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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kudos, SPB!

I have not posted anything on this blog since Dec 2014 and that must give you an idea of how thoughtless my mind has been. Not really, actually. There have been several issues on which I've had strong opinions, but none that made me feel like spending the time to sit and write an entire blog post about.

And today, that long hiatus has been broken. I stumbled upon this video of my all-time favorite male singer (in Tamil at least), SP Balasubrahmanyam voicing his thoughts to Bosskey about today's music scene. With this one video, I'm sure SPB has touched a chord and resonated with more hearts than any of his recent songs would have.

Whatever I've written below has been there in my mind for about 2-3 years at least, ever since I started attempting popular film songs. But I just didn't feel like telling anyone about it, because I just didn't / don't feel anyone would even want to waste time reading it :P

But this one video of SPB really made me feel like telling this all out and getting it out of my mind.
It doesn't matter if anyone is going to read it or not, I just felt like writing this out, so here it is, anyway :D

Coming to the video, truer words have never been spoken. Especially his statement on Vidyasagar - echoed many people's thoughts, I'm sure! Just listen to Vidyasagar's recent Malayalam album "Anarkali" and compare it with the kind of music that's coming these days otherwise - that's EXACTLY what SPB is talking about.

I'm not musically trained at all, I've not learned music.
The very minuscule bit of what I'm able to do with my Yamaha keyboard and loud, noisy voice is mainly a result of God's will and some high passion from my end.

Yet, people sometimes ask me why I don't use a proper microphone, do studio recordings etc etc - this is precisely the reason. No offence intended to those doing these, but IMO, I find these so-called "cover versions" that come out these days, recorded and filmed in studios & then digitally altered, mixed etc etc slightly pretentious. Again, the singers who do these cover versions are probably really talented and skilled, no comments on them. It's just the process that I find a little pretentious.

It's very easy for me or for anyone to play and record music note by note, record my voice line by line (this is what I did in the so-called background music that I had done for a couple of short films) & accompany it with auto-tune, may be, while filming all of the recording process. And then when the recording is done, mix the recorded bits all up and then do a similar video compilation and publish it as a "cover version" and get tens of thousands of views.

But I just don't feel like doing so. I know I'm not some great singer or something, but I don't think that the little bit of what I hum will ever improve if I just keep on recording line by line. Likewise, I'm no Yanni, but I don't think my little bit of keyboard playing ability will ever improve if I kept recording line by line or note by note.

That's why in all my attempts of film songs (until now and in future), I always put a simple digicam in front of me, start recording, do the whole thing in 1 take and then stop recording. If I make a mistake somewhere, I stop and record all the way from the beginning. I then publish on Youtube, the final full take that, to me, is at least not pathetic even if not good :P.

Painstaking, I know, but this 1-take mechanism is the way songs used to be recorded long ago and that's how SPB and his generation of singers (Yesudas & the immediate next generation too, like Hariharan, Unni Menon etc etc) became such legends, who can sing so flawlessly at any stage, any time, without going off pitch even a teeny weeny bit.

I obviously am not and won't be a great singer ever, but I at least want to be someone who genuinely tried / tries to improve his stuff without digital assistance / technologically lazing or dumbing down.

Thank you for speaking my heart out, SPB! And for making me do it as well! :)

That's all. To those who actually read my long rant, thank you for your patience and time :)

- Ashwin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Solo Tour Diary: Trip 3 - Coastal Karnataka - Day 3 - Murudeshwara Dhenu Atithya's "Gou Pooje", Gokarna

Continued from Day 2.

I woke up at around 6.15 am again. I had my plan ready:

Get ready by 7.30 am, eat breakfast by 8 am, attend the hotel Dhenu Athithya's "Gou Pooje" by 8.30 am and leave ASAP to reach Gokarna by 11.30 am maximum.

Once I reach Gokarna, I would cover the Mahabaleshwar and Mahaganapathi temples there, head to Kudle beach, have lunch there, take a boat to Paradise beach, trek back to Half-Moon beach, watch sunset at Om Beach and head back to the checkpost to catch my Bangalore-bound bus at 7.15 pm.

The good thing with a solo trip is that 99% of the time, things always go according to your plan. But sometimes, there's the 1% of the time where they don't :D ...Day 3 was one such day.

I got ready by 7.30 am, had 2 lovely idlis for breakfast at the in-house restaurant. I decided I would go easy on the last day and not hog much, because I had to travel at night and I would not have a good bathroom until Monday morning when I would reach home :P (I'm saying this because I had a not-so-good experience on the last day of my South Tamil Nadu solo trip! :D)

So yes, I was all set and waiting for the pooja to begin, but it began at Indian Standard Time :D - By the time it began, it was 8.45 am. But I whiled away time until then by playing with the cow and the calf :)

Getting a cow to pose for a selfie is an extremely, extremely difficult task on earth.

But getting a calf, not difficult at all :D

Anyway, the pooja began at 8.45 am. I was a bit excited - I'd never seen or performed this sort of pooja ever in my life. This was going to be the first time. It was quite good. A few other hotel residents too, took part.

For the first time in my trip, after the selfie overdose, I found someone else to click a photo of me :D Thanks to the hotel receptionist for clicking this:

By the time the pooja got over, it was 9.15 am. I rushed up to my room, picked my stuff and checked out. Across the road, there was a mini-van waiting to go to Honnavar. We reached Honnavar at around 10.15 am if I'm not wrong, passing through the Sharavathi river.

By this time, I knew that I had to change my plan a little, because both temples close by 12.30 pm. I decided to have lunch at Om beach and then witness sunset at Kudle beach instead. From Honnavar, I had to take another bus to Kumta. We reached Kumta by 11.20 am I think. From there, I had to take another bus to Gokarna. By the time we reached Gokarna, it was 12.15 pm.

I was amazed when I saw Gokarna - very very small roads, very very small buildings and foreigners all over! It was like stepping into some totally different, European country altogether!

Anyway, I walked along the street, it was quite hot. I finally reached the Mahaganapathi temple, which, to my pleasant surprise, was open. So I went in there and had my darshan. Men have to remove their t-shirts before entering the sanctum. The darshan costs 1 Rupee. That got over soon.

But the Mahabaleshwar temple was closed by then. The crowd of people waiting outside said that the next darshan would only be at 2 pm. I didn't want to waste time until then. I had only 5-6 hours in Gokarna, I had to cover as much as I could. I walked from there to Kotitheertha - it is about a 5-10 minute walk.

I also came back and saw the Gokarna beach. It wasn't great - it was a bit dirty and moreover, quite hot.

I walked back and decided to go to Kudle beach. This walk was longer than I expected and more tiring than I expected :D

It was hot and it was quite a deserted trail. Occasionally, a vehicle or two would go on the road. Else, it's a lonely walk. When you finally reach the beach, you go down another green-covered route which will make you feel like you're in the Outback racing track (NFS-2, anyone?)

You finally enter the beach, from right next to the Pizzeria cafe. I was too starved by then, so I decided to eat there itself. I would've ideally liked some curd rice somewhere, but this was like a European country :P So after going through the menu, I ordered a Cheese Mushroom Omlette.

I then took a walk up to the other end of Kudle beach and then walked back. Frankly, after seeing such deserted, calm beaches, seeing such a crowded beach sort of dampened my spirits. I saw groups of Indians and foreigners having fun, just relaxing by the beach side and enjoying beer. For the first time in my trip, I began to feel like I was a misfit there :D ...I absolutely didn't mind ogling at the bikini-clad foreigners though :P :P

It was about 2.30 pm I think. Once back to the auto stand, I took an auto to the Mahabaleshwar temple. The driver said that it would open only at 5 pm next. So I asked him to head to Om Beach instead. Now the drive to Om Beach is pretty long-winded through a hilly, curvy road and it takes about 20 minutes to get there. The auto driver charged 150 Rupees. Kind of a fleece, yes, but I had no choice! So I reached Om Beach. The driver said that he himself would wait for me there, without any waiting charge. I told him I would take at least an hour and a half. He didn't mind :)

So I went down towards the much-hyped Om beach and it was a good view. Once I got down, it was a similar feeling - quite a crowded beach, lot of foreigners and groups of friends playing frisbee, or sitting and enjoying beer or couples doing the same.

That's when I realized that Gokarna is simply NOT the place for a solo trip. Gokarna is the kinda place you should visit with your friends or with your partner. It's the kinda place where you just sit by the beach all day, enjoy your beer and do absolutely nothing. It's not the kinda place you want to do sight-seeing in. It's the kinda place that'll only make you feel more lonely, if you're a solo traveler :D

I walked along the beach to the other end, kept clicking pics and walked back. I briefly sat at Namaste Cafe and had a watermelon juice. I decided to cut out Half-Moon beach and Paradise beach from my plan, as I felt it really wasn't worth going all the way. I didn't quite enjoy the famed beaches themselves, there was less probability that I'd enjoy the ones that were known for being inhabited only by foreigners.

So I walked back to the auto stand by around 4 pm. The auto-driver showed me a cave near Kudle beach, inside which there was a temple.

He also showed me a famous hole in the hall that apparently has water 24*7*365.

From there, we headed to the temple. It was another 150 bucks :-/

I had half an hour to kill until the darshan began at 5. So I walked to the Gokarna beach and sat there in one of the benches. At around 4.45 pm, I headed to the Mahabaleshwar temple, waited in the long queue that had already been formed. The queue, however, moved fast and I was out by 5.30 pm. Males are supposed to remove their tshirts on entry. This was a very weird darshan - in the sanctum, people had to go on their knees, put their hands in some sort of a tumbler and touch the soaked lentils in the water. I had never heard of such a thing before :) Anyway, I was out.

My bus was only at 7.15 pm, so I decided to catch sunset at the Gokarna beach itself.

And as the clock struck 6 pm, I witnessed an amazing sunset, which FINALLY gave me some reason to cheer, in this otherwise, pretty lackluster Gokarna leg of my trip :)

After the sunset, I walked all the way back to the checkpost - at least 1.5 km and found my VRL bus waiting there. I decided to have a light meal before boarding. I found Hotel Shivaprasad there - I had read good reviews of this lodge while researching about Gokarna. So I went in and had 2 idlis. They tasted BAD! :-/ What to do? I had no other choice! :)

Anyway, I boarded the VRL sleeper bus - it was extremely good, far more comfortable than the Durgamba sleeper bus and we soon started off. I reached RR Nagar gate, Bangalore the next day`at 7 am.

Phew! That ends another highly memorable, highly refreshing, hugely satisfying, exhilarating and more than anything, amazingly detoxifying solo trip :) As I typed this travelogue series, I was and am still reeling in the travel hangover :)

But as I said earlier, the only way to beat travel hangover is to plan your next trip! :D
And I think I should get on it soon! :)

That's about it, folks. For those of you who've read until the end, thank you very much for your patience! :)

Until the next solo trip,

Solo Tour Diary: Trip 3 - Coastal Karnataka - Day 2 - Murudeshwara, Idagunji, Kasarkod, Apsarkonda

Continued from Day 1:

I woke up early in the morning, at 6.15 am and was all ready and fresh by 7.15 am. I checked out of the hotel and got a bus headed towards Bhatkal. The bus left at around 7.45 pm and once again, I witnessed a wonderful view of Maravanthe from the highway. The ticket cost a little over 30 Rupees if I'm not wrong.

After a while, we reached Bhatkal at around 8.45 am. Bhatkal appeared like a new kinda town to me - many signboards of shops had their names in Urdu as well, in addition to Kannada and English. Anyway, from Bhatkal, I got a bus to Murudeshwar cross. This hardly took more than 15-20 minutes. From the highway itself, from a distance, one can see the tall gopura and the statue as you approach the cross. I got down at the cross and saw a big arch welcoming people to Murudeshwar :) (A little like the RR Nagar arch)

From there, I took an auto and got down at Dhenu Atithya for 30 Rupees. The hotel looked more like some apartment than a lodge. Felt very homely.

It was around 9.15 am by the time I checked in. I decided to have breakfast and then head to the temples. I had an idly-vada at the in-house restaurant. It was awesome! Yummy! I then headed towards the temples - it was barely a 5 minute walk. The hotel is very close to the temples. I was stunned by how huge the gopura was - one of the tallest I've ever seen.

After seeing hundreds of pics online, it was finally amazing to see the mighty Lord Shiva statue with my own eyes :)

There was a lot of boating going on too, in the adjoining Murudeshwara beach. I was even approached by boatmen, like how auto drivers approach you at railway stations. But I didn't want to go boating.

After handing over my slippers at the counter, I entered the temple. The main temple comes to your left, so I headed there first. There wasn't much of a rush, so I had a good darshan - that's the one good thing when a temple gets commercialized like this - it is extremely well-maintained and clean.

So yes, after that, I headed towards the statue. I was so amazed by the statue that I just couldn't stop clicking photographs of it :D No amount of clicking seemed enough or sufficient! :) Anyway, I then went up for the darshan, went around the statue, went inside the cave as well. The cave has some excellent sculptures, with an audio-narration playing on the speakers.

Once out, I went down to my left and saw the Shaneeshwara temple as well.

I then came back to the Gopura and waited for a while outside the elevator, to go to the top of the Gopura.

Soon enough, my turn came and once I reached, I was amazed by the view on all sides!

The town:

The temple:

The sea:

The mighty statue:

The beach:

I went down, fully satisfied. Murudeshwara was totally worth my money :) After clicking some selfies outside the gopura, I headed back to the hotel.

It was just 11.15 am. I had a lot of time for my plan for the rest of the day - Idagunji would open only at 3 pm and it was en route Apsarkonda, which I wanted to see only in the evening. So there was no point in leaving early. I decided to catch another nap - I slept until about 12.45 pm and then headed to the in-house hotel to have a south Indian meal. It was really good and filling.

At around 1.30 pm, I headed out of the hotel and right across the road, there was a mini-van waiting to go to Honnavar. So I got into that and for a ticket of about 15 Rupees, if I remember right, I got a ticket to Mavinkatte. The mini-van made its way through the small roads of Manki, a near-completely rural area. I finally got down at Mavinkatte, where another mini-van came from Idagunji and took a U-turn. This was totally crowded, I had to squeeze my way in and stand. The bus moved. I couldn't see where we were going. All I knew was that we were heading to Idagunji. After a very bumpy 20-minute ride filled with sharp turns, we reached Idagunji.

The ticket cost about 10 Rupees. It was 2.45 pm I think. From the bus stop, I had to walk a little bit, to the actual temple.

As I went in, I was stunned by the huge crowd of devotees that had already gathered outside, waiting for the doors to open.

I waited too, but luckily, things moved quite fast and I was out in all of 15 minutes.

It took me a while to get a return bus, but since I still had some free time, I decided to make a last-minute addition to my plan - I decided to cover Kasarkod beach as well :) I finally got a bus and reached Kasarkod at around 4.15 pm if I'm not wrong.

The beach is very close to the stop, it's walk-able - not more than 5 minutes. As you enter the beach, you are stunned, you are blown away, you are awestruck - there is not a single soul around!

Just you and the beach. You feel as if you've entered into another world, another planet where there is no life, just you and the peaceful sound of the waves, just you and the fresh breeze of the ocean.

There were not even crows or dogs here. It was that deserted! For a person whose only frequent experiences with beaches has been Marina & Besant Nagar, one can imagine how it must've felt for me, to come across an ABSOLUTELY quiet, silent and deserted beach like this :)

I really wished that I could spend all evening there, but I had another place to visit. So with a heavy, sinking heart, I bid goodbye to Kasarkod beach.

I walked back to the highway and immediately, found a mini-van waiting. I hopped on to it and got down at Apsarkonda bus stop at around 4.45 pm.

Now, here's the thing - from Apsarkonda, you do not get any autos, buses to the beach and it's quite a walk. So be prepared. But you'll absolutely love the walk through the cattle-grazing farms and the little hill.

Imagine what it must be like for someone who sees only his laptop-screen and heavy traffic every single day, to walk through quiet farms, seeing huts and cattle all over. Imagine what an extremely refreshing change it must be! :)

I also came across a small hut that made for a post-office! Wow!

So yes, this is quite a bit of a walk - At least 2 km, before one reaches the Apsarkonda mutt / temple.

I saw the temple and then went around it to head to the falls.

As I approached, I could already hear the sound of the water.

Once I got down, I finally saw the falls - it was every bit as charming as it was on the photos of it that I had seen on the net earlier :) I spent about 5-10 minutes there. I really felt like I was in the middle of some jungle and that I was in some Tintin comic. (Prisoners of the Sun?)

So yes, once done with this, I headed up the hill to the sunset view point. There was an amazing view from there.

But I wanted to go to the beach, so I took the stairs down hill.

And I finally got to see the Apsarkonda lake as well, on the way to the beach.

Once I reached the beach, I was at a loss for words. It looked every bit like a cinema song shooting spot. You have many movie songs being shot in islands with beaches along mountains etc etc. This was similar to that sort of a place.

I was just spell-bound by how beautiful it was. I went out of control and constantly kept clicking pics on my camera. The "____ shots remaining" notification on digicams is a BAD IDEA. It only provokes you to keep clicking more and more! :D

But for a handful of people. this place too, was quite deserted. Hardly any visitors :) I kept clicking away to glory and the sunset was finally happening.

After clicking enough, I just paused for a few minutes just to stare at the whole scene. I was completely engulfed by how beautiful it was - simply amazing! Apsarkonda is a mini-heaven in Karnataka that has everything - a temple, a waterfalls, a lake and one of the best beaches in the world. Apsarkonda is straight out of a fairy tale. It is an absolute must-visit for anyone! :) Apsarkonda remains the most favorite part of my trip! :) It is the place I enjoyed the most.

Anyway, the sun set early, by around 6 pm. From there, again, it's another 2 km walk back to the highway, not along the hill though. There is another straight road that takes you to the highway. As I walked along, I saw a bunch of folks playing cricket on the highway.

What a blissful, peaceful life the people of Apsarkonda must be having! :) Free from all the tensions of techie life, free from all the city madness and in rural peace. Anyway, like they say, grass is always greener on the other side, so you never know! :)

It was around a half an hour walk for me. I managed to get to the highway just before it became totally dark. It can get a little scary :) - you suddenly feel you're in the midst of some remote place, all alone, with no idea of where you're going, until you see the highway with your own eyes :D

So yes, female solo travelers...well, this can go even to males too - Make sure you leave IMMEDIATELY after the sun sets. It gets dark very soon and remember, you can only walk to the highway. There are no autos or mini-vans or buses that ply from the beach. So start early, reach early.

Once back on the highway, I found a mini-van to Murudeshwara and it took me about 45 minutes to get back. I reached the hotel by 7 pm. I didn't go the hotel though, I had straight to the Murudeshwara temple again, to get a night-view of the statue, under lights :)

After this, I headed back to the hotel, had an excellent and extremely delicious north indian meal for dinner and crashed.

So that ends an amazing Day 2.

Day 3, the last day, can be read here!