Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Tempest

For love it forever wails
Without any the ship always sails
In the stormy monstrous sea
To the waves you're but a flea

Hurtling from one bedlam to another
If you don't find it, don't bother
For trying too hard will never get you there
The oars will be thrashed, the hull will be a-flare

Let the soothing wind blow
Hold your shrugs against the flow
Let the currents lead you astray
For it ain't limitless, this azure bay

The land shall at last beckon
No matter how much you otherwise reckon
The glitering lights shall call
No, you can't right now see 'em all

The depths shall give way
To golden sand they say
Gripping your sore feet
It will sure hold you neat

And oh! shall you arrive
At a shore far and wide
The restless heart shall at last thrive
And with joy shall it glide

Sunday, December 27, 2009

DIY Shutter Release Cable for Canon EOS 450D

Thanks Chandasa, for having sparked this in my mind. I knew a shutter release cable would help me get self shots, and also some bird shots from our garden.

So this is what I started with:
1. earphone socket pin, that of Nokia 1108 series' size
2. 3-stranded wire, 3m long
3. a 1 to 2 audio extension cord
4. soldering gun
5. sodering metal
6. a push-to-on switch
7. a toggle switch

The key was to get this pin, for it is considered to be an 'old' one, and what I got was actually an extension pin, from mobile EP socket to a normal full size EP socket. Even this was after having spent about 45 minutes in the electronics market in Pune (Pasodya Vithoba).

I tried opening the pin to get wire connections directly, but the intricate soldering arrangement was an immense hurdle right there. Thankfully I had a full size extension cord, which I could use. I put the pin back together, taped it to one piece, and turned to the extension cord.

It has a ready made arrangement for the purpose we have: a 3-lead pin to go to the camera, and 2 combinations (ground-L1 and ground-L2) to go to the 2 switches. One for half click, one for full click.

Chopped off the two extension pins, and extended the cord with the 3m long wire I had got. The green went to the ground, black to one live, and red to the other live. Ensured to use plenty of insulation tape at the joint, to prevent any shorting.

What I now had was a 3+ m long wire, with one end as a 3 lead full size EP socket pin that could fit into the mobile extension I bought, and the other end with 3 leads hanging free.

To test which combination of leads should go to which switch, testing was the way. Put the pin into the camera, switched it on, and tried shorting the 2 combinations (red-green and green-black). Turned out that black was for half click, and red for full.

The push-to-on switch went on to the half click combo, and the toggle on the full click one. What I had finally in my hands as a control was this:

And there it was, my virtual remote control to my camera, because of the sheer length of the wires I had chosen.

Here is the deal, in terms of cash:
1. The mobile to full size EP socket extension pin: INR 40
2. The 3 m long wire with 3 strands: INR 24 (8 per metre)
3. The 1 to two audio extension cable: INR 20
4. Soldering metal: INR 40 (I still have LOADS of this left, still adding it to the cost)
5. The 2 switches: INR 15 (10 for toggle, 5 for push to on)
6. Petrol to go all the way to the market and back: INR 25 (approx, conservative though)
7. My time, 2 hours in total, with current remuneration rate: INR 250

Total: INR 414, v/s the $25 cable Canon sells.

A long cable arrangement: INR 44
Two switches and an extender: INR 55
Having family awestruck by controling a $1000 camera with a self made cable: priceless.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gulmarg With 'Old' Buddies

Pestered with articles and phone calls describing the beauty of Gulmarg and Pahalgam, I decided to give it the benefit of doubt. Going to the taxi stand was told to be the best idea. What was not, was that Bengalis (no offenses please, I derive the feeling associated with this from my year-long stay in East Bengal) could wait until even the last seat of their shared taxi got occupied.

I was the one. Although I cannot deny the fact that such situation did help me by reducing my travel expense, I was much annoyed by the constant high amplitude high pitch conversations, often monologues, delivered by one Mr Pal (or Roy, I do not remember now). Needless to say, those were studded with wisdom pearls, from Sanskrit and obviously other travel experiences. These included trips made earlier on exactly the same dates or to exactly the very same destinations, or with exactly the same (except me of course) company. Gosh, I was with the regular travel company of theirs!

As though this was not enough, it started drizzling. I was hell bent on defining my own happiness despite the possible oncoming slaughter of my dream vacation, and excluded the ‘I hate rains’ thing from the definition. A prop to that was our driver being benevolent to warn us against the horse riding business touts at Gulmarg. Alternative arrangement suggested was to walk straight to the cable car. Another and an amazing one was that a place called ‘Bakshi’ served the most amazing parathas I had had before I went to Sonamarg. Crisp-ish, nicely cooked with soft stuffing, the paneer paratha was more than enough for me to stand the flak of the horse ride touts, aimed at me for they thought it was me who educated my co-travelers, weaning them away.

A 2-km long walk, a thousand metres high haul and a 5 hours drive in total – all in rains, was what filled the time until 4pm, and I was back to the Swiss Hotel to tell Altaf about how the trip to Gulmarg sucked.

Nevertheless, I had quite a few gems that day: connecting with Rafique, our driver; seeing an apple tree with more apples than leaves; and having walnuts sold by the roadside like ‘wada pav’! The evening was as free as it could have got – no bag packing, no tidying up, nothing. I was warm and cozy in holding my steaming tea-cup in the living of Swiss, watching ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ with Fayaz and Altaf.

Then was a solitary night again, totally bent on spending a lazy lazy next day, after a Shikara ride early in the morning.

Return trip to Gulmarg in a Toyota Qualis: INR 300
Return ride in the world’s highest cable car: INR 300
Knowing 15-odd words of Bengali and being thought as a small brother by Bengalis: Priceless

Monday, November 16, 2009

Traveloner for a (be)Cause

Finally it was happening. I was still skeptical about having some problem, constraint, limitation or sickness or the other. This was how it had been for all the things I had really, really wanted to do. When they would finally happen, I would not be able to go.

But this time was different. I had to go. Ladakh had to have me. Srinagar had to have me. For what seemed like eternity after I watched the Nat Geo Adventure episode on Khardung La, the itinerary was made, with tickets booked. 2 of us were to travel to Jammu and then by road to Srinagar. The other 3 would join us in Srinagar and then we would go to Leh.

Problem, if not you, who is my friend? My initial travel mate had to back out because of inevitable family situation. I was alone. This was still OK, except for the fact that I did not want to travel on roads for 49 hrs all alone. So minor change in itinerary at a negligible cost, and I flew to Srinagar on Aug 25th, the Tuesday. So before the 3 friends – Chacha, Roger and Motar-Motar reached Srinagar, I had 5 days all to myself.

This was the first time I was traveling all alone for pleasure. That too to such a place (international cordiality galore!). The specter of skepticism engulfed me right as I emerged from the airport and looked for the bus to take me to the city. Relentlessly looking under the seats of the passengers (and regretting that I was not able to see under the driver’s seat), I constantly felt on the verge of dying, my earlobes were piping hot, and I was ready to be at the centre of a bus explosion. The bus was exactly like the ones shown exploding in the movies. This still didn’t keep me from appreciating both – the military presence and the greenery. Finally I was at the interchange between the airport shuttle and the city Auto network. First thing – get a map, and I was actually surprised by the fact that I got it exactly for the price printed on it. The city map only fueled my ubiquitous suspicion further – it was not to scale. The auto guy on top of that, gave excuses such as ‘Ramadan ka mahina hai’(It is the Ramadan month) and charged me 1.5 times what was written on reasonable for that distance on most travel forums.

The destination was Hotel Swiss. An awesome welcome by Fayaz and Altaf instantly relaxed me. What made me further feel home was their impeccable confidence about what I should be doing in Srinagar, and offering the in-house bicycle for sauntering around.

What followed were a quick nap and a quack snap.

And with sprinkling off the burden of such a laden day, around the gardens and the suburban streets of Srinagar, it was a cold, starry, light night.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Another One

It was that time again. Shouting my name and address again and again at the call taxi reservation desk over phone, then at the driver for having gone in an irrelevant direction, then to giving him directions, trundling my bag to a place on the main road for having given up hope that the driver would ever make it to my doorstep.

After the usual Murphy-influenced check-in procedure (literally, this time I changed 3 queues after the counters at each of them developed some problem or the other) and the zero noise frisking, (I love it when I wear my track pants or the Thai trouser that doesn’t need a belt – the guy goes mad searching for a metal beep where the belt buckle usually sits and it takes him a while to figure that the detector is perfectly alright and that I am actually not wearing a belt – so in the end the detector does not make even a single beep. Not even the calibration one.) there was still 40 minutes’ time left for the boarding, thanks to the last minute series of delays announced by our good(?) old national carrier.

Then something happened which made me wish I were cruising. Uss, Chandasa, Random Access, Mugga, yawl know what I am referring to, right?

I noticed a godforsaken aquarium close to a nondescript advertise-carrying pier in the waiting area. The area was teeming with people, as most of the airlines had chosen to go easy on their schedule. Anyway, the aquarium called for such a qualification because literally not even the children were giving its existence a dingo’s liver. I decided to have a closer look, and noticed how the air bubbles stuck to some underwater plant looked like silver beads. Then I noticed a fish trying to wrap itself in another structure (do not know whether it was plant or an animal or non-living, but it had long-ish tentacles and may have served as a blanket to the fish in question).

The interest kept me there for about 3-4 minutes when I suddenly felt a slight increase in the temperature of the air around me. Shifting my focus further deeper into the aquarium glass, I saw there were 5 people standing behind and around me, staring at the aquarium. Most, I could sense, came looking at others staring into the aquarium, and I was the seed. After the initial tide, some started giving a running commentary: “look at this shitty fish, it doesn’t wanna swim!” etc.

After a while I decided to go closer to the boarding counter. Surprisingly, without even an announcement, a huge queue formed behind where I and a couple of others were standing just like that. We all stood there for at least 20 minutes before an official boarding announcement was made.

Surprising? I do not know. I stood only because I did not find a place to sit closer to the boarding counter. The people forming the queue were sitting comfortably right next to the counter, and still chose to stand up in the queue for 20 minutes without an announcement! Fortunately there weren’t any to go and teach the airline staff not to make people stand in a queue like that, because they would have gotten shouted back at: “there has been no announcement, why are you here?”

On second thoughts, it would have been a good thing to have that question asked.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An Out of Turn Post

For those whom I have been telling that a couple of posts are in the pipeline, especially the priceless series, this is gonna be out of turn – it deserves to be.
For the simple reason that this incident starkly held itself out in the tide of hectic, ruthlessly meted out series of events over last about 2 weeks. The pinnacle was this: 3 take offs, just as many landings, origin airport entry at 1515 Bangladesh Standard Time (1345 IST), destination airport exit at 2310 IST.

All in the middle of what appeared to be a never-ending bout of cold and cough. The doctors at NSCB International Airport didn’t do much out of a youth conjuring up a mix of haughtiness and ignorance towards Bengali, in reality just trying not to speak much and make the cough evident, fearing being quarantined.
I already had a tiding about the excruciating pain the 2 flights (hopping to Pune) were going to inflict upon me, more so the landing part. The first flight had not been such a pain because it was just an ATR – this is a hindsight realization of course – since that is the only difference I found in the two flights.

It was true, even as I was wishing it wouldn’t be. I managed to scrape through the first landing, but quickly realized I was not in for another one, lest my ears should bleed or something. They were making weird noises within already.
Weighed the risk of me appearing as just another desperate guy trying to suck up to the air hostesses; but the pain took over the better of me. I could hardly hear what was happening around me, and I would rather have preferred to be pressed between two walls of thorns at 1000 Pa, than withstand that kinda pain in my ears.

What followed was a very genuine schedule of taking care of me, first by suggesting various mechanisms (blowing within, opening jaws wide) and then giving me some warm water and even chewing gum from their personal belongings.
This was probably professionally demanded of them. But what really was impressive was that I was being watched, and as I twitched in pain during altitude changes, contemplating summoning the cabin crew by pressing the button, she was already by me, asking me if it was still paining, ready with a cup of warm water. This happened so many times I was convinced I literally made her go the ‘extra mile’ trying to yank me out of pain.
Awesome it was, to see how chewing gum was handed over to me, nicely wrapped in tissue. Not one, not two but full four tablets of gum, which is exactly what I had to use to go through the extreme pain. The warm water was in a paper cup, which was in another paper cup, to make the grip more secure against the heat. I was also particularly instructed to hold it carefully as I took it from her.

Wondering if I was so impressed because I was helped in pain, or if it was such a good thing on the contrast of the badly knit fabric of the day, or just by the absolute virtue of the experience, or whatever – here it is – hats off to you, don’t know if you are reading this, nor do I know your name or anything.
Keep the good work up – it is much needed.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Priceless Series 1 of 3: Smoke after Near Death Experience

Much ado had already been exercised about what time to go, if at all to go, where to go, if at all to go, where to have lunch on the way, if at all to go, and if at all to go. Finally it boiled down to an emotional blackmail originated from yours truly. Retaliation by the lazier ones was carried out by providing pretexts to the tune of unavailability of ‘scapegoats’ to share the car fare in order to take the bike (my demand), and negotiation yielded that we all go in a car so that everything gets solved (hello? I wanted to ride!).


So far, so good. It looks better by the minute (actually by the dozen of minutes) as the intended driver keeps calling every now and then and saying he is “almost there and will be reaching in ten minutes” for five and a half hours. He was successful in making us wait in anticipation. The original altercation resumed.

The ado about whether to go at all was back to anvil. Calculations were quickly carried out; a simulation was quickly run with soft copies of maps (with the vision, that was planted in our brains) as to guess where we would be if we started in how much time, and before much mayhem broke loose, the driver arrived with the other two teammates laden in the car.

Then we made them wait for 10 minutes as we packed our bags.

More simulations saw these items in our carry baggage:

Camera, camera, chips, aerated cold drink, camera, cake, biscuits, camera, cigarettes, camera, camera, camera.

In the much comforting and soothing sunshine of 1245 hours of an end-April afternoon, we set out, only to be lovingly asked by the accomplice who arranged for the car: “Guys, there’s no AC in here. No problem, right? We can smoke in the car that way”.

A triumphant beam shone at us, which was returned emphatically.

And so it started. All this while we were too busy handling our belongings and trying to cope with the extremely excruciating heat to notice what the driver was up to.

With (reportedly) over 20 years of driving experience, he cared for nothing on the road. Neither our car (looking at the way he wrung the steering, jostled the gear shaft, rammed the throttle and slammed the brakes), nor other cars (instead of beating, my heart was ‘attacking’ to pump blood), nor the road nor the terrain (only if I had had buttermilk before starting, I would have surely yielded some churned butter within 15 minutes of the ride).

The loyal friends they were, my compadres attempted hard to strike topics to divert my mind off the driving activity. Finally there it was – something related to ‘when is a smoke best enjoyed’ – options were: post coital, after a scrumptious meal,…

“O.H. M.Y. G.O.O.D.N.E.S.S.!” I gasped, and it surely was what I thought the end of my life.

The moment before, we were travelling at 80 kmph, behind a car in the left of the two-lane undivided highway travelling at 75, a truck coming in the opposite direction in the other lane within ZERO distance at 90, and our best friend – the steering man – decided to overtake the car.

The rush in the head subsided, which was also the sign of the fact that we were alive.

…or after a near death experience?

“Pass me the lighter please” Random Access said. The Toning Down One & I were not smoking. Random Access and The Thin One shared a smoke.

And despite being the members of the V-gang, it was unanimously decided that no matter what, a smoke after a near death experience was t.h.e. b.e.s.t.

Dilapidated taxi for a day: Rs. 1380

Cigarettes for two: Rs. 8

Validating for oneself that smoking after near death experience is the best: Priceless.