Jul 20, 2019

gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 2

..continued from gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 1.

The gathering of friends commenced around midday. Everyone received their tee-shirt specially made for the event. Lunch, nap break, pool session and tea time happened until now. Our group had vacated the pool except for two still enjoying the cool water in the warm weather.

The upcoming activity was zip-lining. A steel wire ran across this pond starting midway up the tree and ended at the base of another tree on the opposite side.

Srini was the first to try the zip line. I'd seen a zip line at Deccan Trails (near Hyderabad) which was much longer and inclined. That line started on a hillock and ended at the base.. around 150 meters. That was purely on dry land. The zip line here ends with a splash. I felt this was much safer in a way because of the water. Anyhow, I'm not the type to ever try this.

Next on the line was Girish.. what a splash he made! His smile tells its all! It was quite a while since I spent time with people who enjoyed like children :)

That's Srinath.. looks as though he's sliding on the water. For some reason, riders turned 180 degrees as they approached the half-way mark and faced backwards when they hit water. I think it was done purposely so that resistance is least while braking.

That's Nagaraj braking with a huge splash. Wish I'd changed direction so that the riders front was seen rather than just the backs.

Swarup sailing down like an expert. He hardly changed direction until he hot water. Guessing that his horizontal posture helped keep his direction.

Girish, Vasanth and Venky. All of them had two rides t least. Like I said in earlier, there's too much energy n this group. Happy to see be part of an energetic group :)

Every ride involves two steps - wearing the harness and taking it off. Activity co-coordinators at both ends of the line helped riders with that. Wearing it was easy but taking it off was different, required little effort by the rider. During Nagaraj's two rides he was uncooperative, this poor guy had a tough time unhooking Nagaraj off the line. Instead of lifting himself up, he would lean back so much that he would be horizontal. I had a good laugh watching the duo struggle! On the second  instance, Vasanth came to rescue and the scene was even more amusing. How much I laughed at the trio.. oh man!!

With Nagaraj's second ride, zip line session ended. Sun had set minutes ago, the evening had just begun. Tables were setup for us on the volleyball court, just behind one of our cottages. We had another round of tea and snacks. The planning committee made an announcement that the event sponsors would be felicitated.. a token of appreciation for their special support.

 The sponsors Rajesh, Balu, Venky, Vijay, Daya, Anil, and Naveen were awarded a special souvenir each, a navy blue cap. A little formal ceremony amidst a casual gathering. Have to admire the planning team once again.

Srini felicitating Balu the banker.

With the honoring ceremony done, happy hours for the evening was officially announced.

The seven Samurai..

Daya, Naveen, Vijay, Anil, Balu, Rajesh and Venky
Weather was getting cooler by the minute, it actually got chilly. The resort guys lit a fire next to our tables. It was nice to feel the warmness in the chill jungle air. At some point, everyone was required to change into yellow tees, time for the group photo. In the given conditions, we shot several pictures, this one being the best, its blurred at places but not too bad either.

Just as the photo session came to its end, we had another member join us.. that's Vasudev. Wonderful of him to make it to the gathering.. better late than miss it altogether.

The session went on until about 10 PM after which we had dinner. I was tired, needed to hit the sack, recharge for the morning trek. By 11 most of us retired to their respective cottages while some carried on with late into the night. The pool, in artificial light looks mesmerizing. The resort guys are responsible enough, they have a sense of balance, a sense of limit. The lighting is for adding to the ambiance of the place, for the guests to enjoy. Promptly at 11 PM, the pool lights were switched off.

The bonfire continued to burn, probably as long as our group celebrated their meeting.

Back at my cottage, my bed was on the first floor, right next to a large window facing the valley. It was cool and silent, no bothersome insects flying around, perfect condition for a good night sleep.

will continue in gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 3.

Jul 13, 2019

gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 1

Memories of childhood days at Bhadravathi are are like evergreen forest. The MPM colony, its the open grounds, a park, tree lined streets and its peaceful ambiance; the row of gardens in VISL colony, its tree lined streets; the great campus of St. Charles Borromeo School where my academic journey began and the river Bhadra after which the town gets it name. The visit to a sugar mill situated between Bhadravathi-Shimoga organised by the school. The walks with my family from the colony to Sunnadahalli Anjaneya Devastana which was on the other side of Bhadra. The concrete bridge across the river was barely 10' wide and quite low. I could climb down on to the boulders and play in the gushing waters. Also remember seeing the river flowing forcefully, the bridge was wet by splashing waves. All that ended suddenly in II standard when dad quit the job, and we moved to Delhi. I lost touch with my friends there, except for my neighbor Jayanth. Years later, at BMS College of Engineering I met Sateesh Kavi from Shimoga was my senior at St Charles. We were classmates for four years, been in touch ever since.

All the while I had a wish to reconnect with my St Charles school and friends there. In March 2014 while touring historical spots around Bhadravathi, I happened to spend a night at the guest house in MPM colony and the following I visited my school which had changed little over the years.. happened to see my II standard classroom occupied by tiny tot juniors. Later sometime 2018, I asked Sateesh if he knew anyone from his immediate junior. Fortunately he was, he connected me with Srinivas Kharidi. We chatted over Whatsapp several days before Srini introduced me to his group of 40+. I was a stranger in the group for almost a year until Srini's message of April 20th .

Hi all,
Save the dates!
Class of 86 Reunion
11th & 12 of May '19
Some of us haven’t seen each other since our last reunion at Golf Club, Bangalore in 2014. 
What a memorable event it was, thanks to all your participation. Time and again you guys have been wanting a meet, but at a different location!!  We are with you. 
Now the time has come to get-together yet again. 
Announcing the much anticipated get-together.. let us all wind-down from the busy schedule.. catch up & laugh away with our gang.. weekend long!!
Please do come.. let’s have fun, & make the event a memorable one.
This time, it is proposed to have a overnight stay at a hilltop resort near Sakalespur, & the tentative dates are 11th & 12th of May '19. 
We shall have a Alumni meet at Aroha Echo Hill Resorts near Sakaleshpur. 
Please click on the below link to know more about the venue. 
Approximate distance from Bangalore to the resort is around 200 km. 
The itinerary
We need to plan our journey early in the morning on Saturday the 11th of May so as to reach the resort for check-in & welcome formalities by 12:00 noon, & the next day at 11 am we need to check-out. We shall have lunch together before starting the return journey. 
In the two days we shall enjoy the exotic mountain ranges of western ghats, the coffee plantations, wild forest, natural streams & reminisce our childhood days, along with lot of activities at the Resort. 
The budget per person (excluding conveyance) is approximately ₹4,000/-   
Since it is peak holiday season, we need to make advance payment immediately & make necessary reservations. 
We would like to know as soon as possible who all will attend the meet.
Kindly confirm by this evening, so that we can proceed further with the reservation formalities.  
- Bala, Balu, Srinath, Srinii, Vasanth, & Venki

The planning committee did some serious work to get things organized. Meanwhile in the group, Srini and Srinath sent regular reminders; the list of attendees, tee-shirt sizes were asked for, drink & food preferences were inquired.. covered every possible detail. With two days to go the final list, guidelines and a route map were posted in the group. I admired the team's diligence.

I was in touch with Anil for our logistics but nothing was planned. Anyhow, I had thoughts of seeing Sakaleshwara Devasthana, Manjrabad fort and if possible Shettihalli chuurch ruins. To cover these places I had to leave Bangalore really early, so I arranged a cab to pick me at 4-30 AM. The night before I received a call from Anil, he would be joining me.

Our journey towards Sakaleshpur started around 5-30 AM, 30 minutes behind schedule. We were out of city limits and Nelamangala by 6-00 but on Hassan road the toll gates reduced the average speed. Our cab-driver Sachin drove safe & steady, with two breaks for coffee and breakfast, we reached Sakaleshpur by 9-45 AM. Enroute members of the group had posted their locations on WhatsApp, I was getting familiar with folks now. At Sakaleshpur, Sakaleshwara Devasthana was open, it's an ancient temple, well maintained but the metal railings and grills were an eyesore and no information about its history whatsoever. The stop lasted 10 minutes and moved on towards Manjrabad fort where an hour went by including the trek up & down the hillock.

Now, towards the resort.. we took Mudigere road, the ride was scenic with the road winding through the hills covered by coffee plantation. At Hanbal we turned off Mudigere road and took a road going towards Devaladakere from where turned into another inner road. By now I'd seen around 30 boards of various home-stays and resorts. The tar road gave away to a dirt road, driver deep into the valleys, Aroha's Eco Hill resort was on our right hand side, nestled between bases of two hills where the valley started. It was a nice location, away from the road. Here we are looking at the resort's rainwater pond, the dining hall in the background. The resort is completely uneven, covered with tall tress, cottages spread out giving the place a relaxed ambiance. 

As we got off the cab, we were welcomed by the resort manager Pradeep and with him was another gentleman from our group who had arrived few minutes ago. That was Dr. Vijayanand from Shimoga. So three of us had reached on time, 20+ on the way. We chatted, learned that Vijay had joined in III standard. 30 minutes went by with no one turning up, I requested Pradeep to allot us a cottage, might as well freshen up. Our cottage had six beds on two levels, large windows and a nice view of the resort, the hills and the valley. Just as we changed into shorts and stepped out the group from Bhadravati arrived.

Devaram, Vijay, Girish, Anil and Nagaraj
Few minutes later another group arrived. We were expecting one person from Mumbai and Dubai as well. Rajesh had come all the way from Mumbai. When I saw Rajesh, it was like looking at Irfan Khan the great actor from Bollywood.

Rajesh, Srini, Anil, Balaji, Manjunath and Vijay
With so many people meeting after years, there was lot of emotions flying around. And in the middle of that I was trying to get familiarized. Srini has recognized me in LKG class photo, then Dayanand had memories of him and I playing together near his house in MPM colony. In fact, the last I met Daya was at a wedding in Bangalore during early 80s at a wedding, then out of touch.

Dayanand, Anil, Vijay and Srini
The last of the batches had arrived bringing the count to twenty two, two dropped out last moment. Here's the list of attendees except that Vasu was expected to reach in the evening. Impressive isn't it. A group of 22 had gathered with a notice of just 3 weeks.​

1. Anilprasad K
2. Dr. Balaji M Sriramulu
3. Balasubramanyam L
4. Dayananda V A
5. Devaramprasad Venkataraman
6. Girish Dwarakanath
7. Govindaraj T
8. Dr Manjunath S B
9. Manoj G Kumar
10. Nagaraj Krishnappa
11. Nagendra Rajgopal
12. Naveen L Meda
13. Premanand Kumar
14. Rajesh Khamitkar
15. Siddeshwar Prasad
16. Srinath Prasad P K
17. Srinivas S Kharidhi
18. Swarup Shivappa
19. Vasanth C Nachappa
20. Vasudev Umapathi
21. Venkatesh S Tarikere
22. Dr Vijayanand Udupa

Greetings and exchanges were amusing. Very lively group! I was happy to have made it to this gathering :)

Premanand, Anil, Rajesh, Vijayanand, Vasanth, Venkatesh, Girish
Devaram, Govind, Swarup, Manoj, Dayanand and Nagendra 
The group was so close knit, it felt as though I was in a group of teenage boys. Everyone spoke so freely, no inhibitions whatsoever. Wonderful chemistry.

Vasanth, pulling a towel around Daya's neck, was the kingpin for amusing quips. He could make even Mamata Banerjee smile :) On the right is Prem from Mysore, the most silent.

We assembled at one of the rooms for tee-shirt distribution. It was a golden yellow polo tee, a super bright color which could highlight you. I was trying to imagine the group in yellow, like a bunch of flowers. Second from left is Srinath, one of the planners.

Not sure who shot this picture. On the extreme left is Balu the banker, another from planning committee. In the darkness of the shadows there was an open bottle and few glasses moving around. A session was in progress.. cheers!

The group had lunched and retired for a break. I couldn't fall asleep but it was nice to stay still and flat. In fact most guests were resting, the resort looked still.

As I stepped out of my cottage, I saw our group had occupied the pool. More than half the group was in it.. like school boys shouting and splashing around.

At one point few boys took to diving.. big splashes when heavy weights Vasanth and Girish hit water!

Few chose not to enter the pool, including me. These guys were peacefully sitting there, watching the action. While the boys in the pool wanted them to join. Their peaceful time was disrupted when Nagendra splashed water in their direction. This is the point Daya decided to enter the pool.

Whoever designed this resort landscape did a great job, utilized the contours cleverly. A pool with an amphitheater and a foot bridge is a nice mix. This space could be used in a multiple ways. As the sun went down the group's energy seems to be surging.. the anticipation of happy hours I guess.

This picture might look like a repeat of the previous but there are some changes in few moments. Srinath finds a spot for himself while in the pool, Nagaraj is trying to unite and Swaroop just separated from the group.

Here are few shots, few subjects unaware of being caught.

Dr. Manjunath watches Govind trying to stay afloat. Four close buddies recalling some school time incident. The other two pictures are all about beautiful smiles. One incident when I was caught.. Srini and Venky noticed me aiming my telephoto lens at them. Daya gives a double thumbs up.. yes man, we are having a great time!

Except Anil and Balu, all were present for this group picture. I was longing for a trek on those hills.. Trek is usually a morning activity, will have to wait until then. One of the resort staff announced snacks & tea. That kind of ended the pool session.

Some dried and changed into casuals and few remained in pool attire since another water activity was pending. The zip line ride.

will continue in gathering at Arohas Eco Hill resort - 2.

Jul 6, 2019

Manjrabad fort

Among all the forts I've known, Manjarabad fort's plan is the most perfect i.e. geometrically. Its a eight pointed star when viewed from the sky. The fort was built for Tipu Sultan by French engineers, its construction was completed in CE 1792. The fort was strategically located on a hillock in the Western ghats on the highway connecting Kodagu and Mangaluru. It is said that when Tipu reached the fort for inspection, the place was shrouded in fog hence the name Manjarabad. Manju means fog or mist in Kannada and Abad is a term for city in Persian. Probably it was called Manjinaabad and with time it became Manjarabad.

May week 1
Plan for the weekend was to attend primary school classmates' gathering at a resort near Sakaleshpur. I would be meeting for the first time in 40 years. I had studied UKG, LKG, I Std and II Std with them at St. Charles Borromeo School, Bhadravathi. Actually I was a stranger to them at the moment. I'd spoken to just two people- Srinivas and Anil. I chose to hire a cab and Anil tagged along.

My-11 2019
We left Bangalore around 5-45 AM, 45 minutes behind our schedule. With all the toll gates on Bangalore-Hassan highway and two breaks, we averaged 55 kmph. We reached Sakaleshpur around 9-45, quick stop at Sakaleshwara Swamy Devasthana and then the short but slow drive to Manjarabad fort. It was around 10-10 AM when we took the concrete footpath going up the hillock. The concrete path makes way from a flight of steps.. it was about 12 minute trek to the fort entrance. Like most forts, the entrance has a zig zag path enclosed with high walls. That's the way we just came in, in the background are the jungles of Western Ghats.

These walls including the rampart walls are made of dressed granite blocks and lime mortar. I think the plastering is a recent addition. The fort entrance is on the right of the dead-end.

This is the outer entrance to the fort. The zig zag path and sloped walls reminds me of Mirjan fort which has no connection with French engineers. The wall opposite the entrance is a screen blocking direct view of the interior. At the corner on the top is a sentry nest with a good view of the zig zag path. The architects have created a marvelous monument indeed.

The arched and hooded entrance. The mural over the canopy is similar to a temple wall. The hood is a special requirement for this location because of heavy rains during monsoon.The passage through the walls is flanked by platforms which were definitely used as security office.

View from the passage, the floral arch and the inner walls. With so many walls, security system was elaborate here. The passage opens to a courtyard surrounded by high walls. The courtyard itself is divided into two parts by a thick wall creating another zig zag path which links the outer gateway to the inner gateway.

The passage as seen from the courtyard. On the right are small shelters, soldiers barracks.

I climb on to the side wall to get a better view of the courtyard. On the right is the outer gateway and on the left is the inner gateway. This space is a like a trap to stop anyone trying to enter or exit.

The inner walls are made of granite blocks, red bricks and lime mortar. On the right, the remains of an arch can be seen, its bricks arranged in an arch are exposed. The passage seen here links this courtyard to the inner fort.

Before entering the inner fort, I had a quick look at the outer gateway roof. These funnels help drain out water and prevent rain water from seeping into the walls. Even the wall tops are rounded to drain away water. From here we get a view of the rampart walls and one of the gun slots. On the right, there's a small projection with vents.. that's a sentry point where guards remained out of sight.

This is the passage to the inner fort, the floor slopes outwards to allow water flow. Either side are platforms which were probably used as inner security office and soldiers barracks. The passage is such that it does not allow direct view of the inner space.

The arch is made of red bricks. The core of the fort is enclosed by sixteen rampart walls which together form a eight-pointed star. All around the perimeter is a high and wide shoulder. The shoulder is hollow in some places, the space inside were barracks.

The 'star' if enclosed in a circle, will be 143 meters in diameter. Each of the outer walls are 26m long and 5m thick. The inner perimeter of the fort is 416m. The shoulder is 10m wide. At the center of the star is the cross-shaped well. Each of the arms 4m wide have steps descending into the well which is the only source of water.

Next to the well are two funny looking structures with sloped roof and single door. These are the entrances to two separate bunkers which were used as barracks, armory and stores. Wish I had the time to explore the innards.

View of the fort from the southeastern point. The entrance is on the right hand side where a group of people are seen. That group was here for a photo shoot.. newly engaged or newly wed couples were having themselves shot by professionals. It was amusing how the couples were being directed by the cameramen-director to pose.. walk casually, smile, jump, etc. etc. Madness!

From the same point, I turned around for a view of the outer wall and surprised to see the moat. Yes, forts do have moats but at this height is something. And it runs all around except at the entrance. What was the source of water for this moat? The rain water which drained out from the for itself is a possibility because of the amount of rainfall here.

View of the rampart walls and gun slots. The two young men on the wall were shooting pictures, as I know for almost the entire 30 minutes I spent here. Such are the people who wore of the plaster and exposed the bricks inside. When will our people learn to respect monuments.

This is the western side of the fort. The shoulder is hollow here, one can tell that by these funnels.

Such neat construction. They could stand the forces of Nature but not people's acts.

The bunker cover reminds me of Firozabad fort near Kalburgi. Inside that fort are structures with pyramid shaped roofs.

I went around the perimeter of the fort, an interesting tour it was. This is entrance passage, the roof is arched through the length. One has to admire the engineering of this fort though built by the evil-minded Tipu Sultan.

On the way our Anil pointed out n art work on the passage ceiling. It was this mural, plan of this fort clearly showing the moat, rampart walls with gun-slots and shoulder which runs along the perimeter. Brilliant.

I wish the fort caretakers and concerned authorities take steps to protect and preserve this monument.

Descending the hill was easy. At the base we had tender coconut water and headed towards Aroha's Eco Hill Resort the venue f our gathering.