Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Also known as Saare Jahan Se Achcha :-)
This was created by Allama Mohammad Iqbal, in 1904/1905. Curiously, Iqbal became one of the proponents of the creation of a separate muslim state which became Pakistan. That was definitely news to me.

For whatever reason, we are taught only a small subset of the lines. The entire song is so much longer and in some parts, cooler.

kuch bāt he kih hastī, miṭati nahīn hamārī
sadiyon rahā he dushman, daur-e-zamān hamārā
Something is in us, that preserves us, that keeps us ever-smiling
Though the fates and chances of the world have ever tried to break us


Check out the full article at wikipedia.

Saare Jahan Se Achcha

sāre jahān se acchā hindostān hamārā
ham bulbulain hai is ki, yeh gulsitān hamārā
Our India is the finest Country on this planet earth
This is our garden abode, we are nightingales of mirth

ghurbat men hon agar ham, rahta hai dil vatan men
samjho vahīn hamen bhī, dil hain jahān hamārā
Though in foreign lands we may reside, with our motherland our hearts abide
Our spirit remains with thee, where our hearts exist

parbat voh sab se ūncā, hamsāya āsmān ka
voh santari hamārā, voh pāsbān hamārā
That mountain most high; neighbor to the skies
It is our sentinel; it is our protector

godi men kheltī hain is ki hazaaron nadiyā
gulshan hai jin ke dum se, rashk-e-janān hamārā
A thousand rivers play in its lap,
Gardens they sustain, the envy of the heavens is ours

aye āb, raud, ganga, voh din hen yād tujhko
utarā tire kināre, jab kārvān hamārā
O water of the mighty flow of the Ganga, do you remember the day
When on your banks, our caravan had landed

maz'hab nahīn sikhātā āpas men bayr rakhnā
hindi hai ham, vatan hai hindostān hamārā
Faith does not teach us to harbour grudges between us
We are all Indians and India is our homeland

yūnān-o-misr-o-romā, sab miṭ gaye jahān se
ab tak magar he bāqi, nām-o-nishān hamārā
Greece, Egypt and Rome are lost, now only memories
But our civilization remains; it has stood the test of time

kuch bāt he kih hastī, miṭati nahīn hamārī
sadiyon rahā he dushman, daur-e-zamān hamārā
Something is in us, that preserves us, that keeps us ever-smiling
Though the fates and chances of the world have ever tried to break us

iqbal ko'ī meharam, apnā nahīn jahān main
m'alūm kya kisī ko, dard-e-nihān hamārā
Iqbal! Is there no soul that could
Understand the pain in thy heart?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stuff they didn't teach me at school 1 : Azimullah Khan Yusufzai

When I started reading up on Indian history, I realised that there were great many interesting things that we have never been exposed to in school. I have decided to post some such interesting tidbits. Maybe, I was asleep in class and just do not remember being taught these things :-)

For instance, Azimullah Khan Yusufzai.

Azimullah was a poor muslim boy, who ended up at a school run by the british. There he learned French and English. He then became secretary to Nana Sahib.

Nana Sahib was the adopted son of the Peshwa who had been exiled to the kingdom of Oudh by the british. Since he was the adopted son, the british cut off his pension under the Doctrine of Lapse, which decreed that if the landowner died without a male heir, the lands would pass to the East India Company. He deputed Azimullah Khan to go to London to plead his case with the crown. Azimullah went there, charmed the upper crust (met Charles Dickens, the queen etc), was appalled by the conditions in London (the slums were worst than the worst that India had to offer, he thought) and on the way back came through Constantinople. There he saw the british getting a bloody nose at the Crimean War. He realised that the British wouldn't be able to fight both wars, if India rose in revolt.

When he got back, he told Nana Sahib 'Why beg for a pension when you can fight and regain your crown?'. He started publishing leaflets against the East India Company and started mobilizing the royalty against the british. He escaped with Nana Sahib when the revolt was suppressed and was never found. While we hear about Tatya Tope (Nana Sahib's general), we don't hear a thing about his secretary who was the big motivators behind the scenes.

Thinking about it, maybe the sepoys' mutiny which started off the whole thing probably came at a bad time for Azimullah. Maybe things started rolling before he could get orchestrate a proper rebelliob. He had to know that if the Sikhs backed the british, the rebellion had little chance of success, so perhaps he was trying to get the buy-in from them too. Perhaps the events overtook him. Of course, I am just speculating at this point.

I think they should have made the movie 'The Rising" about Azimullah Khan, not Mangal Pandey :-)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hiking the Burroughs Range

This is supposed to be the toughest day-hike in the Catskills. It hits three peaks (Wittenburg(3790ft), Cornell(3870) and Slide(4180). It's part of the Devil's Path. It's a 9.7 mile hike.

KD and I planned this over the week and hit it last Sunday. KD found it here. It's a great site, with trail descriptions, topo maps and altitude profiles.

Here's a quick summary.

Start : 11:30
Wittenburg : 1:55
Leave Wittenburg : 2:25
Cornell : 3:00
Base of Slide :3:45
Top of Slide :4:35
End of Hike :6:00

We actually left Jersey City at 8:15 am (a minor miracle in and of itself) , got to the end-point of the hike (The Slide Mt parking lot) at 10:30 and dropped one car off there. We got to the Woodland Valley parking lot 11:00 ish. The distance is about 22 miles between these two points. We started hiking around 11:15 am, but went on a completely different trail :-)

Soon, we found the Burroughs Range Trail. It's behind the camp sites, crossing a little bridge across a creek. We started at 11:30 AM.

The first section to the top of Mt. Wittenberg was largely uneventful. It climbed steadily all the way through to the top. We reached the top at 1:55.

A brief digression is apropos here, I think..

In a past life, long time ago, I lived in Bombay for 9 months. When you live there, you can't but notice how much life revolves around the local trains. Brilliant network. Mostly trustworthy. Always crowded. The geography of Bombay makes these trains an indispensable part of travel. Bombayites(who are the very salt of the earth, mind you. A more nice, polite, hospitable folk you will be hard-pressed to find.) are used to this 'running-for-the-train' thing since wee toddlerhood. Now, what this means is that even if they are, say, walking in a park, they tend to walk like they are trying to catch a train.

Now, I am from Madras. We tend to amble where others trot, trot where others gallop and by and large prefer to rest in the shade of a tree rather than go anywhere. In other words, we display a marked lack of hurry. Must be the heat.The upshot of all this is that when one hikes with KD, one must be prepared to walk really really fast. And if one is from Madras, one must be really be prepared to be pushed hard. And pushed hard I was :-)

So, when one looks at the times posted here, one must correct for BSG (Bombay(Brihanmumbai, if you will) Standard Gait).

The view from Mt. Wittenburg is pretty nice. The ledge drops off almost vertically. There are nice views of the Ashokan reservoir. From the edge, I could see buzzards wheeling below. For some random reason, I really like seeing these birds from above.

After a break of about 30 minutes, we headed towards Mt. Cornell. Getting to Cornell involved some small-time rock-climbing to clear ledges. We got to Cornell at 3:00 PM.

Cornell didn't offer much a view, except for a view of Slide. From Cornell, you can see the trail drop down to a ridge which goes straight to Slide which looms like a wall. It gives a nice preview of what lies ahead :-) The ridge is at about 3000 ft and then, in half-a-mile, climbs to the top of Slide (at 4180 ft).

We got to the base at 3:45 PM. The last section had a combination of rock-climbing (or rock-scrambling, if you are me :-) ), ladders, and steep trails. After all, we did have to climb 1000 ft in under half-mile. The last 10 minutes just about killed me. Showed me up. Brought me to a near standstill. Massacred me etc.

In any case, we reached the top of Slide at 4:35 PM.

There's a big rock-ledge with a plaque honoring John Burroughs after whom this trail is named. We met a couple there who told us that there was a much better lookout point just 30 yards from where we were down the trail.

So, KD and I set off, found nothing and before we knew it, we were on the trail that leads down from Slide. We think they just wanted to be rid of us.

The hike down was pretty straightforward and we were down by 6:00 PM. We had covered 9.5 miles in 6.5 hours with a half-hour break. Not too bad. Correcting for BSG, as always.

It was a good, hard hike. I much recommend it. The weather stayed good. The temperature was in the high-seventies, with not-too-bad humidity.

I would very much like to do an overnighter here maybe even a multi-nighter doing the entire Devil's Path. Let's see how that pans out.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lessons from Mt. Carrigain

As mentioned previously, this was very much a seat-of-the-pants thing. Ideally, more research should have been done on equipment. Or maybe not. I would have spent a lot of time browsing, and maybe have ended up buying the same things :-)
One interesting thing I discovered after I got back from the hike was the concept of ultra-light backpacking. http://www.ultralightbackpacker.com/

I bought a pair of Merrell Pulse II. Light, waterproof. I could walk through muck and water without getting any water inside. Also, light and comfy. Highly recommended

- Hiking Socks
I used to consider these an affectation. Not so much anymore. There were times when I waded through water, wrung the socks and put them back on, kept going. They were dry in a short time. Can't do these with standard cotton socks.
Take extras.

- Packs and packing
I had bought my pack on a whim, but lucked out. It's one of the lighter packs (at about 4 pounds). My whole backpack, including food, water, tent etc, weighed in at 31 pounds. If I had bought one of the heavier packs by mistake (like one of those 12 pound monstrosities), I would have been lugging nearly 25 percent more weight. By the end of the trip, it shows :-)
Also, the loads on the pack should be distributed so that it stays close to your body and doesn't pull away from your center of gravity. The best place to put the heavy stuff is at the bottom where they have thoughtfully provided loops :-)

- Reading up on backpacking.
Haven't done it, should have done it :-) I am sure that many things that I found out, people already have..

- Trip planning
Now, we did very little of it and lucked out. Just a little bit of trip planning saves a lot of time and headache. For instance, if we had planned this trip the previous night instead of at the EMS store on the evening, we could have saved close to 3 hours of day-light hiking time. As it was, we started researching hikes at 2:00 pm, chose one at 3:30 and read up on the hike on the way there :-)

- Fires
Be sure to make a fire-ring or use pre-existing ones. If you do plan to make a fire, the fire-logs (like the ones used in fireplaces) make it a lot easier. Easy to start the fire, doesn't smoke, no burning embers to deal with.
Be sure to carry matches/lighter too, obviously :-)

- Waste and the disposal thereof
Get atleast 200 ft from the trail, campsites and water sources( remember that trails curve. 200 ft from the place you started might not quite be 200 ft from another point on the trail :-)
). Dig a hole six inches deep, do your thing, mix it up with the dirt (with a stick), bury it. Don't bury the toilet paper, though, apparently doesn't quite decompose as fast.

- Straps, ropes.
These help. Take spares.

- Bugspray
Do not forget it. Or you will pay :-)

- Flashlight
Obviously one needs it. I would suggest that one be taken even if the hike is not planned to last into the evening.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mt. Carrigain - 3 : Quick summary

Day 1.
8:08 - 10:00 PM.
Signal ridge trail to the junction of Carrigain notch trail - 1.7 miles.
Setup Camp.

Day 2.
Broke camp at 8:45 am
Signal Ridge Trail to the top of the mountain 3.3 miles 3200 ft.

12:40 pm- 1:14 pm
Cross Signal Ridge to the Peak.

1:30 pm-4:23 pm
Desolation Trail 1.9 miles (2500 ft.)
Start at 1:30 pm
Bottom at 4:23 pm

4:23 pm-8:41 pm
Carrigain Notch Trail - To Signal Ridge Trail 5.6 miles
Small 1500 ft rise and fall in the middle of the trail.

Total distance 13.5 miles.
Total time 13 hours (1 hour the first night and 12 hours the second day).

This loop offers everything. Long steep climbs, stream crossings, marshland type trails and tons of mosquitos. There are not many people on the trails, especially the loop from Desolation through Carrigain Notch. Most people just do a up-and-back on signal ridge.