6

Travelogue : Death Valley

Thanksgiving. Long weekend. Get out of town. That’s the mantra we seem to be following these days. Any long weekend or vacation spent at home is akin to a crime.

My holidays started pretty much when a very old friend from college Sayali came over to my part of the country to catch up on our friendship and enjoy her vacation. We had a blast, went to Las Vegas, clubbed, gambled, boozed and did the usual Vegassy stuff. After coming back to Orange County, we visited the local beaches which were too cold to be enjoyed thoroughly. Yet we had a great time sitting on top of the lifeguard’s post and talking.

Thanksgiving dinner was had at my buddy Shawn and Alicia’s where food was served to us in quantities that will put an elephant’s diet to shame. I am still eating leftovers and I am still set for two more meals.

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One of the very exciting things that I did was to go to the Death Valley National Park with Abhi and Nisha. It is one of the largest national parks in the country and is a huge expanse of flat lands and mountains, a lot of it actually below the sea level. The say that Death Valley is the land of extremes. The temperatures range from 120 F in summers to 20 F in winters, which is around 48 C and sub-zero. Also, you get to see extremely beautiful night skies with the milky band. It was a few nights after full moon, yet we could see a gazillion stars just at 7 pm. My skin tingles at the thought of a moonless night over there. And a date. Meh.

We stayed at the Panamint Springs Resort which is a family owned resort with a few rooms, pre-built tents, RV hookup sites and campgrounds. It is an old and basic arrangement but worked very well for us. The restaurant had vegetarian options in pizzas and burgers and a couple of appetizers. Nothing fancy considering that it was a friggin’ remote location with ZERO cell service. Yep. No internet. No phone. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

We stayed in the lodge on Friday night after a 4 hour drive from OC to Panamints springs area. The drive was rough with a lot of unpaved roads as would be commonplace in such an area. In the next couple of days, we enjoyed quite a few Death Valley massages as Abhi called ‘em gravel-ey roads. We ate and slept, prepared for a an early day. We had some sumptuous buffet breakfast on both the days with pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereal, croissants and such. On Saturday, we set out to cover most of the sightseeing in the area.

There are two things worth mentioning. First, I was awed by the sand dunes. They were so beautiful! Now, I have an itch to go back to Rajasthan in India to see the desertlands. For the nerds interested, scenes from Star Wars have been shot at those Sand Dunes in the Death Valley. We walked quite a bit in those dunes to get to a nice high point and then returned with scoops of sand in our shoes, socks, jeans, yep.

The second point of interest that I loved was Badwater. It is a highly salty marshy area with encrusted soil on top as of now because of the heat and is about 300 ft below sea level. The history says that a traveler thought it was a good spot for his mule to have a sip of water but the mule refused to drink it. So, he named it Badwater. The water is so saline that only a few special aquatic creatures like this bunch of weird snails can survive there. To maintain ecological balance, straying off the boardwalk is not permitted. By the way, there is also a Badwater marathon for idiots who like to run in extreme weather conditions and die. Count me out.

Leaving you guys with some pictures I took during the trip.

Pointers:

  1. September-November seems to be a great time and so is spring. Any other time will ensure that you will either boil or freeze to death.
  2. Come prepared for some walking and bring your hiking shoes. Each point is atleast half a mile away from the parking lot with some good hiking loops around.
  3. Bring plenty of water. Don’t be too fussy about food if you are a vegetarian and be prepared to eat same meals. It is not a place to expect buffets.
  4. If you are a social media or smartphone addict, you are screwed.
  5. Bring all your camera equipment. The place is indeed beautiful for photography and astronomy enthusiasts.
  6. Book lodging or camping grounds well in advance. It seems to get full real fast, especially for long weekends.
  7. Do an estimate of the amount of daylight you will have and the places you want to see. Pace yourself accordingly.
  8. Forget everything above and let Abhi and Nisha plan, so that you can sleep in the backseat. 😀
26

15 years and a day

Thank you all of you for your positivity and good wishes. It helped our lil boy leave. After 8 days of struggle, he breathed his last with his mommy with him. He was loved by everyone and absolutely adored by his family.  

It seems to us that he was waiting to give us the joy of his 15th birthday. His last rites were done and he was cremated with his red ribbon around his neck. He took the last ride in his favorite way, our car, with his head on his daddy’s lap.

Now we just have to re-learn being without him around. 

Moony (19th July 2000 – 20th July 2015) 

  

 

10

Good Bye Aruna! (Guest post by the father)

I hope everyone is aware of the story of Aruna Shanbaug. It was a gross insult of humanity and justice. I remember seeing this story on Bhanwar, a show on an Indian TV channel and being shocked. From what I read and what my parents told me, she was engaged to get married to a junior Doctor she loved. He cared for her for 6 years till he got married and moved abroad, and until 1988 he and his wife would visit her at the hospital at times. The Dean had covered up a lot of the crime because he wanted to preserve their ‘honor’. It led to a huge failure of the whole case and the criminal getting away with peanuts for punishment. 

My father was greatly disturbed that day after he read the news of her passing away finally. He wrote the following to express his emotions and sent it over to me. 

*————————————————————-*

Good Bye Aruna. We will miss you badly.

Aruna Shanbaug died on 18th May 2015. A life started as a young, bright girl with a caring nature and full of dreams came to tragic end.

But did she actually live?

She died on 27th Nov 1973 when she was sexually assaulted and strangled by a pervert product of the society. He was lust and cruelty personified. It is very difficult to believe that such a man can exist in an educated, advanced society.

Aruna paid for being good natured, affable human being. She paid for resisting a man’s unjustified desires.

Who killed Aruna? The ward boy who assaulted but cannot be charged for murder, the society which produced such a person, the system which could do no justice to her or we all as a part of the nation to which she belonged?

What is it if not the mockery of justice? Aruna was sentenced to 42 years of pitiable life at the tender age of 26. But the man responsible for such ghastly act was given only 6 years in prison, released and may be leading a happy life without a shade of shame. Even the charges framed against him were nothing in comparison to his crime. Now when everything is lost, the learned legal brains are engaged in futile discussions whether he can be charged with murder!

I, a nobody, a common man, aam admi, am ashamed of the society, the judicial system and all males. Let nobody care but it was saddest day for me, the common man, when I came to know about the official death of Aruna.

Aruna, please forgive us. We all are guilty for what you had to undergo. We are guilty that we could not make amends to you and we are also guilty as we know we are not sure whether we can protect any more Aruna in future. This is lifetime shame for us.

No praise is fulsome for the doctors and nurses who looked after Aruna with such love and care which only God can show. We are proud of them and bless them.

Hope Aruna gets best opportunity in the next birth and is compensated for all the sufferings. Let’s wish we see her in the next birth enjoying decent life which she deserved. Till then good bye Aruna. We really, really miss you.

14

Raining over me…

Little wet droplets,
or spheres of light,
Shining through the darkness,
twinkling through the night.

Sprays of moisture,
or flood of memories,
Cutting through the cages,
like a flock of canaries.

As I reminisce,
the thunder growls,
my lips let out your name,
while the wind howls.

The clouds have unlocked,
our love is the key;
Drenching my soul,
its raining all over me.

PS : Its raining. After a long, long time. He loved rains. Mumbai rains.

25

The late goodbye?

If this year was a day,
I am looking at noon,
The morning flew by,
Now waiting for the moon.

Turning to look around,
Glancing over my shoulder,
Still looking out for you,
As the wait gets colder,

I can feel you around,
Holding my fingers,
It has been 8 months,
But the last touch still lingers.

Time to move on,
To me everybody says,
But the longing is still constant,
And not just in waves.

As I prepare for dusk,
And eventually the night,
I believe you are my darkness,
But also the happy light.

I know eventually to this road,
There will be an end,
But let me accompany your memories,
At least till the next bend.

I know it is a thing of the past,
I cannot anymore lie,
But I am still holding onto it,
Preparing for the late goodbye.

19

The city of many memories

I had a really fun weekend. Some bar hopping on Friday in Santa Ana, some super awkward dinner incidents with people who I don’t like and who don’t like me on Saturday in San Diego, giggling away with a girl friend and a new gal till 3 am and a fun Mexican lunch with half a glass of weirdly spicy margherita, turned out to be just what Dr. Life ordered.

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I am in love with the city of San Diego. I just love that place. Although it makes me tear up inside every time I am there and engulfs me in nostalgia, but I simply love San Diego. It is like that torrid love affair that harms you from the inside, but is too passionate to break off. *I think I am watching a li’l too much of ‘Scandal’.* 😉 The city is splendid. I spent my Master’s years there and my last two years were some of my best times ever. The xBF and Abhi totally made my time worth all the ache that has been left later. I would not trade any of it away for anything.

I want to list down some of my absolute favorite places in the city that have given me amazing memories. If you ever visit San Diego, you should go to some of these places. Some of them can be rather touristy or just a taste of culture or could be just a balm of peacefulness. I am not even going to mention the legit beaches here, because, well, they all are ah-mazing!

  1. Seaport Village : My absolute favorite, hands down. I just love this quaint little part of San Diego harbor. It is right on the harbor line and boasts of tiny shops that sell anything from hot sauces to handmade soaps, beads and jewelry to magnets, mugs and tea cups to exotic hats and fascinators. There is this small shop that sells swings and hammocks. They don’t mind people sitting in the swings or lying down on their hammocks. The sales assistants are very friendly and usually are ready for conversations. This place has some very nice eateries as well. Nothing beats sitting at Asaggio’s with a pitcher of beer and their delicious hot cheese garlic bread. It was my date spot. Just perfect when there is a nip in the air.Image
  2. Sunset cliffs : I can sit here forever on the rocky cliffs and get drenched! It feels like someone is throwing buckets of salty water at you. The force of the water has knocked me back several times and I never come back from this place without some cuts and bruises. 😀 There are adorable little pools of water that form on the rocks and you can see an entire little sea world in those. I have a paranoia though and I am insanely afraid that a crab will come and attack me and I will die. The insanity notwithstanding, this place can be amazing if you want to sit on the cliffs and catch the sunset, or if you want to be a total nut and jump off the cliff into the Pacific. I was not allowed to even toe the waters from the edge of the rock at sea level, courtesy the paranoid xBF. “Bahu jokham che!”(Very risky, in english) Haha!Image
  3. La Jolla shores and coves : If you are into snorkeling or scuba diving, this IS the place. I have gone snorkeling here for a Tiger Shark tour, and it blew my mind! We saw sting rays, tiger sharks, so many colorful fishes that I know I will never remember the names of. It was a lot of work though because we turned up in our glasses(the snorkel gear isn’t meant for glasses), and we had to reschedule it. Thankfully I found a set of my unexpired extra contacts and the xBF had a pair too. We used those and threw them after we were done. The guide was sweet enough to hold my hand throughout because I was having real trouble breathing through my mouth. Dude, seriously! Once your face is under water, you totally forget that you have a tube in the air! It just becomes too scary and you end up gasping frantically for air! It takes some time to get used to the nausea and saltiness. But I powered through and enjoyed it immensely. The La Jolla coves is an adorable rocky and cliffy area where you can see seals lazing around shamelessly. It stinks of fish, but the sight of seals flopping around, basking in the sun or plopping down on top of each other makes up for everything. This place is a little annoying when it is cold, but is just perfect when it gets warm. There are little caves you can go to at water level. You just have to climb down the cliff for that. This also is a great spot if you like kayaking. There are many tours here.Image
  1. Point Loma : The panoramic view of the sea is spectacular here! You are surrounded by a vast expense of azure blue Pacific with teeny tiny yachts and ferries dotting the sea. I have actually been here only once when five of us had some time to return a rented car and we just wanted to skip classes that day. We did some crazy picture session in the light drizzle. There is an old lighthouse and museum here. The lighthouse was the perfect studio for even more mad pictures.Image
  2. Coronado beach and island : There is a wonderful bridge that takes you to the Coronado beach and islands. There is a rumor that the bridge was curved and not made straight, in order to get it to a particular length to qualify for federal funding! Sneaky, sneaky. Not sure how true it is though. But what is true is that it has the third highest suicide rate in USA. Anyhoo, the Coronado beach has ‘Coronado’ spelt out in plants that you can see from an airplane! The Hotel Del Coronado boasts of lodging some famous Presidents and movie stars and is known to be pretty haunted. The Coronado island has some lah-di-dah restaurants that boast of a killer view of the water and San Diego skyline.
  3. Mt. Soledad : I have been dragged here at 5.45 am in PJs, boots, a sweater and a hoodie by my sunrise/sunset crazy xBF. This is a beautiful, extremely peaceful place though. One side covers the city scape and the other has a view of the sea. Some sunrises have been pretty awesome here. Especially when it is just a little misty. This is the spot that has inspired many a bromances between the boys. *Rolling my eyes*Image
  4. Old Town : If you want to experience some delicious Mexican food and culture, that is your spot right there! Fun food, fun music and dancing and cute little shops to collect knick-knacks, make this place up.
  5. Gaslamp, Hillcrest : For the best downtown experience, Gaslamp is the place. Period. Amazing clubs, food, my favorite dessert place, Extraordinary Dessert. Hillcrest is a foodie’s and a brewery enthusiast’s delight! I think it has an extensive LGBT settlement and that gives this place a very free, happening vibe for some reason. Some of the best breweries and restaurants are located here. And, of course, San Diego is known for its amazing micro-breweries!
  6. San Diego State : My awesome campus! 😀
  7. Fashion Valley : Countless of indecisive shopping hours have been spent here. Enough said. 🙂

P.S. I have not been paid by anyone to say nice things about San Diego. If someone wants to, they are very welcome!

P.P.S. All the pictures are mine/the xBF’s. Taken by our phones or camera.