Archive for September, 2011

Torna Fort

I publish my trip diaries over my blog here, so that years later when I read it, I would be able to remember and cherish the moments of the trip. But this trip has been somewhat different, as even if I do not write about it here, I will surely remember it for a long time to come.

Again another Sunday, another fort called in for a yet another trek with my friends. As usual this trip too had to be covered over the previous weekend, but again due to various circumstances it had to get postponed for this Sunday (18-Sept-2011). This time we went to Torangarh (Torna Fort) which is one of the first of Shivaji’s fort, and definitely is known for its tough climb. I and four other friends (Vishal, Achyut, Firoz, and Imran- Firoz’s brother) went for the trip. I and Vishal have made it for almost every trip, and Achyut too has become a regular in the group now.

Also, I don’t know why 2-3 days before we started for the trip, I was having an intuition that something bad was to happen over the trip. I really don’t know what exactly it was but it kept cautioning me, and asking me to skip this trip. But I am somewhat happy that I did go for this as it was definitely a life time experience.

Torna Fort in Clouds

After the bizarre planning that went behind our Korigad trip, this planning was way better. I Vishal had been planning for the trip, but we were not really sure of the destination trip. It is at that time, when I saw a few images on my friends Facebook profile when he visited Torna fort recently. The images made me consider the place as an option, and I suggested it to Vishal, who readily agreed and so the place was fixed. But he did mention it to me that the climb to the top is one of the toughest around Pune. After circulating the email about the trip, Achyut and Firoz to confirmed for the trip. Apart from the two there were others like Eshanku, Umesh, Sandip, Aman, Raman, and Bhadre who all enthusiastically agreed and wanted to join for the trip. I was happy the count for the trip had for the first time touched to 10 people, who at that time were surely going to come along. But as the date neared we as usual had a few dropouts due to prior commitments and we had to postpone the trip. Again at the start of the next trip, I circulated the same email all over again. Again this time we almost had everyone agreeing for the trip, but it is at that time Vishal sent a caution email (with text in red) to all. The email read as follows:

“Before you make your mind to Torna, let me threaten you all. The fort is very well known for its toughness. It is one of the toughest and high-risk forts for trekking around Pune. Many people find this fort very difficult for trekking in summer and we’re going in these rainy days. So the recent rainfall will intensify the difficulty of your trekking.
The purpose of above threatening is to warn the faint-hearted people of our group.    (The adjective faint-hearted should not be taken personally. I am not referring to any individual………… but to all of us :D) Therefore the faint-hearted people must not come to this trip.”

This email actually worked and we had a few dropouts initially. I was a little unhappy with that at the time, but Vishal did tell me about the details of the trek. After that discussion I made up my mind that at no point of time, I am going to convince any tentative people to join. By the end, we were 6 of us who finally agreed to go ahead (Vishal, Firoz, Aman, Eshanku, Achyut, and Me). Raman had fallen ill, so he was not sure and said that if he does recover he would surely join. Bhadre too agreed, but he said that it would be difficult for him to climb as he has somewhat injured his leg. At that point of time I asked to drop the idea of coming, as there is no point in aggravating your injury. The rest I believe got scared by the email and backed out of the trip. 6 was always a good number, but I and Vishal were somewhat skeptical about Eshanku joining the trip, as we felt his built would not really allow him complete the trek successfully and then his probably if that does happen, the others would also lose their determination to complete the trek. So by a heavy heart I had to drop the idea of taking Eshanku along with us.

The Group (Achyut, Firoz, Imran, Vishal, and Me)

The night before the trip, Aman too had to drop out as he had to urgently go to Mumbai for some work, which left us again to the count of 4. But finally, we decided to go ahead as we did not want another trip to get cancelled due to the count falling. The plan was set to meet at Swargate around 6.30 and then head towards the fort. Also this time we decided that we all would take our bikes, avoiding pillion riders.

The trip started on a good note. Firoz got his brother Imran along with him and the count increased to 5. Though we started about 20-25 minutes late than the scheduled time, but considering that everything else was going fine, the delay did not worry us much. Imran decided to come on my bike as my pillion rider. After about a drive of about 35-40 minutes we stopped at a McDonald’s outlet on the Mumbai-Bangalore highway. Another group of bike riders had stopped there. All of them had very costly super bikes, and looking at them somewhat charged us as well. Though we did end up spending (wasting) almost an hour. In the meanwhile, charged by seeing that bikers groups we also discussed the possibility of starting our very own bikers group (maybe consisting of only our team members). A team that would undertake such trips at least once a month, I knew that straight away I could see 4 enthusiastic members for the group. And after some breakfast and a small photo session we started our journey ahead. We had barely moved for 10-15 minutes, we again took a break for tea. After a hot cup of steaming tea we headed towards the fort. After we left the highway, the road to the fort (almost 30 odd kilometers) was not in a very good condition, so we drove slowly through. The road wasn’t very good, but the scenery on both the sides was immaculate. We all enjoyed the drive and reached the foothills of the fort by 9.45 AM.

The Bikers Group

Almost immediately after parking our bikes we decided to ascend to the top without wasting any time. The walk initially was good, a little slippery but as we walked through beautiful farms, it was exciting. We could see the fort on top of the other hill, and the walk up to the top was around 5-6 kilometers. As we started moving ahead, the climb got a little steeper and difficult. Luckily there was not much rain till then, so the path was not very slippery, and was manageable if we were careful. While moving ahead, we moved ahead and met a kid called Ramesh. He was a local person and generally guided travellers like us to the top of the fort. He said he would escort us to the top, and informed that he generally guides trekkers like us and also carries a bottle of buttermilk along (he does not charge anything for the guidance, only did for the buttermilk on per glass basis). We were joyed and happily took him along as we all had forgotten to carry any water or any other drink along with us. And even with less than a kilometer we had started feeling the need of water so he along with us was like a god sent. We started climbing up the top, but the climb was getting tougher and tougher with every 10 minutes. Since the climb was steep, I discussed with Vishal that dropping Eshanku was a good idea, though had Umesh and others come it would have been great. Vishal who probably had knowledge of the area said that this was just the beginning. Whenever I felt that this patch was a little difficult, another ever more difficult patch would follow. The path enroute to the top was very narrow suitable for a single person, and the dangerous level increased since this track was just a few centimeters away from the edge of the cliff. We all held our nerves and moved ahead, but the due to the excitement none of us were actually afraid of the situation. In fact we kept on clicking photographs of each other and the nature around. Suddenly we reached the top of the hill (the fort was on the hill on the other end). The view was breathtaking from there, with a narrow track to the fort and cliff on both sides of the track. But the view on both sides was amazing, and we could not stop ourselves from clicking photographs. After some time we started to move ahead and kept on jokingly motivate each other as the route got tougher and tougher. I suddenly realized that in my previous post about Korigad, I had mentioned that climb as very tough, but seeing the situation as till then, if the climb of Korigad fort was tougher this climb was way-way tougher, and I thought about this not realizing that even tougher times were yet to come (though to give my Korigad post a little justification all I can say is that the climb up to that fort was not very tough, however the heavy rains did make it very tough and risky).

The route up to the fort

After sometime we reached a point which I can call the foothills of the fort. I could see the fort at some height, but then the climb from here was almost 80-85 degree climb, and I joked that the trek was suddenly changing into rock climbing now. That sight did scare me a bit as with rains this path had got a little slippery and it had got dicey and risky. But the feeling having reached so close to the fort somewhat blooded some new freshness into all of us and we moved ahead. I can never forget that climb in my life, it was really enthralling. Though to be honest, it was not very tough especially since I know rock climbing, but it was the weather that made it very tough and risky. But that atmosphere had pumped too much of adrenaline into us that nothing could deter us from climbing. In fact we had situations where we were almost hanging on the rocks still I and Vishal were trying to capture everyone’s photographs. Then there was a patch where had to walk around a little, and not climb. That gave us a relief for some time and also in between we managed to spot a waterfall, where we enjoyed for some time and again clicked pictures (some videos too) of each other.

The steep climb

Once we left the fall, we again faced a steep (around 80 degree) climb. But that led us to the top of the fort (within the walls of the fort). The experience up till then was superb and was worth taking the risk. We all had the buttermilk that was given to us by Ramesh and that energized us and after that we let him go back. By that time I had realized that dropping all the others was a great idea, and why Vishal was insisting on not to take friends like Bhadre, Umesh and Eshanku along. Having reached the top was an achievement in itself. Maybe Aman and Raman missed this trip big time as I probably feel that they surely could have accompanied us to the top. Though I am not really sure about the others, as I do feel that it would have been difficult for them to climb, and even one person at that time could de-motivate everyone else. We reached the top around 12, and it took us more than 2 hours of walk to reach the top. The weather on the top was not very good, there were dense clouds and visibility was very low. However after roaming atop for about half an hour, having some fun, and clicking some pictures we started the descend towards our bikes.

On top of the Fort

While coming down we realized that due to the slight drizzle in between, the track had become even more slippery. And once again we faced to steep climb (now turned into steep falls). It is that time I realized that climbing up took a little toll on our knees and legs, but descending downhill would very difficult and dangerous. On most of the occasions we had to sit down (in fact almost lie down) with are backs touching the ground and then try and push our body down. This was the toughest part if the trip I suppose, and as we got used to it, we increased our speeds and then started coming down quickly. While coming down Firoz spotted a crab (it was huge in size) and indicated to Vishal. Vishal’s eyes lit up seeing that and he instantly leaped towards the crab and caught it, and he knew he had his dinner well earned. 

Vishal with the crab

It took us a little time to descend as the track down had become slippery, and we could not really keep our foot steady on ground, and almost everybody was slipping. When we were about to reach the starting point we realized that we had to cross a stream. Vishal entered the stream and we all followed him. The water gushing into our shoes was really soothing, as our legs were very tired, and I almost had blisters in the toes (as while climbing and descending to maintain steadiness all the body weight finally comes on the front toes). After spending some 5-10 minutes and clicking pictures we moved ahead towards our bikes. It was about to touch 3.30 and it had almost taken us 3 hours to touch back from the top of the fort (in fact Vishal had estimated it to be around 1 and a half hour). We all were very hungry and tired, and more than anything else our legs had almost given up. At that point of time I rued the fact that we came on bikes, and that too all alone. This meant that all of us had to drive back and none of us would get the respite of taking some rest.

While entering the Torna Fort

We reached near are bikes and then straight away headed towards a restaurant to have some food. We sat down and, to be honest that moment felt like heaven to me, as I had not sat down anywhere since the start of the trek. The food was simply amazing (to be honest at the moment anything served to us would have been great, but the quality was good). We ate stomachs full and around 4 o clock we got up to head back home. We all started are journey back on bikes and as earlier Imran was once again my pillion. The 30 kilometers drive to touch the highway was tough as the roads were not very good, and also our legs had literally given up. But somehow we managed to touch the highway in about 40 minutes.

The drive on the highway was smooth and very good, though none of us were speeding, actually our legs did not allow us to exceed the speed of 50 (I don’t remember the last time I actually drove that slow on a highway), but to be honest that speed too looked pretty good at that moment. At around 5 o clock we stopped for a break and had a cup of tea. The tea somewhat managed to get some life back into our bodies. All of us were talking about how we are going rest once we reach back home and our plans for the next day. We all were talking about a possible unplanned leave from office, and if I remember I was the only one who was very confident of not applying for one. In the meanwhile we also discussed the plan to visit as many forts possible around Pune before the next monsoon. Though this looked a little difficult, but surely was very much possible especially if I, Vishal, and Achyut were available for every future trip plan.

After a small but refreshing break, we started our way back home. This time Imran decided to accompany Firoz, as that would enable them to directly head back home and no more stoppage.

The day was great so far, but just then my initial intuition of something bad going to happen on the trip made way. I was driving constantly on the left-center of the road and a speed of around 50, a scooter driver who was standing in between the center of the road turned left (my side). To avoid him I applied brakes, but I guess since my legs were as good as dead the brake was ineffective, so I had to apply my hand (disc-brakes) brake and the bike skit and hit the scooter, and I fell on the middle of the road. As I feel down the first thought that came to my mind was who was behind me, and as I realized that Achyut was behind (I was constantly monitoring through the rear mirror so that everyone was together) and bike came and fell over me and hit my chest. It almost pinched me hard, and for a few seconds I almost lost consciousness. But at that moment I felt a little happy now that since it has been a few seconds no big vehicle would come near me a very serious injury had been avoided. I suddenly saw Achyut and Vishal picking up the bike the bike from over me, and then picking me up. But that time Firoz and Imran had helped pick me up and that is the time I realized that the bike that skit and fell over me was none other than Achyut’s. When he saw me falling he tried to help me by moving the other side and while applying the brakes his bike too skit and fell over me. I had a few bruises on my knee and my elbow, but I did look a little uncomfortable. Achyut to had a few bruises over his knee and shin, and at that time we realized that a major mishap had been avoided. After a small break and a little quarrel with the people there we headed back home. Despite the injury I once again the group as I knew that driving at a constant and my comfortable speed is the best bet I had.

The group - I like this pic even more now, since had we been not so lucky in the accident, a few faces could have gone missing from this for ever!

As I moved ahead, the pain in the chest and elbow started to increase and I knew that I was in a tough situation as I had to cover around 18 kilometers more to reach back home. By the time I entered the city (about 11-12 kilometers to home) my hands had started trembling, and I had started to feel the pinch. But somehow I managed to reach home safely (no more mishap). Once I entered home, I showed my mother the bruise on the elbow. There were no lights in the house at that time and so she asked me to the injury with hot water. It is when the lights came on I realized the swelling on my elbow and chest. My mother got scared and took me to the hospital for an X-ray, which finally showed that I had two fractures in my elbow and three in my ribs. And now I ended up the only one to go on an unplanned leave the next day, unfortunately and unintended though.

And thus a very enjoyable day had ended on a miserable note. Though I believe this trek and the accident both will be engraved in the minds of my friends and mine for a long time to come.

Inside the fort

Similar to my last post of an adventurous trip, I would highlight a few points from the trip:

  • I have realized that it is good to have all friends come for the trip but sometimes not having the wrong person at the right trip is also good. And I did learn that I can manage people well as I did manage to get some friends off board as they could have unknowingly spoilt the mood of the rest of the group had they backed off half way during the trek.
  • I would remember the trekking experience all my life, as climbing steep heights (almost cliffs) was a completely new experience.
  • I learnt that traveling on bikes is great fun, but when one has to go for such tiring trips it is advisable to take a four wheeler or a cab. Or at least have a pillion rider, with whom you can share half the burden of the journey. As I do believe had I been not that tired I could have managed to avoid the accident.
  • When Achyut met me the other day, he felt guilty that had he been able to avoid his part of the accident, more than half of my injuries could have been saved. To be honest I was happy that some bike was behind me and no heavy vehicle was as that could have caused major injuries if not any extreme condition. Also his bike somewhat shielded me for any other mishap. Also I can understand what he must have been feeling. Even I was sad that he fell trying to save me. Had he got a major injury, I would have really felt guilty too.
  • I was a little sad that Aman did not make it to the trip, as he would have definitely enjoyed the experience. I later realized that had he made it he would have been my pillion and this accident would have been much more dangerous for him, than it was for me.  
  • I believe we must sometimes do need to pay heed to our intuitions, they can definitely give a good hint, if not completely be true.
  • Also our plans of a bikers group and of the fort trekking group have been postponed for a long time seeing this mishap. As seeing what happened this time I am not really sure, how often and quickly we will get back into action.

    That's me after the trip

That’s it from me know, hope to write on some more forthcoming trips very soon, though seeing my condition I don’t see such a trip in very near future but I hope that whenever it does happen it will be a great one and a safer one.


Captain Vikram Batra has always been and will always be a source of inspiration to me, and has always an been an idol and probably will always remain. What he did 12 years back, the courage, the valour, the exceptional love for motherland he displayed then all at the age of 24, I cannot even imagine to display even half of it at the same age.

I always was looking for relevant material to wrote on him, but just could not find something good enough. This is when a couple of days back during a lecture of Organizational Behaviour my faculty (also an ex-army officer), to give us an example of Leadership showed us a video, where he was reading out a message which was written by Capt. Vikram Batra’s twin brother, Vishal Batra, when Vishal had visited the heights of Kargil and Drass to give a tribute to his martyr brother on his 10th death anniversary in 2009.

This message was truely inspiring and a great tribute to Capt. Vikram Batra, and after seeing the video I instantly knew that I had found an able material to write on one of my idols.

Vishal Batra - Capt. Vikram Batra's identical twin brother

Here is the message written by Vishal Batra:

My dream of visiting Vikram as a commanding officer of a regiment couldn’t come true. But he still commands—in the hearts of the soldiers posted in Kargil and Drass.

When I talk about Luv, I don’t know where to begin. Capt. Vikram Batra PVC (posthumous) is Luv, and I, his younger twin, Kush. His identical twin. Ours was a childhood spent in the hills of Palampur making the most of our identical looks—playing pranks, filling in for each other and at times even getting punished for one another’s mistakes. The similarity ran deeper than looks. We also had the same interests. Both of us started playing table tennis at the age of ten. It’s another story that Vikram went on to become the school champion for five consecutive years. But I’d like to believe that I had a big hand in that. After all, I chose to lose to him in the semi-finals in the fifth year so that he could make the school record. But deep in my heart, I know that my brother—Shershah of Kargil—was a winner right from the start.

Shershah of Kargil. That’s what the enemy too called Vikram. That’s the mark he made on them on those unforgiving mountains of Kargil. I don’t know at what stage Vikram marched on way ahead of all of us. We’d grown up as regular kids, making our choices as we went along. The first different choice that I remember is when our father started giving us Rs 50 a month for the school bus fare. I chose to travel to school by bus. Vikram opted to walk it and instead spend those rupees in the canteen. As we grew up, Vikram opted for the Army, and I, rejected thrice by the Services Selection Board, settled for business administration. How thrilled he was when he made it to the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun.

It was 6 December 1997. Vikram Batra’s dream came true. He took the oath as an Officer of the Indian Army: The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your country comes first, always and every time / The Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the men you command comes next / Your own Ease, Comfort and Safety comes last, always and every time. /

Mom and Dad pinned up the stars on his shoulder. He stood there smiling from ear to ear in his crew cut and several kilos thinner after the rigorous training. It was a grand moment. But it wasn’t going to be an easy life and Vikram knew that.

When he’d come home on annual leave, we would talk for hours about the challenges he faced in Sopore—the strife-torn town in Jammu & Kashmir’s Baramulla district—which was his first posting. He had been commissioned into 13 JAK Rif. We would dream of the day he would command his regiment and I would get a chance to attend some of the regimental functions with his family and children. That dream is lost now.

Never could I have imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that the stories we saw in the famous TV serial, Param Vir Chakra, which we watched at a neighbour’s house in 1985 (we didn’t have a TV at home back then) would one day become so real for me. And Vikram would be the hero. Vikram was awarded the country’s highest gallantry award, posthumously. He was only 24. His famous words from the height of 18,000 feet: “Yeh Dil Maange More,” after victory over the enemy, still ring in my ears.

It’s been ten years. A lot has changed. And a lot has remained the same. I have many more grey strands in my hair. Vikram is as youthful as ever. Time cannot touch him. In these last ten years, I have longed to visit those mountains that he conquered. And then suddenly, out of the blue, I got a call to travel to Kargil and Drass. It was as if Vikram was calling me to have a chat with him. I didn’t look back, packed my bags and set out to meet him.

I landed in Leh at 10:30 in the morning on 2 July, five days before Vikram’s tenth death anniversary. The valley was more beautiful than it is made out to be in books. From the snow-capped hills surrounding it, I could almost sense Vikram looking at me. I then began the road trip to Drass to meet him. The mountain wind blew faster than the speed of the car and in my mind there was just one picture—of the bearded young man who had become a legend for pushing the enemy back at insurmountable heights where even life does not exist.

A little outside Leh, we reached Gurdwara Pathar Sahib. I said a prayer for Vikram and for all those great soldiers guarding those mountains and our motherland. I recalled what Vikram had written in one of his last letters before the attack: ‘Life is at total risk. Anything can happen here. Take care of yourself and Mom and Dad… My picture has appeared in The Times Of India. Keep a copy for me. I want to see it once I’m back.’ The picture had appeared on the front page of The Times of India on 2 July 1999. It showed him standing with an anti-aircraft gun and weapons he had captured from Pakistani soldiers. This was after the first ferocious attack on Peak 5140 launched after they performed pooja at the Ghumri Base Camp with the call of “Durga Mata Ki Jai”.

Vikram and his men captured point 5140 on 20 June 1999, and two weeks later, when his company launched the attack on point 4875 on 5 July, Vikram was fatally wounded—hit by sniper fire. The company captured the peak, but after 11 casualties. Vikram was one of them.

It was months later, at the Western Command headquarters, when I met the junior commissioned officer (JCO) who was with Vikram the day he was fatally wounded. He was the last man to speak with Vikram. Sub Major Raghunath Singh started wailing when he saw me. He solved the mystery of my twin’s death for me: a young officer, Vikram’s junior, was hit and crying for help. The JCO wanted to go out to help but Vikram stopped him. “The enemy was firing heavily. ‘You have a family and children back home, I will do this,’ saahab said. He stopped me with these words and went out,” Raghunath Singh told me as he wept like a baby, inconsolably. But Vikram was hit by sniper fire. Having realised that, the charged company went berserk, mad with rage at their leader being hit, and killed the enemy soldiers. The tricolour was planted atop point 4875—they call it Batra Top now. Vikram reached Palampur before the sun rose on 11 July 1999. He was wrapped in the tricolour, lying calm almost as if he was trying to catch up on sleep he had lost during these arduous assaults on those treacherous peaks.

Was I really so close to those peaks that I could almost see him fighting there? I wanted to reach up there as fast as possible, but the track was treacherous—the rocky mountain on one side and the sheer fall on the other. In some time, we had left the Indus River behind.

It was a breathtaking journey. A place so beautiful and yet caught in the crossfire of war a decade ago. Midway, at one of the military posts, we had lunch with the commanding officer of 4 JAK Rif. I also met an officer six months senior to Vikram—now a major—and a JCO, both of whom had fought the war together with Vikram. “You look so much like Vikram Sir,” the JCO said and hugged me. I’ve been told that a billion times in the last ten years. There are people now who know me as Captain Vikram Batra’s brother. Many of them even walk into my office at ICICI Bank in Delhi and stare at me as if they know me. Some of them even say, “We’ve seen you somewhere.” When I tell them I’m Captain Batra’s twin, they say, “Oh, ‘Yeh Dil Mange More,’” and shake my hand.

My dream of visiting Vikram as a commanding officer of a regiment couldn’t come true. But Vikram still commands. He’s there in the hearts of the soldiers posted in Kargil and Drass. In that mountain named after him (the Batra Top). And in the transit camp in Drass, called Capt Batra Transit Camp, where weary soldiers break their journey in the call of duty.

‘Call of duty’, the mention of these words takes me back to the days he was to be commissioned as an officer. When he was in the IMA, the footnote of Vikram’s letter pad read, ‘If Death comes to me before I prove my blood, I promise I’ll kill Death.’ You kept your word, Vikram. My Brother, My Twin, I salute you.

I am not sure if the last line “If Death comes to me before I prove my blood, I promise I’ll kill Death.” was actually written by Capt. Vikram Batra. I always believed this line written by another hero of the same Kargil war, and yes another of my idols, Capt. Manoj Pandey. But since this message is written by none other that Vikram Batra’s twin, I presume it to be written by Capt. Batra itself. But surely I would want to know the exact source of it.

Nevertheless, this message is truely inspiring and a very good tribute to the great martyr.

I have an Einstein number as well!

Posted: September 9, 2011 by Shishir Gupta in Awards, Just For Fun
Tags: ,

Einstein number is something I was not really aware till long back. However, having your name to get associated with Albert Einstein is something any budding science student, for the matter of fact any student in the world would aspire to have. And I am no exception to this. Well having got to know that I now have an Einstein number has elated me more than ever, though honestly I did not know of this concept till a long time back.

As I had written earlier, Erdős number is something that I have always have dreamt of having. The concept of Einstein number is similar to Erdős number, with the difference being that Erdős number is the collaborative distance between the person and Paul Erdős, and similarly Einstein number is the collaborative distance between the person and Albert Einstein.

I got to know of this concept, when one of my school friends got to know of this informed me that I probably have an Einstein number of 3. That got me little curios, and when I researched over the internet, I got to know of the concept of Einstein number. But after calculating a lot of permutations and combinations the lowest I could achieve is an Einstein number 4. This can be calculated as follows:

Albert Einstein had an Erdős number of 2, which automatically gives Paul Erdős an Einstein number of 2 (since the concept behind the two is the same).

Now I have an Erdős number of two, so with the above link I automatically attain an Einstein number of 4 (2+2).

Now another path, the one that was calculated by my friend, is through Marcos Moshinsky. My college guide, in his college days (studying PhD) had worked with him. And since I also have a paper published in collaboration with my guide, this gives me a collaboration distance of 2 units from Marcos Sir. Now the confusion I have is with the Einstein number of Marcos Moshinsky, of whether he has an Einstein number if 1 or 2. There is no proof of his exact number; also I could not find much of the details of people having an Einstein number.

But yes one thing is true, that I do have an Einstein number of at least 4 and that too by 2 paths. Having my name associated with “Albert Einstein” is already a huge achievement for me. As with a good Erdős and Einstein numbers, make me feel I very much closer to Physics and Mathematics….

Well this post should have been posted almost one and a half month back, but due to some mysterious circumstances this could not be posted in time. In fact I had written down this post immediately after the trip and even had tried to post it (created a post and tried to publish it), but due to some technical issue it could not be posted on the net, and after that its posting has been getting postponed.

I have always believed that posting the details of the trip here is more my our groups rememberance of the good times we spent that day, so that years later when we read this we could fall in nostalgia and remember those great times. So even after getting so delayed I thought of posting this now, especially since one of my another big trips is planned for this weekend. I also did go to NDA, along with my friends, I will surely try and write the tour dairy of that day before the end of this week, hopefully.

Well I had written this post the very next day after the trip, and so I haven;t made any changes to the content.

Another Sunday (16th July 2011) and it was yet another adventurous trip (and again I am a few days late to publish this post). This time we went to Lonavala, a hill station close to Pune. We can say that probably this was again one of those trips that I had gone for just for the sake of going out with friends, after all the previous plans were getting cancelled. Also the most interesting aspect of this trip was that out of the 5 people that did go only two were actually destined to go for this (and surprisingly I am not part of the two). Also, Achyut, who was one of the two people, ideally should not have made it to the trip, but just because of his sheergrit and his friendship for us, he did.

Korigad Fort

It is not that this trip was not planned for; in fact this had to be one of my office team outings. This trip was being planned as the team’s annual monsoon trip, and after a lot of discussion and debate this trip was decided to take place on Saturday, 16th July and the venue was decided for Korigad and Lonavala. The team was enthusiastic about the trip and as many as 29 people had confirmed their availability till the start of the last week. This list included me as well, however, I knew from the very first day that if the trip did go on that day, I could not be a part of it because of my prior commitments (I have joined an MBA course and its classes happen every Saturday).

Anyways as the last week started and as the day for the trip was approaching the number of dropouts started increasing (that included me as well). In fact, even after a lot of persuasion by my friends and especially my manager could not help me convince myself to miss the class (however, that definitely left me into the dilemma).  On Wednesday I got the news that the number of the participants for the trip had fallen from 29 to almost half its number – 15. At that time I jokingly told to my friend that if the count falls below 12, I would join the trip. In the meanwhile since I could not go for the trip, I and Vishal planned for a Sunday trip to National Defense Academy (NDA) (since he was going for this team trip, we could not go any way far on Sunday). Agonizingly, the count for the team trip fell to 11 by Thursday afternoon. Now, after getting to know of that I got a little uncertain about my status to the trip. Somehow I thought a lot over it and managed to convince myself to miss the class for the trip on Saturday. On Friday, just when I was about to tell my friends that I would join for the trip, I got to know that due to very less participation the trip has been postponed to September.

A pose with bikes

Almost everyone was disappointed, of not being able to go for the trip. I was not really disappointed since I did not want to miss my classes, and had only somehow managed to convince myself to do that. And now when the trip got cancelled, it was more of a blessing in disguise for me. Anyways, Vishal was really disappointed with the trip not happening; he somehow still wanted to go for this. That time I and he planned out for the trip to Korigad and Lonavala (the original venue) but on Sunday. This plan came into existence at around 4 pm on Friday and within two hours we were a group of 4 people ready for the trip. Although the plan was yet not confirmed and was in its nascent stage.

But the main planning of this trip started on Saturday night, when I called almost everyone up and managed to get the count to 6 (Me, Vishal, Umesh, Raman, Bhadre and Aman). But the problem with this was that we did not have enough bikes (just 2 of them), and with six people it was not possible to go then. Then after a lot more chatting with other friends, I managed the count to 9 (Achyut, Moiz, and Dushyant joined the group). But this time we decided not go on bikes but cars, and I and Moiz were the ones who decided to drive. This list somehow included Achyut, as he was down with fever for the two days and was on his way to recovery, and only agreed for the trip as we were going by cars and not bikes.

Finally the plan was ready by 11 in the night and we nine people had to leave by 6.30 early morning.

Fort in heavy rains

The day started on a deplorable note, which Moiz not able to join in. With that it meant Dushyant too will not be able to join and it was left with 7 of us and only one car. And above all it was raining heavily since night which meant there was no chance of taking bikes. I was in a quandary of what to do, as all 7 of us could not go, also since it was raining heavily there was a doubtfulness of whether we should go. I called up Vishal, and we decided to go (removing that doubt of the way). But then the big question was who goes and who doesn’t as 7 cannot go in a car. Now Vishal, Aman, Achyut and I were apparent choices, and it was all down to take the decision of who will be the fifth person. After a small discussion I and Vishal decided to ask Umesh to join in. I with a heavyheartinformed both Raman and Bhadre that probably we will not be going, which unfortunately cut them out of them picture.

After that we all started on schedule, I left my place to pick up Aman from his house, and then reached the spot where I had to pick up Umesh by 6.45 AM. Achyut had already reached his picking up point at 6.30 (15 minutes early and was waiting for us), while we were waiting for Umesh. But he arrived at 7.20 and that too I had to pick him up from a place close to his house rather than the actual picking up point. And the reason he gave for this ridiculous act was that there was no water at his place and so he could not take bath. I found that explanation really crackbrained, and at a point I was fuming since Achyut, who had just come out of fever, was on time and waiting for us for almost an hour in the rain. While waiting for Umesh, I and Aman were losing our cool every moment and I was also feeling guilty of Achyut having to stand in rain for almost an hour. In the heat of that moment I even called up Vishal, to discuss the idea of dropping Umesh from the trip. We almost agreed but then since I had waited for more than half an hour for him, I thought of waiting for five more minutes. And just when Aman said that we should leave I saw Umesh coming from a little distance away, and he just managed to make it in the nick of time. And then after picking him up we immediately left the place to reach where Achyut was waiting (In the meanwhile Vishal was a bit lucky since he had to be picked up last, and since we were waiting for Umesh, he too waited for us at home rather than at his pick up point). As we left, he too left for the pickup point. After that small hiccup everything went smoothly, as we touched the highway by 7.45 after picking up both Achyut and Vishal. The drive on the Pune-Mumbai expressway was nothing less than amazing. With the picturesque scenery all around, lite rain all the way, and with me being able to touch the speed of 130 km/hr very consistently, I could not have asked for anything better. 

A cup of hpt tea at Lonavala

Anyways we touched Lonavala by 8.30 (it just took us 45-50 minutes for us to cover a distance of over 60 kilometers). Also on the way to Lonavalaat a toll stop, we also managed to obviate the toll tax, after a lot of persuasion from all 5 of us. After reaching Lonavala, we took a small break and had snacks and a cup of steaming tea (both the Wada-Pav and tea were steaming hot) which charged us up and we moved ahead towards Bushi Dam. We stopped at a waterfall before the dam, and managed to click a few pictures and had a lot of fun near the fall. Though then we decided we would not get wet in the fall, since travelling everywhere wet would be very difficult. So after some fun we moved ahead towards Bushi Dam. The weather was getting a little bad with the rains getting heavier. As we reached the dam the rains had got very heavy, and due to dense fog and clouds, the visibility was very low and so we decided to move ahead towards Korigad and to stop at the dam while returning.

The drive to Korigad was absolutely amazing though very scary as well because of the high density fog and clouds coupled with heavy rains, reduced the visibility to almost nil. Driving was really dangerous since suchconditions were very new for me and with no visibility all I could refer were the markings at the edge of the road. However I really enjoyed driving in those conditions and now I feel I can drive in any given condition.  Anyways driving through, we reached Korigad around 9.45 AM. It was raining heavily and there was no way we could trek up to the fort. So we decided to go to Amby Valley in the time being.

View of Amby Valley from Korigad

We reached Amby Valley in 15-20 minutes from then but since the cost per person to enter the premises was too high, we had no other option than to return back. After reaching we were getting a little frustrated with the rains, as the rains were heavy and there was no way we could trek up to the fort. However, since the original plan was to go to Korigad we anyhow wanted to go up to the fort. We waited for some time for the rain to stop, but that did not happen. But yes it did get lighter which was enough motivation for us to get out and climb up. Initially the way up to the fort seemed easy but the way only relapsed.

Way up to the fort

The way up was muddy and with rains and water flowing around, became very slippery. We did not know the exact route to the fort so we continued trekking with more of a hit and trial method. The rains were getting heavier, and with we having no clue of the actual route up, and also there was no sign of people in near vicinity (it looked as if only the 5 of us, were in that area) it was getting scarier. We even quite a few times thought of abandoning the climb and returning back to our car, but somehow we always managed to convince ourselves to continue for some more time. After some time, we saw two people coming from behind. They were probably local people and knew well of the route up to the fort, and so we started following them. The way they took was more of a like the one through the forest, with a very narrow path. The path was so narrow that the shrubs on either side brushed as we moved ahead. Also there were branches of trees that had fallen, for which to cross them we had to either jump over them or bend and cross from beneath them. All this reminded me of the Man v/s Wild episodes, as the scene was nothing less to the forest expeditions executed by Bear Grylls on that show. Again as I said, all that environmental setup coupled with the rainy weather looked dangerous but was very exciting, and the level of excitement grew even further as while walking on that path we lost sight of the two people we were following. And all of us were once again confused of whether we were on the right track and at that moment all we could do is either return back or just keep on walking ahead wherever the track would lead us too. After 15-20 minutes and a total of about a 40-45 minutes’ walk we reached the foot of the fort were the steps were there that ascended to the top of the fort.

Steps enroute to the top

The steps were very slippery as there was constant flow of water over it, and it appeared as if there was a waterfall that was flowing over the steps. Anyways after a climb of about 15-20 minutes we managed to reach the top. The feeling of having scaledKorigad was amazing, as earlier after every few minutes we were losing are motivation, but just for sheer grit and for the sake up trekking up to the fort we managed to reach. The view from the top was fantabulous and was definitely worth the effort we took to reach the top. We could see the entire view of Amby Valley from there; it really looked amazing from the top. As it was raining very heavily, we could not manage to click many pictures of the beautiful view (also due to the density of rains we did not carry our cameras with us to the top, all we had to click were mobile phones). But I must say we did manage to click some nice pictures of the small lake at the top and the view of Amby Valley from the fort.

Amidst heavy rains in the top

In sometime it started raining cats and dogs, so we decided that it was time we descended to the car, as we all were tired by now and were also feeling hungry. Coming down did not take a lot of time, as now we were well versed with the way route and managed to reach the car in about 35-40 minutes. But by the time we reached the car we were completely drenched in water. We were wearing jackets but still the shirts inside too were drenched (I still remember Aman took out his handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his head, but before he could do that, the moment he squeezed it, the water just streamed out of the handkerchief, such had been the intensity of rain throughout the trek). Anyways we left the place around 12.30, and since we had immense time in hand we thought of probably spending some time at the Bushi Dam or maybe we could go to another fort, Lohagad, if we had enough time in hand later as we approach close to that place. But just before we reached the dam we got stuck in the traffic. There was a complete mess of traffic at that time, because of which we could not stop at the dam, since neither there was a place to park the vehicle nor was there any space to maneuver it out of that mess. So we decided to head towards Lonavala, as we all were a little hungry. But at that time we did not know that we would require 2 hours to cover a distance of 8 kilometers. The traffic condition was pathetic, and I hardly got to drive a distance of more than 10-15 meters at a stretch. And the stoppage interval after every movement was yonks’ for a lifetime, unbearable, and very frustrating. But Vishal did manage to lighten the mood with his didoes.  Anyways we did manage to touch the expressway by 3 o’ clock. But as we all were hungry we decided to take the highway rather than the expressway as the highway goes through the city of Lonavala, and that would enable us to eat something. But at that time none of us knew that we would again be entering the atrocious traffic jam all over again, something that we had managed to get out off after a couple of hours trouble.

But then such situations are inevitable, and we all over got stuck in that traffic mess all over again. Again the situation was similar, in fact even worse than before. It was very difficult for me to maneuver the car around and we could not park the car or stop anywhere in between. So in the meanwhile we decided as there was no chance for us to stop anywhere, one of us could get down and get some snacks, that could at least satiate our stomachs if not fill them completely. Then Aman, Achyut, and Vishal took turns and managed to get something to eat. Luckily that was enough to subsideour hunger for some time. And then finally we managed to cross the city after over an hour and a half struggle, sometime around 4.45. This left us with no other choice than to return home, as we had got over all the extra time we had managed to spare during the entire day.
And finally we took the national highway, instead of the expressway to head back home (as all that traffic which we had avoided all the way so far was heading to the expressway, I thought the highway would have been a better option). To be honest I really don’t know whether this option was better, but certainly it was not bad, as the scenic beauty on either sides of the road was fabulous. There wasn’t much traffic either, and I did manage to drive consistently in the speed range of 80-100 km/hrs (which is not bad at all, however it is less as compared to the expressway).

Anyways, we touched Pune in less than an hour and after dropping Achyut and Vishal I headed back home (Aman and Umesh accompanied me home so that they could transfer all the photographs they had, and I could leave them a little later). I reached home by 6.30 PM (a little over 12 hours when I had started, but the journey was brilliant except the frustration we had during the traffic jam in Lonavala).

The drive to the fort

Similar to my last post of an adventurous trip, I would highlight a few points from the trip.

  • I believe the decision to take the car rather than to go bikes was brilliant for the first half, but while returning as we were anyways drenched, it would have been better on bikes in that traffic (but I don’t think we could have enjoyed that much on bikes as we did in the car).
  • I got a great driving lesson that day, driving in zero visibility conditions, gripping road curves on the hill range, and then immoveable traffic, all of that has made more confident a driver than ever. Now I believe I can drive in any given condition. 
  • Had an amazing trekking experience (I have been to many forts around Pune), but this experience is definitely the best of all. It was actually adventurous and what we did was trekking in true sense.
  • It was good that the trip with the office team did not take place due to two reasons. Firstly, for a large team we would have needed a bigger transportation which would have meant that had we got stuck in a similar traffic then it would have been more agonizing and frustrating. Secondly, I am not sure with a large group would have everyone been motivated to scale the Korigad fort given the route and the conditions that day. 

Once again I have adopted a different style of writing the tour diary, as I feel that there should be a change every now and then to keep the interest of all the readers. Please let me know how you all liked this kind of writing.

That’s it from me know, hope to write on some more forthcoming trips very soon.