Kunti Betta Trek | First Trek Experience

It has always been my aim to travel more. Ever since I was a child. Ever since I got a job. Ever since I dreamed of switching to a better paid job. Those milestones have been achieved, but not so much the goal of travelling. But the last weekend of April (27-28th), one of the long-standing items in that ever-increasing wish-list was ticked off. I went on my maiden trek to Kunti Betta and boy, what an experience it was!

Kunti Betta is approx. 125 km away from Bangalore, making it an easy weekend destination for trekkers from the city. We booked our trip for Skandagiri from BookMyShow, but last minute the trek was changed to Kunti Betta (I’ll share another post where I talk about the trek organizers). The fact that Skandagiri is at least 50 km less far compared to Kunti Betta was attractive for me, because I wanted to reach home sooner after all that tiredness. However, in life, you can never be too rigid about plans, and so we jumped on the chance.

We started around 11.30 PM from Marathahalli, but due to the ineptness of the driver, we took almost 5 hours to reach to Kunti Betta. I have never done a trek before, let alone night trek. There was darkness all around, except for the pale moonlight. The path ahead was not visible unless we shone our torches. The giant rock formations was on all sides, and there was an eerie silence except our chatter, footsteps and the mewl for stray cats. In fact, as we walked on in the wilderness of nature where men’s laws do not apply, I expected to pretty much see a snake crawling out from the rocks.

One thing this trek taught me: I need to work hard on my stamina. I started panting within five minutes of the trek. Some of the rocks were too high for my five-foot high frame, so my friends and fellow trekkers had to help me up. It meant me placing faith in people who I knew little for moving forward. That requires trust-building. I was also feeling like I could perhaps not make it entirely up to the top, but I pushed myself to keep going. It’s not a nice experience to be left alone, all in the middle of wilderness where Google Maps struggles and wait out the night.

Reaching the top was a beautiful experience. I saw the black of the night turn into shades of blue (inspiration for a new painting). I saw the blue give way to the green and the daylight flooding us from all around. While as much as the scenic beauty is breathtaking, you know one wrong step and you can end up with your neck broken. So, you are on your edge, always alert even when you are inspired. Much like our early men who fought other animals for a space in the food pyramid.

The descent I expected to be harder, especially with the rocks that were too high and sloping for me to climb. But guess what, humans always find a way. I used the rocks as slides and happily slid down.

On the way back, we also did some kayaking – the very first time in my life. I think I am okay at it. I cannot possibly explain the joy I felt seeing so many mango trees at the Q Experiences resort (where the kayaking happened).

In spite of some of the rough experiences with the trek organizers, the joy that I got from this trek is priceless. I remember telling my friends while we were going to Kunti Betta, “If the trek is not worth it, seriously I am going to hate the day.” But when the cool breeze at the top dried away my sweat and I felt the freshest in many days, that’s not the thought that came to my mind. I felt peaceful and even called up my mother on video and showed her the pretty picture.

For those of you who prefer your visuals to your text, I have made a small video of the trek on my YouTube channel. Feel free to check it out:

Have you ever trekked before? Do you remember what it felt like, the first time you climbed up a mountain? Share your thoughts with me. Oh also, I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

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My interview on NFReads

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I published a book or spoke anything about my books on this platform. So it was quite a pleasure when Tony Eames from NFReads.com reached out for my interview on their website. For those of you who are not aware of NFReads.com, it is a general interest website with an emphasis on articles and interviews about books, both fiction and nonfiction.

Here’s a link to my interview. Do check it out and show me some love! ❤

Love and peace,

Arpita

 

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Some nights speak to you in poetry…

Some nights speak to you. It sits with you, as you hug yourself and tell yourselves lullabies.

Some nights watch you like a predator, a big cat in the night. Shiny eyes sparkling through a tiny gap in the bush.

Some nights writhe in pain, and ask you questions. Why? Why? Why? The sound of your heartbeats. Dum-dum-dum-dum-da-dum-dum.

Some nights listen to you as you tell the stories.

Some nights break into a million tears, and vermilion paints the sky red.

Some nights the moon is oddly absent, and big cities do not see the soul of an owl.

Some nights gasps for breath, as you await the final word.

Some nights, after all is said and done, and goodbyes float, some nights, they lull you to peace.

 

Date: 23rd March, 2019

Written within half an hour of watching Masaan. Inspired.

Why would you make actors act if you don’t point the camera at them? Sometimes, it is good.

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Inspiration comes when you are bored…

On the week of January 26th, I went to Lalbagh Flower Show in Lalbagh, Bangalore. I bought a nice houseplant for Rs. 200, and got a tiny pot to go with it. Mid-February I re-potted the plant.

Almost around that time I started watching a lot of videos on YouTube, to understand how to properly re-pot the plant, as well as basic lessons on caring for houseplants. (Sometimes I wonder how I’d even survive without YouTube!) I have also been watching bunch of interior designing videos, because I am looking to move out of my current apartment and was thinking to do my new room with a lot of houseplants and paintings and rice lights. Hours and hours of video watching.

Of course, this is possible because at the moment, I am pretty much bored. I usually don’t have much to do in the mornings, except make a quick smoothie breakfast for myself and some lunch. It was this boredom and the need to turn myself into a morning person that I decided to join swim classes in March. And before I knew, I had three hobbies for myself!

  1. Growing houseplants
  2. Interior designing
  3. Swimming

I have started investing little amounts of time to each. I go for swimming four days a week. I have recently purchased a lovely wall decoration.

I also started investing a lot of time in houseplant care. So much so that this weekend I over-watered my succulent and nearly killed it! I noticed something was off when the leaves felt too spread out. When I tried checking, the leaves just came off and they smelled of rot. Gasp!

Fortunately, my hours of video watching taught me that it was possible to propagate new plants from the leaves. So yesterday, I cut the leaves and placed them in a tray to start that process. And that’s why I say I nearly killed it. I still hope to revive it. Succulents are fighters!

All of this has taught me one thing: when you are too busy and too consumed, it is unlikely that you’ll have a bout of inspiration. It’s only when you are pretty much bored to death and wondering what to do with so much time in your hands, will you get a good clue as to what you should really be doing.

How about you? When do you feel the most inspired? Let me know in the comments section.

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The City-Dweller’s Diary | Part 1

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Every year in March, the non-evergreens shed their leaves. They shed a year of growth, tiredness, hard work, boredom, memories and lifelessness and go on to become homes to tiny neon-green leaflets. To become young again. To make more memories, to produce more oxygen, to become homes to countless birds, insects and squirrels. Year after year. Growth. Death. Renewal.

As humans, we don’t have a symbolic growth aspect. Our everyday is merged with our regularity. There probably isn’t one single moment which defines a significant change in life. It is gradual. Full of hopes. Full of fears. A literal step ahead, literal two steps backward.

Yet, over the years, our cells are constantly regenerating themselves. Our memories are become weaker – we are inadvertently forgetting some, forgiving some. We are becoming more accepting of the world around us – we are learning to live and let live. The hair is turning grey, and muscles are no longer taut. Yet, we morph into a version of ourselves which is less insecure of how the world sees us.

Traveler, behold! If you made a promise to yourself and never followed through: well, there’s a non-evergreen in everyone of us. Somewhere inside of yourself, you are shedding those leaves. Perhaps you don’t see yet, the growth of those neon-green leaflets. But in the moment you decide to wake up half an hour earlier to see the sunrise, to donate your old clothes to folks who need them more than you, in the moment when you let someone else take the lift because it is full and they are late, when you help a child to learn the alphabet – you grow a neon-green leaflet. Small. Fragile. So much so that it could break. Yet, in it lies the potential to grow bigger, stronger, the provider of purity that sustains the world.

So close your eyes, and nurture the neon-green. Because, at the end of the month, a deeper shade awaits you. Every moment. Every year.

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Review | The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Hello and welcome to the brand new year 2019! I hope the new year is treating you well so far. One of my 2019 resolutions is to read more books, so I thought why not start the year with a book review? Y’all ready? Let’s start!

If you are reading this post, it means you have access to internet. If so, chances are you have purchased something online at least once. And if you have, there is no way that you have not heard about the internet behemoth, Amazon. Built from scratch by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is the superstar of online marketplace, and The Everything Store is a lovely narrative that captures that journey.

Personally, I have been a huge Amazon fan, and I almost exclusively buy things on Amazon, even though Flipkart in India is not doing too bad. Why do I choose Amazon? Because most often than not, Amazon has the thing that I need, and it has a competitive prices. Plus, I can’t remember even one scenario since I started shopping online when I have received a product from Amazon late or not in the shape that I expected it to. Customer service is prompt and polite, and you feel like you are dealing with people who care for your concerns. So, I was more than a little excited to understand Amazon’s journey through this book.

The name of the book is depiction of Jeff Bezos’s vision for Amazon: to be that store where you can get anything that you want, so much so that, there was a time that he wanted at least one copy of every book that has been printed on Earth in Amazon’s catalog. That, coupled with the conviction of being a customer-centric company, is what makes Amazon what it is. And this book depicts Jeff Bezos’ never-ending dream of doing what is best for the customer: giving him what he needs at the least price that’s practically possible. To do that, he has not only gone to the extent of upsetting his board of directors, but also the Wall Street and more often than not, Amazon employees themselves.

Amazon’s journey can probably be divided into two parts: The Journey of a Fledgling Internet Company and The Journey of a Behemoth. The journeys may definitely have differently evolved, but at the core of it, Amazon’s guiding principles have remained the same throughout the years.

The Journey of a Fledgling Internet Company

Jeff Bezos, as depicted in the book, was nothing short of a child prodigy. He was focused and determined, and ended up working a good job at the hedge fund, DE Shaw. He also saw an early opportunity in the internet and bet on it, and like a lot of Silicon Valley startups. started Amazon in his garage. The challenges he faced were similar to an early start up, but he also managed to entice investors and raise initial capital for it. There were two stories from this period which helped me understand the fundamentals of Amazon.

One was the story of Toys ‘R’ Us and how Amazon embraced the very seasonal toy business. The toy industry runs on trends. What is in fashion on Christmas becomes useless once the new year starts. Knowing that, Bezos confidently got his executives to channel millions of dollars into the the toy inventory, saying that he would personally drive the remainders away in his truck if they did not sell. And Amazon did end up losing millions in that deal that year (probably 1999 or 2000), upwards of ~$30M if my memory serves me right. But in that effort, Bezos showed that he was willing to take chances that could mean huge financial losses, but he was all in. This is a key lesson for entrepreneurs: the stomach to take risks.

Similarly, during the period when analysts predicted fall of Amazon in the early 2000s, at the heart of the dot com bubble burst, and the stocks kept falling like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Bezos stood his ground and told his employees that when the stock rises by x times you don’t feel x times smarter, so there is no reason why you should feel dumber when the stock plunges. Here was a man who was thinking long term, and was able to steer his company through tough times to favorable grounds.

In this period, you cannot but admire the man behind the driving wheel, in spite of all the stories of his temper tantrums and poor treatment of his senior execs.

The Journey of a Behemoth

As Amazon grew from a toddler to a giant, it started doing business in a ruthless manner: cutting down prices that manufacturers and sellers could not sustain, forcing them to negotiation by removing their stock from Amazon and digging a hole in their balance sheet, and practically driving smaller startups to buyout. Meanwhile, Amazon bots constantly hunt for the lowest price on the internet, and provides the same or lower to customers, even if it means losing millions.

One story from this period is of Diapers.com, a startup selling diapers and other baby products. As Diapers.com started doing good business, they were on Amazon’s radar, and Amazon started wooing them for a buyout. When they would not agree, Amazon priced the diapers 30% less than Diapers.com, and after a while, during which they put up a great fight, the young startup had to give in. Similar was the story of Zappos.com. From that book, we learn that there is a dedicated team in Amazon which looks out for rising stars like Zappos or Diapers.com, and goes mercenary style in its acquisitions.

This is the period when you fear Amazon. This is the period when you question the ethics which guides the company. This is the period which reminds us that business in itself is a jungle, and that the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest definitely holds true. Yet, to a large extent, as readers of the book or Amazon customers, we tend to forgive the giant because at the heart of it, they believe that customer is king, and that all inefficiencies from the supply chain must be eliminated so that the best prices can be delivered to customers. In that way, Amazon is almost a saint.

I believe the true assessment of this giant will happen in the years to come. I believe Amazon has a long way to go, especially in developing nations when internet penetration is increasingly gradually. And in the process, it will evolve too as a company, hopefully in the right direction. And while today it seems strange that some other company may overpower Amazon, history has taught us it is possible. So, I’ll be on the lookout to see how someone takes on this giant and emerges on the other side, victorious.

The Everything Store is definitely a well-researched book. The best part is, it is impartial in its approach: while this book makes you cringe at the prospect of working at Amazon, you also learn that there are some amazing things happening, and you can’t but be in awe of that. To keep a balance between that is not easy, and the depth of the research is simply commendable.

If any of you is interested in biographies of people and companies, you should definitely give this book a try!


That’s it for today! Watch this space for more updates, as we proceed into the new year. See you guys very soon!

Love,

Arpita

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Hello, December!

Dear reader,

A warm Hello to you. Where are you as you read this? Curled up in a warm blanket, with a coffee in your hand? Or are you in a bus or a subway, commuting to office and peacefully reading a slice of other people’s lives, as passengers move in and out at each stop? Or are you in your garden, with a hose in your hand, watching over the big roses that you planted few weeks back? Or are you looking out a grey window, watching over buildings from a glass house, wondering about the purpose of your life?

I am on my bed, my blue blanket snuggled under my legs. My back is against the wall. On my left, from the window daylight shines like in a cloudy day. A motorbike just passed by, wheezing out noise. A carpenter is knocking repetitively on a plank of wood somewhere. Other than that, the sound of my typing into this blank screen adds to the audio spectrum. There is a feeble wind outside as I can see the leaves of a big, nameless tree fluttering. It is about 11.00 AM in the morning.

I have a busy workday ahead of me. At work, we are currently trying to understand how cloud platforms work. My mind is also filled with a bunch of creative ideas, still in their nascent stage, in want of fleshing out. I just finished writing a small piece which will go as a voice-over in one of my videos.

December is here. And to tell you the truth, the cold ain’t so bad yet. I am seeing folks updating pictures of snow on Facebook and WhatsApp statuses, but I don’t feel the chill yet. In a few days, Christmas will be here. The malls, the churches will light up in fairy lights and Christmas trees. It would be a spectacle to behold. We will exchange Secret Santa gifts at work. Maybe, we will go out on 24th night, me and my teammates, and we will sit in front of a church as the night turns into 25th. The air will be chilly, and people would be in colorful sweaters. We will eat cake after the service is over, wish each other merry Christmas, and return home to our comfortable beds.

December is that month when we take stock of the year. The memories that were made. The profits and losses. The balance sheets of life. Did we accomplish our 2018 resolutions? Did we lose that stubborn belly fat? Did we travel more, write more, and make new friends? Did we get over our heartbreaks? Did we lose a loved one? How do we summarize the year, put a final sum in the balance sheet and decide what to prioritize in the coming year?

The coming year. A new blank slate where no child has drawn a unsteady line with the white chalk. A new blank slate,before the duster has been rubbed. A new blank slate with the promise of incredible things happening. A year full of promise. To ourselves, and to others.

As I write this, a fraction of sunlight comes through my window – as if the sun understands the palpable glee in my heart as I write this. In this moment, I am peaceful. In this moment, I am full of hope. In this moment, I do not care how today will turn out and if we will meet the client’s expectations. In this moment, I feel confident that I will do well, today and in the times to come. In this moment, I am truly myself.

Are you?

Love,

Arpita

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