Categories
Travel

A trip to Saswad

While the title sounds like an essay topic from schooldays – I maintain, it’s deliberate.

Hello friends. It’s good to be back on my writing bench (read: desktop computer). The end of 2018 was truly an amazing one – involved a lot of travel. I DO NOT mean COMMUTE – I know one from another (thank you). It kickstarted with an industrial visit to Gujarat. It was immediately followed by an ultra-short trip to Vadodara and back. I closed the year with a spectacular trip to a sleepy town Saswad nestled along the banks of the Karha River.

Just a few things about this city. It’s about 33 km southeast of Pune. Take whichever route like i.e. from Shivajinagar or Swargate (Punekars would know better). I’d choose Swargate since it’s 2 km closer to Saswad. After driving (read: crawling) through the congested roads of Pune city for about 15-20 min – one breathes a sigh of relief on seeing the ‘great outdoors’. The magnificent striated Western Ghats a.k.a. Sahyadri welcome you from afar. Now, Saswad stands at an average elevation of 1000 m (3280 ft) which, by itself, is wonderful. This is the most elevated city I’ve been to/stayed in yet.

 

It all started with an old-time pal calling me up for a meeting – he stays in Nagpur and I, in Mumbai. He was coming to Pune for some work and we set Pune Central Station as our rendezvous point. From there, his nephew drove us to the idyllic climes of Saswad (his place). After lunch and a post-lunch siesta, my friend and I drove off for some sightseeing.

We had shortlisted two destinations from the data we had compiled from various online searches.

 

  1. Changa Vateshwar Mandir (चंगा वटेश्वर मंदिर)
  2. Purandar fort (किल्ले पुरंदर)

Changa Vateshwar Mandir (चंगा वटेश्वर मंदिर)

Changa Vateshwar Mandir
Changa Vateshwar Mandir

Though an agnostic, archaeology fascinates me and hence I chose to go see the 700+ years old temple. The temple is an excellent example of Hemadpanti architecture. Since this form of temple architecture originated in the 13th century, the temple definitely cannot be older than that. This means the temple was built during1200-1300 AD. Although the presiding deity is Lord Shiva, the temple is named after a local mystic yogi Changdev Maharaj (or just Changa Dev). He reportedly lived in a village nearby.

The main entrance
The main entrance

For a good measure, photography was not banned inside or outside the temple. I still chose not to stir the hornet’s nest by keeping my phone in my pockets while within the sanctum (गर्भगृह). I then sought the permission of the custodian of the temple and clicked pictures. Too bad – not much info could be gleaned from the custodian (I couldn’t understand the dialect of Marathi he spoke in). I decided to get some more info from the internet only to find that there is very little information about this wonderful temple even on the internet. (The next time I go there, I’ll take a local with me – one who understands the dialect, get as much information possible and upload it for the multitude to read).

दीपस्तम्भ
दीपस्तम्भ

One is welcomed by two flights of stairs on approaching the fort-styled entrance to the temple. After climbing the first flight (definitely after washing your feet in a small pool next to the stairs) one reaches the main entrance. On entering from that gate, one needs to climb the second flight of stairs to reach the temple. On entering the temple, you are welcomed by an imposing statue of Nandi (Lord Shiva’s ride) – as is the wont in all Shiva temples. After crossing Nandi, one can enter the sanctum (गर्भगृह) to offer prayers to the deity. One look at the ceiling and one can just marvel at the intricate stonework done on it. The ceiling, the pillars, the walls – they all bear the marks of fine ancient stonemasonry. What surprised me was that the dome of the temple was resplendent (probably re-painted) while the rest showed signs of ageing. Some structures had taken too many beatings at the hands of time. the temple premises also boasted of a huge column of lamps known as दीप ज्योति स्तम्भ or simply दीपस्तम्भ. The experience was refreshing, in toto. From there, we moved on to our next destination – Purandar fort. It was almost a 1-hour drive from the temple.

Purandar fort (किल्ले पुरंदर)

Purandar Fort
Purandar Fort

The drive to the fort was a scenic one – meandering through the hilly terrain – we reached our first checkpoint – the gate to the Army Training Center. After getting our car thoroughly checked by the army men, we headed off to our next checkpoint – the car park. That’s only as far as you can go in a vehicle, as a civilian. Don’t be alarmed at the presence of heavily armed combat-ready jawans. You’re in their territory and not the other way around. So just move on – without doing anything that may get their attention.

The actual fort
The actual fort

Now comes the sad part. No sooner had we started walking towards our final destination (the main entrance to the fort) than we started getting out of breath. I could attribute this to the following reasons:

  1. Age was catching up with us.
  2. It was 17:15 already and as per the jawans, the army entrance closes at 17:30.
  3. We were already at an altitude of 1,300 ft (4,265 ft) above sea level.

At this height, oxygen levels (for men who don’t have a healthy lifestyle and not ‘fit’) start getting depleted. For the first time in my life, I (think I) experience the effects of the lack of oxygen. We had to beat a hasty retreat to the car park. But whilst doing so, I still managed to capture the scenic beauty of the fort, the hills around and the panoramic view of Saswad. One could see Pune clearly from that vantage point.

One valuable lesson I learnt that day is that life’s really short and that one must grab each travel opportunity by the collar and milk it dry. I will – from now on. Enough of counting candles on cakes and the greys on the head (the more one counts – the more the mind tells about the proximity to old age). Just go out there and explore. Sitting on the armchair, with a full head of greys, one can only repent and let out cold sighs of despair. Well… I’m going – you go too – pack your bags.

Adios!!!

Categories
Life

Quitting?

Hello friends. I’m back after yet another hiatus. I was hibernating, or so, I feel. But, now that I’m back – let’s talk. The other day, one of my ex-colleagues, Jack, said he’s quitting – said that he was going through a rough patch at work and that he can’t take it any more. While I empathized with him, I wasn’t sure if what he did, made for a good decision. I was discussing this with yet another good friend (and ex-colleague) Shantanu – when he shone the light of wisdom on the matter.

Here’s what he had to say about that other friend’s decision – UNWISE. He then went on to say “Never quit your job when you’re sad/upset/in trouble”. As another wise man (way before him) said, “When a ship sinks, it’s the rats that abandon it first”. Not a lover of Animal Planet – I did not notice that – well, I’ve never been on a ship either.

Getting back to the point – his theory was simple. When you quit as a desperate measure – you lose an essential weapon from your arsenal – your power to bargain. It was simple to understand – if one quits when desperate – they could hopelessly cling to the branch that’s easily available. Now, this branch may not be the strongest – it could snap once you’ve let go of your previous job (support). This could eventually land you a job that you don’t like.

Even worst can happen to you – as mentioned earlier – you’ve already lost your bargaining power. You end up settling for lesser pay than you deserve. All this because you need another job at the earliest. You fear that bargaining for a better package could lead you to lose that opportunity too. You not only lose your power to bargain, in more ways than one – you compromise on your self-respect too. You cut a sorry figure before your next prospective employer (your interviewer – at that moment).

Long story short, plan a move when the going’s good. Don’t be surprised – you’ve read it right – when the going’s good. When the going’s good – you’re at your bargaining best. This is for a simple reason – you HAVE a job at hand and that if the prospective employer rejects you or cannot cede to your salary requirements – you don’t stand to lose anything. You can happily get back to your existing gainful employment.

There’s another benefit – if you apply elsewhere ‘when the going’s good’ you can get a better idea of your market-worthiness or how much you’re worth in the market at that point in time. This can help you renegotiate your payment terms with your existing employer – you can let them know that you’ve figured what your current market worth is. You can find out if your employer is willing to do a ‘market correction’. If they don’t – you’re free to move.

So, the next time you find yourself job-hunting – ask yourself this simple question – “Why am I quitting?”. The answer should sound like “because I see a better opportunity” or “just to size up my market-worth” and not something like “This job sucks – I need to find another job.”

While I wanted to write a ‘short’ this time – I still ended up crossing the 500-word mark. Well, I can’t complain. I can let you live in peace, though. Bye for now.

Ciao!!!

Categories
Technology

SPAM

Hello friends. In this age of internet, everyone has been crying hoarse about spam or to be precise – about having to put up with spam (both email and SMS). For me, this problem dates back to 1998 – that’s when I created my email accounts on Yahoo and Hotmail (now called Outlook.com). I always wondered why anyone would send me emails about Cialis and Viagra – I was just 22 and nowhere within the range of E.D. (go figure!). Maybe sending me emails about Endura Mass or Protein Supplements would have been useful since I was a bag of bones then (tipping the scales at just 56 Kg for a 6’1” frame). It never occurred to me where these unscrupulous fellows got my email address.

Cut to scene 2 – this is the year 2004. That’s when I got my first mobile phone – a humble Nokia 3120. It was a small phone with a 128×128 colour screen, had no internet, no Bluetooth and no 3.5mm jack. Those were the days of the SMS. Days when message count was a major concern – more messages would clog the inbox and you’d have to periodically delete unwanted ones. Even in this case I started receiving spam. Again I was clueless where the spammers got my mobile number from – I never gave out my number to strangers.

It took me a good while to realise where I went wrong – most of us are guilty of this too. I’ll break it down for you. To a very good extent we INVITE spam with our full consent (and full imprudence or shall I call it ignorance).

 

SMS SPAM:

I’m sure you have received Quiz SMS that ask inarguably simple questions like “What’s the name of Amitabh Bachchan’s son” or “Who is the President of the US”. We need to type 1/2/3 or a/b/c as the answer and send it to a 5-6 digit short code. We are promised a surprise gift or that coveted iPhone or The Galaxy S8 or S9 as the case may be. Gullible as most of us are – we impulsively press a few keys and send the ANSWER in fond hopes of getting that prize. What we actually did was send a CONFIRMATION to the spammer that they sent the message to a valid mobile number. The spammer got what he wanted.

This is not limited to quizzes. It could also be messages that tell you your future (horoscope) or help you cope with stress at work/home or even foretell the results of a cricket/football match (so you can win that bet). Most of us instantly fall for it and thereby reveal our mobile numbers to the spammers. These days – we reveal lot more than just our mobile numbers, though.

There’s another class of semi-educated people who think they are smart. They send STOP messages as a response to such messages. This works ONLY if the SMS came from reliable/reputed companies e.g. your Email service provider or any other paid subscriptions that you have. In all the other cases – you AGAIN reveal you mobile number to spammers.

 

Email Spam:

Now let’s shift our focus to emails. Again you’re probably thinking how these spammers get your email address. Now try to remember all those “free app/subscription” websites that you visited – they always asked for your Name and Email address – no credit/debit card details required. You readily entered your email address and thought it’s just this one website. How do you think this website pays their employees who made that ‘free’ software for you? Simple – they sell your data (Name and Email address) to several such data-hungry spammers.

The semi-educated class again thought they were smart and clicked the “Unsubscribe” button in those emails – thereby confirming to the spammers that it was indeed a valid email address they sent that spam to. Think for a moment – why would someone let you “Unsubscribe” from something you never “Subscribed” to? They just sent that email to you randomly – never realizing that it was a real/valid email address. Any sort or response just tells them that it is a valid email address.

Yet another class of bird-brained people clicked “Reply” and hurled the choicest abuses at the spammers. And the spammer was in tears – is that what you think? The spammer laughed at his success – he just got a confirmation about the validity of your email address (who’s your daddy now?).

Shopping:

This is a trap that most of us fall into, invariably. Remember when you decide to check out and approach the clerk – he meekly asks you if you have their membership/loyalty card. While some of you have one – a vast majority does not have one – they say that we don’t have it. The clerk then offers you one – says that you just need to fill your name and mobile number – he will take care of the rest. While some still refuse – other gullible ones agree – and ignorantly fill their names and mobile numbers on the enrolment form.

And then we ask – HOW did the spammers get my mobile number?

This brings us to the million dollar question – What do I do to protect myself from spam? Sadly, the answer is “Not much”. There are a few things though. For starters, you can mark those emails as spam as and when they arrive. Some email apps offer you the option to “Report spam and block”. The others just let you “Report spam/Mark as spam”. There is an organisation called SPAMHAUS (https://www.spamhaus.org/). Their job is to keep track of spammers and get them blacklisted. They provide a list of confirmed spammers to ISPs and they in turn are required to block such spammers on their respective networks. How much they can help us – I don’t know yet. I’m still waiting to find out.

For the time being all I can say is:

  1. Do not provide your mobile numbers/email address(es) to salesmen in the malls for “Lucky Draws” – nobody ever gets any prize/deal. You just compromise your privacy.
  2. Do not click on links in unsolicited emails. They practically reveal you IP address and location to those websites.
  3. Never fall for hoaxes that say “click here and see that happens next” or “click here to win (some highly priced gadget)” or the more common “Spin the wheel and …” emails/links on WhatsApp.
  4. Once marked spam – do not open those emails – no matter how enticing the subject line is.
  5. Click on the delete button next to the spam folder every now and then. Yahoo users beware – some important emails may find their way to the spam folder – so, be careful.
  6. Remember – you are not legally compelled to provide your mobile number and/or other personal details at shopping malls especially at the cash/payment counters. ALWAYS REFUSE!!!
  7. Abstain from downloading free software by providing your email address. There are other smart* ways to download them (*you already know it – others: don’t ask – I won’t tell).
  8. Practise Address Munging (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Address_munging) – simply put – ‘disguise’ your email address when you HAVE to provide it on public forums.
  9. Since you know the pain of handling spam – have a conscience – be responsible and avoid spamming.

There are some necessary evils too – Shopping/Banking/Job Portals/Government service websites – you cannot REFUSE to provide your personal details. So, live with it. While the above steps do not guarantee 100% spam protection – they help minimize the menace.

Till I find a cure for spam (I doubt that) – have a good day.

Categories
Life Life experiences

Microsoft Windows and I

Hello friends,

I’m back – this is just a hibernation break though. After writing this – I’ll probably go back to hibernation. While I was busy fixing my PC (read transforming), I stumbled upon something we use daily but very conveniently forget – the OS or the operating system. I’m talking about Microsoft Windows. Although I’ve tried my hands at Mac OS and Linux – I prefer Windows for the ease-of-use it offers. For free, that is. That’s when I randomly dug deeper and started looking at the timeline – I couldn’t help noticing how it coincided with mine. In more ways than one, I seem to have evolved at the same rate Windows did. Let me tell you about it…

Microsoft launched Windows 1.0 on 20/11/1985 – when I was 8 years, 10 months, and 27 days old, to be precise. In just about 2 years, they launched Windows 2.0 (9/12/1987) – 2 weeks before I turned 11. When I was scraping through the 8th grade, they came up with Windows 3.0 (22/5/1990). All this while, I was a happy child – completely oblivious to the fact that computers exist.

From childhood – I attained boyhood – so did Windows. When I joined college (FY B.Sc.) – Microsoft launched Windows 95. This is the first time I got the first inkling about the piece of work called COMPUTER. One of my classmates had enrolled for ‘Computer Classes’ and he would blow his own (computer) trumpet, almost all the time. This definitely got my attention – I enrolled in a computer class a little after graduation.

The computer institute I went to (in 1997-98), used PC that were powered by the then archaic Windows 3.1 (launched 6/4/1982). They just had one PC that run Windows 98 (launched 25/6/1998). Till 2003, most of my computer usage was restricted to other’s PCs. I got my own computer (actually my sister owes the credit) only towards the turn of 2004. It was a Celeron-powered humble rig that allowed some gaming and multimedia usage. It sported a 17” CRT monitor and a 40GB HDD. I stayed ahead of the erstwhile game with a CD-RW drive and an insanely bass-y Altec Lansing ATP3 (2.1 configurations). My peer group’s PCs barely had a CD-ROM drive and some nondescript stereo speakers.

I was the crazy kind – I had a music CD years before I owned a PC. I have lived the age of the 486 and the humongous 5 ¼ inch FDD that supported a maximum of 10 MB. I quickly moved on to the 3.5” FDD that now supported 20 MB. Back to Windows – on 25/4/2005 Microsoft launched Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and on 15/8/2005 I moved to Mumbai. This is after I had previously braved the 26th July deluge [You can read about it here]. A little later, the same year they launched Windows Server 2003 R2 (6/12/2005). This coincides with the time I joined Convergys (Malad).

On 22/10/2009 the world saw the launch of Windows 7 – this comes a little after I had completed my first year working with the erstwhile 3 Global (now Tech Mahindra Business Services). As the years passed by I graduated and from Bachelor’s – I went on to claim the Master’s degree – not in college; in life. I hope you’ve understood by now what I mean.

On 26/10/2012 Microsoft gifted the world Windows 8. On 22/11/2012, my wife gifted me our little bundle of joy – my daughter. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since 1985 and more is yet to come – both, in my life and the Microsoft stables. Just before we close this chapter, I’d like to inform you that on 29/7/2015, Microsoft skipped 9 and launched Windows 10. An incorrigible technophile, I’m eagerly waiting for the next Windows launch.

In the meanwhile – let’s all get back to work. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Hasta la próxima.