aS Shorts#2: A collection of s(h)orts!

Ever heard of Creative Limitation? I came across this concept when I was designing a writer's haven for my architecture thesis (yeah, sounds all cool but it wasn't). So the idea, succinctly put, is
We need to first be limited, in order to be limitless
Think about it. A haiku restricts your syllable count. Acrostic poems limit the letter your sentence starts with. The last page of your school notebook has so little space yet produces such exquisite ink doodle masterpieces! To be totally contextual, I saw it with my writer's block. I couldn't get ideas for stories, didn't know where to begin, where to end. Until I came across a few questions in quora, which also lead to me experiment more with this creative limitation concept.

  1. Entire story in monosyllables
  2. Five line rhyming poem starting with 'Shoot me honey'
  3. Twenty word story with a twist in the last word
  4. Ten word heart wrenching story
  5. Five word intriguing story

Go on. Also, a challenge to the reader (yes, you) at the end of this post.

Edit 20/11/2016: Just came across this brilliant article on mental floss. It explores 8 extraordinary examples of 'constrained writing'. Quite intriguing I must say. My creative juices have already started flowing.


An Ocean, A Bike and a Beach – What makes for a good road-trip!

“What makes for a good road-trip?” asked she, sitting on the pillion as we cruised ahead towards Alibaug. I wondered. Was it the bike, the road, the pillion, the rider or the emotion?

“Emotion. Road-trip is an emotion”, said I. “It is liberating. It makes you forget that you have a home, a job, and your mundane routine. I think that is what makes for a good road trip.” She nodded her head in agreement – I saw that in the rear view mirror. I also saw her clicking this pic.

Wait a minute, I think his travelogue needs a better narration. Let me attempt! 

It was my birthday week, and she wanted us to go to some remote place, away from the ever bubbling maximum city. We chose to go to Kashid via Nagaon and Alibaug. And boy what a decision it was!
The trip started with us packing all our stuff in small bags and tying it all up onto Faisalwa (my Avenger 220 cruiser). We reached ‘Bhau-cha dhakka’ – a small time port in south Bombay. The name is funny but it is actually well-christened. For 150 bucks, some 3-4 ‘Bhaus’ (Bhau = Brother in Marathi) pushed my Avenger up on a small ferry.

A bike on an ocean. Ain’t that amazing!?

A couple of hours later, we got down on Rewas fort. From there started a rather refreshing bike trip to Alibaug. The road is single lane, and pretty empty on weekdays. On one hand you have hills, and on the other, the ocean. Tall grasses lined up the road shoulders and we cruised ahead humming songs of Lucky Ali.
(aS Note: The helmet was taken out momentarily only for the photograph. Pl. wear helmets while driving and ride safe!)  

A bit about the tarmac and road safety here. At places the road was super smooth, but intermittent were stretches full of gravel. It was becoming even trickier at the turns. I was noticing a fellow biker who was ahead me for some time. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and calling his style of driving rash would not be an exaggeration, judging by the way he was swinging his fazer side-ways. Suddenly a tractor came out from the left and I did see this biker almost hitting the mega-vehicle. Thank God for his brakes and well threaded tyres. I also applied the brakes and thanked God, for I was maintaining a comfortable distance from the biker. I bent forward and looked at my front CEAT tyre and felt a re-assurance. I always make it a point to check my bike’s tyres before cruising out. Maintaining safe distance from heavy vehicles ahead is a deliberate choice, and maintaining comfortable speeds of around 60-70 kmph with a Helmet on never killed anyone! (Bad pun, I know!) A quick and timely disclosure here. I’m chronicling my road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda. And you thought product placements were only a thing in the movies! ;)

Anyway, this small incident did not dampen our spirits and we went ahead with the road trip, stopping for lunch in Alibaug. And then we skipped its beaches for better places ahead. At night we stayed at a small private homestay at Nagaon – a place almost mid-way between Alibaug and Kashid.
I just cannot further this travelogue without talking about the sereneness of Nagaon beach. Imagine this. A beautiful sunset with ocean till the horizon and a glossy thin layer of the water extending on the beach, touching our feet in waves.
It was mesmerizing. I took my Faisalwa for a ride on the beach while she clicked pics. Have a look.

(aS Note: The helmet was taken out momentarily only for the photograph. Pl. wear helmets while driving and ride safe!) 

The Babe, the Bike and the Beach.

The next day we biked ahead and reached Kashid. A secluded place with another beautiful beach and waves. We came across a wonderful resort adjoining the hills which bracketed the small beach town. Amazingly well designed resort with rooms having private balconies overlooking the hills and the ocean. The night went on a high. Quite literally. It was an amazing experience, lying on the grass on a random balcony on the side of a random hill, overlooking an ocean as random.

Cheers to the places life takes one to!

With a couple of content hearts and travel-worn souls, we headed back the next morning. 

(aS Note: The helmet was taken out momentarily only for the photograph. Pl. wear helmets while driving and ride safe!) 

The Alibaug-Nagaon- Kashid trip definitely raised the bar for our future road travels. And some months later, we went to Goa. But that’s another story for another time! Keep visiting for the next update! :)



Trekkers' delight - To Harihar Fort and beyond!

The thing about the monsoons in Mumbai is that it will make you beg to come and it will make you beg to leave.

I can see many of my friends and colleagues already begging like a lunatic for the rains to go away. But they don't realize that with the rains going away, the lush green, misty, almost ethereal greenery of the western Ghats would also vanish too, leading to that dull dusty foliage we all want to make a blind spot of.

But behold the beauty of Autumn! October and November are the evergreen months to visit any place they say. How about trekking up to a couple of forts this Autumn?

In continuation of my last 'bro finding things before they happen' travel post, here I am with yet another possibility - A trek to Harihar fort and Brahmagiri - Bhandardurga fort on October 8th and 9th.

The Pink Misfortune.

I happened to watch Pink yesterday. Pretty hard-hitting movie, and well made. Amitabh Bacchhan doesn't steal the show which is good. Each character has it's own story and own development. The plot is very believable and the setting even more so.

A brawl between drunk-heads who happen to be a mix of girls and boys, leading to somebody getting hurt. What follows is the reality, arm-twisted with sexism, hypocrisy and patriarchy. Totally recommended if you haven't watched it till now.

The sad part is, most of the people who have watched it sympathize with it and most of the people who should be watching this movie don't give a damn about it. They are busy making the producer-directors of movies which objectify women in broad daylight, billionaires. 

Or, assassinating the character of girls who drink and wear short skirts. 
Now that's a pink misfortune.

September 25th 2016


Anybody up for a trek this weekend to Raireshwar – Kinjalgarh?

Things are changing at arbitSpeculations – travel section. Earlier we used to post travelogues in retrospection (well, that’s how travelogues are meant to be, anyway!) But then a sweet chap quipped, “What’s the point of talking about things that happened. Tell me what travel things are about to happen bro!”

And hence this ‘bro’ decided to find out about travel things that are about to happen and post about it.
Google searches didn’t help much. Our friends at goeventz portal did. I did stumble across this upcoming trek to Raireshwar – Kinjalgarh, ‘about to happen’ this weekend – September 24th 2016. But where the eff is Rair..whatever is that you ask?

My turn to ask questions first. Are you in Mumbai or Pune? Do you love traveling around? Do you brood about the last few days monsoons and the associated greenery of the western ghats is going to last, and do you want to do something about it?

Consumers of content

So I get up and scroll through the feeds of news and updates. I listen to podcasts while I commute, and my eyes stay on the screen while I talk, because deep inside, I have this fear of time running out, and me missing out on any information. Which is kind paradoxical in my case, since the motive of me grasping more information is to have more meaningful conversations with people. 

It is pretty evident from our generation's behaviour, that we're all hedonistic consumers of content. 

But, more importantly, what is the ratio of the content you consume to that you create?


Who watches the Watchmen? Who trains the Trainers?

Like that latin phrase goes... 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' (meaning 'Who will guard the guards themselves?'), have you ever thought who trains the corporate or freelance trainers themselves?

(pic credit:

Now that I have some of your attention thanks to the deviant artwork by Mr. Cheko111, let's actually look around a little. Trainers, trainers everywhere. Where do they get trained?


Nil Battey Sannata owned me.

                                                                   Swara Bhaskar and Ria Shukla in Nil Battey Sannata

“Ladkiyon ki maths se banti nahi” , “Aur mera bhi maths nil battey sannata hi hai,” Ratna Pathak says and I don’t find it sexist for the first time. There is this charm around her, that fails everything and leaves you smitten every time she appears on the screen. She is clearly ageing very VERY beautifully. And, you know, I can go on and on talking about her, despite smaller than expected tiny-mini screen time she has in this film.
But lets stick to the film, for Ria and Swara Bhaskar’s sake. Or, Pankaj Tripathi’s sake, who played the idealistic school principal as impeccably as only Pankaj Tripathi could. Now you have a fair idea that this film is power packed with one of the most talented performers of our time. Add to it, great camera work and vivid stroy-telling, you have a treat to all five-senses. The treatment of the film is quite international and I loved the surreal jump cuts and fade in-fade outs.
Nil Battey Sannata explores the nuances of life of a house maid (played by Swara) and her child, Apeksha (Ria). It revolves around Ria’s secondary school education and very subtly touches the education mafia of the country, hits it hard, nails it and passes over like a summer breeze after spring clean. Then you utter in your head, Dafaq did I just see!
There is more to it though. So much more. NBS gets personal as it progresses. It reminded me of the snooty girl I used to be during my 11th and 12th std. in school. I remember being aimless, goalless and so pathetically in love with one of my classmates. Like Ria says to her mother in one of the scenes, “Doctor ka beta doctor banta hai, engineer ka beta engineer, isiliye main Bai banungi. She uses it as a weapon to avoid studies. Then you break into laughter when she says, “Iss desh mein career choose karne ki azadi hi nahi hai bachchon ko!”
That’s the other side of the spectrum, isn’t it? Chanda (Swara) toils hard to save some money for Ria’s pre-board coaching class. She knows her child needs the very unattainable coaching. Coaching classes are there for pure business because education is more business than ever before today. Ria remains unfazed of her mother’s plight throughout, like all of us. Allow me to digress a little here, we love to take our mothers for granted. She looks good in the kitchen,cooking and toiling for us. Even after we become “that something” or a collector in this film (the film ends there, spoiler, tada!), she is there in the kitchen because that’s what she is meant for, probably?
NBS is a fairy tale with a twist. We have a Cinderella who wants to do household chores but has fleeting dreams about Ranbir Kapoor and Salman Khan. She doesn’t want a night out or a prince. She is fine with what she is. Her name is Apeksha and that’s the twist. The film is surely about a mother’s Apeksha or expectation from her child. She expects a better tomorrow. Nothing extravagant, but better. In her past, Chanda had to drop out from her school because she was bad at maths or “maess” as she says it. She obviously doesn’t want the same for her girl. I was in tears throughout the second half of the film, to see a mother’s mammoth determination to bring her Apeksha on right track. For once we knew Apeksha could fail, but Chanda’s expectation would not.
NBS is about unnerving and unending dreams of the working class. We have an immensely hardworking child named Amar, whose brother runs a small time dhaba to bring him up. Amar works as a mechanic after school. When he comes out from under a car in one of the scenes, all covered in grease and dirt, that 15 year old lean sweet little genius of a child, it sure left me unsettled. Apeksha remained unfazed. Like all of us.
I could not understand though, why all upper caste surnames have been used in the film. Right from Chanda Sahay to Dr Diwan aka Ratna Pathak to principal Srivastava, everyone is upper caste! Was it to bring uniformity or to avoid the caste discourse totally?
Coming back, as Nil Battey Sannata shows education is still a far fetched idea in our country of over 100 billion people. But education mafia has full access to it. At school, we are goalless because of them and because “doctor ka beta doctor banega.” But we have determined mothers across class and creed. Maybe we should celebrate just that.
And oh, did I say Swara Bhaskar has stolen the show? I can’t imagine any other actor playing Chanda as good as she did. She was so much into the character that I could not find Swara anywhere on screen. This holds true for principal sir (Pankaj Tripathi) and Apeksha (Ria) too. That have owned it totally!
Only Ratna Pathak was Ratna Pathak, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.:)
(originally posted on )

The Motorcycle diaries: #4 To Lavasa & back #IndianArmyFC

And why the #IndianArmyFC hashtag in the title you'll ask. We'll get there soon.

As if a 155km bike ride from Mumbai to Pune was not enough, I took Faisalwa (my Avenger 220) for another spin, only a day after. And this time we were three - Pranav with his white Bullet and Mathur with his black one accompanied by my red Avenger. The plan was to ride up from Pune to Lavasa, spend the evening there and come back - some 130kms doorstep to doorstep.

A tale of two Bullets and one Avenger.

The Route - The Good, the Bad and the Godly.
The boys did have the toys but none of us knew the roads to Lavasa. GPS Mata ki Jai, but we didnt have no pillion riders to be our navigators even. Precisely here came to our rescue an old purchase of mine from Mumbai's grant road - a GPS device holder for bikes. Fortunately I had taken it with me for the Mumbai Pune ride. It had been unused till then.

As a wise guy, Sir Vedder once said, "...just where to put all your faith and how will it grow."
I put that random purchase of mine to task.

Long live Eddie Vedder!

And the GPS screen showed this - 65 km ride up into the mountains!

The delay.
We were enthusiastic but we were also super hungry. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves getting super late for the trip. The original plan was to leave at 3pm, by 4:10 we were still in a small coffee shop, sipping iced lemon tea. So much for our first ride up into the mountains!
Anyway, we packed our stuff, put the helmets where they belonged and throttled up the beasts.

An hour later, we were again having tea, but this time in the mountains. Oh my love for recurrent tea breaks while biking knows no bounds!

The Indian Army Fan Club.
One day before all this happened, both Pranav and I had done some bro-shopping at Pune Decathlon - you know, this pair of running shorts... that hell of a wind cheater etc. We both had gotten two full sleeve t shirts with the Indian Army camouflage design. And we both wore that to the Lavasa trip. a few jokes later, we named our pack 'Indian Army Fan Club Riders'. Wannabe stuff, but it stuck like all wannabe stuff.  Yeah, what's in the name they say!

Now you know the secret behind #IndianArmy FC in the title!

Lavasa bike trip - A couple hair pin turns too many.

The road remained good for almost 2/3rd of the trip. Then things began to fall apart. Next thing I knew, my GPS holder (with my darling nexus 5 phone) spun off on the road from the bike. Thank God neither did it roll off the hill, nor come under the tyres of other vehicles. I promptly put the phone back where it belonged to. Inside my jeans pocket. As we reached up, hair pin turns started appearing more frequently. Things did get tough on a couple of occasions but we managed our way!
 "Darling, let me show you the hair-pin trick". (Opens the lock.)

"The North Remembers."

Make photographs while the Sun shines.
And we finally reached a high point from where the entire Lavasa could be seen. Sun was setting faster. Time for us to get some quick snaps!
Mathur looks like Danny Denzongpa.

Wine colored days.

Almost posing in front of a painted landscape. Almost.

Lavasa - The night of colors.
Finding a budget one night stay in Lavasa can be tough. Fortunately not the case for us. We managed an easy access to Lavasa clubhouse's landscaped amphi-theatre. A beautiful open sky amphitheater with the lake forming the backdrop of the stage. And distant colored lights making hazy images in the water.
Writer's note: The activitied & discussions that went on till late night/ early morning on that amphi-theater have been censored. Jai Gajendra Chauhan. 

When the stage in front goes in the background.

 What the dawn revealed.

All things good come to an end.
Time had come to return back to our senses. And bikes. And senses. We had come to the clubhouse in awe. We left in awe. Beautiful it was. Everywhere!
A colorful morning with a promising return bike trip ahead!

One for the road!

A sunny, happy, chirpy morning in the mountains.

Return trip was faster than what we had expected. As I rode up and down the mountains with blind turns and known hair pin bends, they all seemed way more familiar than they should have been. The sun shone bright on the horizon, rising & getting stronger by the second. Cool winds made the head bands useful and brushed past our cheeks, as we made our way back to the Pune city.

I realized how much sense it all made - taking my bike from Mumbai to Pune and then to Lavasa. A good break from all the monotonous shades of a corporate life. I promised to myself I'd cruise more. 
And more often.

Pune - April 10th 2016

P.S. The Pahadon waali Maggi should not be forgotten. It fed the Indian Army FC Riders well. Three glasses down to the Pahadon wali Maggi.


The Motorcycle diaries - #3 Mumbai to Pune on NH4

Maintaining any kind of blog is cumbersome. A travel one at that, even more so. One, the job world robs you of (m)any such traveling chances, two the lethargy that sets in after a rare travel or two kills the rest of the scribbling mood.

Anyway, beating all that and a hiatus that has seemed to have spanned a couple of centuries, here we are - aS travel tales are back, with an additional flavor of motorcycle grease (I know. Bad pun; in my defense, didn't i say I was on a hiatus?).
And so I re-start with my recent joyride from Mumbai to Pune on my Faisalwa- Bajaj 220 Avenger.

Faisalwa eyeing Dum Biryani midway. (More pics below) 

 The analysis paralysis.

So many reviews on the internet about biking route maps from Mumbai to Pune and all too confusing! I remember having thought of taking my bike along for a spin whenever I went to Pune in the last year, and that has been like at least 7-8 times. Each time I would read some 4-5 reviews, contemplate the pros and cons of a bike ride on highways and end up taking one of those "cool cabs". All the blogs talked about how you have to make sure you never touch the Mumbai Pune Expressway, how you would anyways touch the Mumbai Pune Expressway, how you would have to have a good eye on the signboards how you should never assume and how you could be fined by the cops for riding a two wheeler where it ain't allowed. And of course there is worse.

I don't think travelogues should discourage travelers.

The Go.
And one fine day (Gudi Padwa I guess), I had had enough! I just took my riding gloves, my helmet, my keys and hit the road on Faisalwa. Simple as that! Let's tackle one signal at a a time, let's tackle one sign-board at a time, like the Kapur son had said recently to his father. I understand pro-bikers will remark that Mumbai-Pune bike trip is no big deal; the thing to remember here is, I have never rode for more than 30 km at a stretch, and we are talking about some 155 odd kilometers.

The Route. The Rule.
 One thing I really like about Maharashtra in general and Mumbai in particular is that there is always a sort of discipline in everything they do. There is always a rule for everybody to follow. And if you find yourself walking in the wrong 'lane' on the pedestrian part of an overbridge, you'd often hear "Mumbai mein naya aaela hai kya?"

Anyway, the rule of the game here is, there is a route parallel to the much hallowed Mumbai Pune Expressway, partly formed by the NH4 and Old Mumbai Pune Highway and partly by other side-roads. It's a biker's delight. The heavy vehicles (also, most cars) would never tread this route (for it's longer) and the bikers would stay away from the expressway for obvious and legal reasons.

TL;DR? Zoom this pic and ride off.
Above is the route I took. From Dadar in Mumbai to Koregaon Park in Pune. Took me some 4 hours to size it up. If you're a biker who has reached this blog only to get gyaan on the Mumbai Pune bike trip, here's where you should have scrolled to directly instead of reading all the arbit speculations above. ;)

One more thing before we begin. Here's the google maps link for the trip: . All the Mumbai Pune Bike trip blogs I read had failed me here. You can read all the warnings and suggestions and get even more confused or you could just hit this link and ride off. And no, this is not what you'll get by default if you search yourself on maps. No option there to disable the expressway but keep the highway. I had to manually add all the places I rode through, in retrospection. Thank me later. ;)

1. From Dadar to Panvel Naka: Easy peasy. Reach RK Studios. Take whichever route that strikes your chords. Then head on to Sion Panvel highway - keep on driving, you'll hit NH4 at the Panvel Naka. A friendly advice: After you reach Panvel, go hunting for the McD in Panvel. No, McD hasnt paid me for this. While doing that, you'll avoid the flyover which will directly take you to the mouth of the expressway. And McCafe has been good lately. ;)

2. From Panvel Naka to Lonavala: Stick to NH4 like it's your long lost love. It will take you home. Well, almost! When you reach Lonavala, you'd suddenly be betrayed by her and would find yourself driving right on the cruel expressway! Ignore the infidelity and drive on for 6-7 kms (highlighted in yellow on the map above). Take the Lonavala exit ramp and hug the AH47 now. She's a beauty with her curves. She's amazing.

3. Lonavala to Pune: Keep hugging AH47 and pass through Vadgaon. I had tea there. Bad tea. You may choose to move on. You'll reach Dehu Road. A tea here, maybe?

What's riding without those recurrent tea-breaks? Thank God those Tapris littered around, almost everywhere.

Now where you ask? Well, keep pressing the accelerator and you'd cross Pimpri Chinchwad and then the old Mumbai Pune Highway will do the rest.

You may think what's so special in a regular Mumbai Pune roadshow. To me it did an interesting thing- it unlocked another degree of freedom for me - the one to long cruises on Faisalwa, and the realization that online reviews for bike trips are needlessly scary. And mostly boring. ( Does that apply to this one too? You decide.)

Anyway, here are some happy memories of the trip:

The Five Pointed star just doing it.

 Chaai with a Chick. (in background)

 Curves ahead.

 "Aaja Shaam hone aayi" "Oh no!"

In sharp contrast to Mumbai Pune Expressway.

Pune - April 10th 2016

P.S. - This trip soon led to a more challenging one to Lavasa and back (a 130 km bike-ride into the mountains of the Maha Rashtra.) Will blog soon about that. I hope. :)