed frequent flier.

And the designation does not come easy.

You must, compulsorily, undergo life-altering experiences to earn it.

At times, experiences that alter the impression left by a previous life-altering experience.

For instance, once, after being crushed between two portly businessmen all through a Mumbai-Delhi flight, I left strict instructions with my office to ALWAYS telecheck me into a window seat.

I love window seats. Always have.

Sigh.

The next few weeks were spent flying happily ever after.

Till it happened.

I was to fly on my usual Mumbai-Delhi sector.

I was sleep starved – whenever I have to take the first flight out, I barely sleep in the worry that I won’t wake up in time.

My office made no mistakes.

It was me in the window seat.

A middle-aged gentleman in the aisle seat.

Hunky and dory were together.

Till SHE walked in.

A conservative estimate would peg her between 100 to 115 kilos.

Saree-clad, very-well-fed Punjabi lady, returning home to Delhi, probably.

She ‘settled’ in.

What do I tell you now?

That I spent the rest of the flight with my face squashed against the window like a first time flier?

No it wasn’t voluntary.

When you have a mammoth elbow intruding across three-fourths of your seat space, there is nowhere else to go.

I had to refuse breakfast.

There was NO way I could have handled a tray in that kind of space.

It’s bad enough when you have to share your seat with a giant elbow.

It’s worse when the elbow belongs to a giant who decides to sleep after breakfast.

And sinks a little into you with every passing breath.

Now consider the fact that the elbow belongs to a woman.

What will you scream?

Rape?

I would have.

Had I managed to somehow extricate myself from under that elbow and reached upwards to buzz the air-hostess, I seriously would have.

We disembarked in Delhi.

She, refreshed.

Me, crushed. Literally.

Frequent flying is no fun, my friend.

After Vietnam and Advertising, it ranks third in my books.

That morning I learnt that even a window seat can’t save you from the scourge of an intrusive elbow.

My humble advice?

If you can, fly business.

If you can’t, then beg the ground-staff to tell you who or what has checked into your middle seat.

If you can do neither, quietly take the train.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In case you have a similar moving experience, do write in.

Gullible’s Travels will be glad to reproduce the same in the larger interest of travelers.

Read this. For someone else.

Posted on | February 25, 2010 | No Comments

When you post after a 3 month hiatus, it had better be good.

I though this would be a good way to return.

I received this via email from a colleague.

Who personally knows Aditi, the author of this email.

So I’m doing the next best thing I can.

Asking you to read it as well.

__________

Dear All,

This email is actually an appeal and since I want you to truly understand what I am trying to say, I will not take any short cuts.

As you may all know I am a fellow with Teach For India. This stated very simply means, I am a teacher. I teach 45 children in a low income school in Goregaon East and make a difference in the lives of about 300 children in the school, in different ways-big or small.

My co teacher and I took 6 of our students to Oberoi Mall, Goregaon, the other day. This outing was conducted with the aim of celebrating their success. Each one of the 45 children was given a differentiated goal to achieve, 6 of them made it.

At the end of a very happy meal  we took them to Crossword Book Store. The sale was on and all the books were out on display. My kids walked in and were truly mesmerized by the sight. The colours, pictures and everything there, was a treat. They picked up books and sat on the carpet, reading.

Some understood, while others simply read.

This is the thought I had while we were there. If you put any child in a place that offers learning, a child will learn without being taught. This store had so much to give.

My class is really colourful. Its walls are plastered with a lot of information. They have storybooks to read, but most of them have been read.

We need books.

Here is my appeal:

In case you people have books, magazines, activity books, picture dictionaries, normal dictionaries, and all or any form of literature suitable for children between 6-14 years – those that you have outgrown, those your children have outgrown, your nieces and nephews, and everyone else – please could you pass them over to me?

I promise, as long as the material is in English, it will be used.

Send me an email on aditirawat@gmail.com and we will find a way to collect the gifts.

Looking forward to receiving support from you. Cause I truly want to believe that everyone wants to help, but does not know where exactly to start from.

Feel free to begin :-)

Thanks!

Aditi :-)

P.S- please circulate this to everyone.

Indira Aditi Rawat
Teach For India Fellow.
Class Teacher- 2B
Divine Child High School
Sanjay Nagar
Malad East, Mumbai.

“One day ALL children will attain an excellent education”

PS: Aditi’s kids won in the ‘Top 20 Category’ in the Design For Giving Project. Out of 33000 registrations.

Here is a little video: Click Here

Dear Brother Twitter

Posted on | November 28, 2009 | No Comments

Dear Brother Twitter,

WTF.

I don’t know what that means, but I think it is a popular greeting in your world.

So I am hoping you will like it :-D

In fact in our village we like showing our respect three times.

So here goes.

WTF. WTF. WTF.

I am hoping you will like that more :-D

You will wonder how I found you.

Well, I did not.

Jaggu (aka Jags), our village cybercafe owner did.

You see, Jaggu, Talli and I are country liquor bar regulars.

Every night, we drink and talk about many things.

But lately something happened to Jaggu.

He began talking less.

I mean the Jags we knew wouldn’t allow anyone else to speak once he started.

But this new Jags?

He spoke less. And less. And less.

One night, Jags passed out earlier than usual.

And even as Talli and I were finishing our last one for the road, he started mumbling peculiar words in his drunken state.

Words we had never heard before.

“RT. WTF. Hashtag.  Follow Gulpanag. Follow Kareena. Follow Bipasha.”

We were alarmed, brother.

Why would Jags want to follow them?

Who were these RT, WTF and Hashtag?

Why did he want them to follow sister Gul, sister Kareena and Bipasha?

You see, the last time Jags tried following Bansi’s ex-wife (she walked out on him), he was thrashed by the village ladies.

Had he forgotten that lesson?

We were alarmed.

We were drunk.

We had no one to turn to.

So we turned to brother Google.

And that, brother, is how we discovered Jaggu had found you.

For two days, Talli and I explored your world.

And we understood.

It was you who was making Jaggu speak less.

You did not allow him his usual long-winded conversations.

He who speaks less, knows more, says Masterji.

So maybe that is good for Jags.

But late night in the country liquor bar, we miss his long stories.

We really do.

Another thing.

You may be big time popular with many people, brother.

But I must urge you to consider this.

Don’t follow people.

It is not an activity a decent person like you should indulge in.

It might even get you into trouble.

If Bajrangi (our village wrestler) were to find out Bipasha is being followed, we will not be able to save you from him.

So much for this time brother.

Treat this as advice from an elder brother.

Don’t take it in any other way.

You see, even though we seem apart, we are exactly like each other.

Know how?

My life, like yours, also revolves around 140 characters.

That includes me, Jags and Talli :-D

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS: Can you tell Bipasha I am not following her because I am a good person. I do happen to like her actually…

Gullible’s Travels – 1

Posted on | October 27, 2009 | No Comments

Yes I am a frequent flier.

No. You would not want to be in my shoes.

You see, things happen to frequent fliers.

Unimaginable things.

Good soul that I am, I would not ever want them to happen to you.

Believe me, frequent flying is no fun, once you’re done with the initial glee and the mileage points craze.

Don’t believe me?

Silly wannabe frequent flier you must be.

You have absolutely no clue of the kind of things that happen to us.

For once, if you travel Mumbai-Delhi-Mumbai frequently, you will know what I am talking about.

Take me, for once.

I dread the 8pm return flight to Mumbai.

Totally dread it.

Yet I have often ended up taking it.

You see, the 8pm flight is strategically timed.

It allows you to finish a meeting at 5.45pm, leave office at 6pm, avoid the late evening traffic, reach airport at 7.15pm.

It also lands you in Mumbai by 10pm.

Which is not too late.

But it’s not that simple.

The 8pm flight is also strategically located between a lunch, a snack, a rushed drive to the airport on one hand.

And in-flight dinner and coffee on the other.

With ZERO major loo breaks.

So when you are comfortable strapped into your window seat, you are also surrounded by many not-so-frequent fliers who ate a heavy lunch, did their meeting, snacked as the meeting got extended, then caught the cab to rush to the airport, hit the boarding gates, made it to the flight and gratefully collapsed into their seat.

Without taking a SINGLE bio break.

What ensues is this.

You take off.

1. A lemon based refresher is offered.

2. Followed by dinner.

3. Followed by tea/coffee.

4. The trays are collected.

5. The captain announces you will be reaching Mumbai soon.

6. The cabin lights are dimmed.

7. You shut your eyes in relief.

That’s when it happens.

One gentleman, seated three rows ahead of you, raises himself a wee bit and lets rip a silent one.

A deadly, slow-death-inducing silent one that owes its roots to the poisonous mix of the pizzas from lunch, the sandwiches from the snack, the lemon refresher, the horrendously same and insipid in-flight dinner and the coffee after that.

Like a viral, the phenomenon is replicated by passengers strategically seated around you.

And it travels.

It snakes it’s way between rows, navigates down the aisle, around the aisle seats, into your row and singles you out.

You.

There is no escape.

None.

That my friends, is the single most horrific torture you can be subjected to at 30 miles above the sea.

I have been.

Every time, without fail, on every 8 pm flight.

Some not-so-frequent fliers always manage to lay one on me.

In a dimly-lit cabin, with row after row of passengers, there is absolutely no way you can identify the culprit.

And in an air conditioned cabin, the effect is that of surround sound.

It comes from everywhere.

Now do you believe me?

Frequent flying is no fun, my friend.

If you must fly, avoid the 8pm return flight like plague.

Else I can suggest only one other thing.

Go armed with a deo-dabbed handkerchief.

And hope for the best.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dear Brother Teleshopping

Posted on | October 1, 2009 | No Comments

Dear Brother Teleshopping,

No greetings to you.

Apologies, but I do not know how to greet someone as enlightened as you.

You see, late Sunday night, we were all watching TV at the village square.

Talli, in his usual high spirits, was playing with the channels.

It was he who stopped at this amazing vision:

A man and his wife are seated in their house.

A lady relative is visiting them.

“How is everything?” she asks them.

“Great. Business, life, home, everything is great,” he replies.

The wife beams.

The visiting lady looks at the man jealously.

Evil rays emerge from her eyes and head towards the man.

But just before they reach him, a mystical shield surrounds his head, deflecting the evil red rays.

We watched with bated breath.

Magic?

No.

It was the Nazar Suraksha Kawach.

The Evil Eye Bead that can protect one from evil looks.

Available for only Rs. 2375.

What a revelation. What a discovery.

This magical Nazar Suraksha Kawach, we were told, had saved many marriages from breaking and many businesses from collapsing.

Do you know how irritating it is to the nose when chachi burns all those red chillies every time she tries to save Bansi’s son from the evil eye?

Not anymore.

After all, your wonderful Evil Eye Bead is also smoke-free!

Brother, I am the converted preaching to you now.

You have opened our eyes.

Now we know why Jaggu (aka Jags) got polio when he was three.

Now we know why there was no rain last year.

Now we know why brother Shiny Ahuja was caught.

Now we know why uncle Bhushan can’t perform in spite of 4 marriages.

It was definitely because of an evil eye.

But thanks to you, nothing like that will ever happen again.

Brother, you know things no one else does.

You are a visionary, a saint, a prophet.

You possess exceptionally rare wisdom.

Do you know how we figured that out?

Well, we checked online.

Even the glorious wikipedia did not know about Nazar Surakhsha Kawach :-D

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS: Savitabai is ordering 20 pieces – one for each member of her village kotha. She says the evil eyes of the wives of her honorable customers are always threatening them.

Dear Brother Mayawati

Posted on | September 22, 2009 | No Comments

(Important)

Dear Brother Mayawati,

Jai Ho.

You will note I have taken the liberty of addressing you as brother.

It is not without reason.

Neither is it without verification from wikipedia*.

So please do not be offended.

This once, I will not digress as I often do.

I will come to the point ASAP – (new word, again courtesy wikipedia* :-D )

Well, a few days back, some brothers came and painted your face on the village school wall.

Talli, who was sprawled in the vicinity, was impressed with what he saw.

In fact it was Talli who insisted we look you up on wikipedia*.

Brother, let me tell you.

What we found is not merely impressive.

It is super.

Your achievements are far too many to be counted on my fingers.

But with your permission, I will, here, highlight Talli’s Top Three.

~~

1.

Dhaniya, the village bootlegger once told us it takes 10 lakh rupees minimum to get an inspector transferred from a thana.

But you?

You have been known to transfer hundreds of them without paying a single naya paisa!

It takes an awful lot of guts to beat the system like that.

Super.

2.

Respected Bapu endured decades of hardship, sacrifice, even celibacy in serving our great nation.

Only then were his statues put up in various places.

But you?

With far less effort, you have accomplished it in a matter of mere years!

It takes an awful lot of focus to achieve such monumental success.

Super.

3.

It took someone as fortunate as brother Ambani much inheritance, countless gas findings, mergers, family feuds and what not to reach where he is.

But you?

When it came to paying income tax, you, in spite of your humble origins, took just a few years to surpass even him!

It takes an awful lot of honestly to achieve such stature.

Super.

~~

We thought hard, brother.

We even asked headmasterji to think for us.

You see, Sarpanchji’s wife aside, we have always known this world to be dominated by men.

But we could not think of even one man as gutsy, focused and honest as you.

In fact they were not even half as manly as you have proven to be.

Now you see why I address you as I did?

Now you see why I insisted you take no offense?

BTW: I have also read that you dream of becoming the prime minister of our nation.

Talli says you underestimate yourself.

With your charisma and prowess, he sees you as the President of America very soon.

In fact, the last thing he said before passing out was this:

“Sushree? Rubbish. Supershree is more like it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

wikipedia, brother, is a glorious online service we have discovered. We suspect it was founded by brother Jobs. We have asked him about it, but he is yet to confirm the same.

keep looking »