Thursday, July 18, 2013

Double decker train

after a long time, had an opportunity to travel between Bangalore and Chennai by train.

having some time available, decided to try out the newly introduced double decker train, for my return, though it took a little longer than shatabdi.

for some reason, the platform for the train was not announced till quite late, just a few seconds before the train pulled into the platform.

the first impression of the train

Double decker1

did not appear very tall.. was wondering how two decks would be comfortable.

a closer look

Double Decker 2

made it clearer. the lower deck was quite low! wonder how the persons would feel, watching people’s feet, as they go past on the platform.

I guess this is how kids might feel – when they are in prams or walking with elders – with everyone else towering over you!

my seat was on the upper deck – and a window seat at that.

the luggage space was limited, but, unlike shatabdi, there were not many with airline size luggage.

Interior 1

Big windows and plug points on alternate rows .

the toilets were clean and the WC and wash basin was stainless steel like older trains, but these looked better finished.

Stainless steel wash basin  Stainless steel WC

you might notice the electrical outlet near the wash basin – which would have been compatible with multiple plug types.

and the flush operation was electronic!

Electronic flush button

the overall ride was comfortable, though the food that came on board was not very appetizing.

seemed to be limited in terms of choice and also appropriateness of timing. I could not have had a filling meal.. so decided to get home and have lunch!

the space between the seat [rows] was limited and felt constraining. the bottle holders that were attached to the front seat made the space feel more cramped. it was not very spacious to stretch one’s legs.

Cramped legroom

another point for improvement could be the entry door.

it was a sliding door, and quite heavy. for persons with luggage and also elders / children, it was difficult to push and move across.

Sliding door entrance

in spite of these limitations, I felt that the journey was comfortable.

also, being mid-week, there was not much rush and the timing at the station was also fine, with not much of a crowd.


in this trip, I also went to and from the station in Bangalore by bus. of that, maybe some other time.. as it brought some nostalgic memories..

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mahjong, the modern rats?


I did not realize the effect a game could have on me.

when there is not even an opponent.

I have always been very impatient when it comes to puzzles. I like solving them, but mostly if I can get it in the first attempt. or there is someone else who would also join – so solving the clues becomes more fun.

that is one of the reasons I rarely play crossword. when I get stuck with more than 3 words, I give up.

I remember in the mid 80’s we used to play a game of ‘rats’ on Burroughs B20 computers. it was a game in which a factory produced rats and we need to eliminate them faster than they were produced.

I remember some of my colleagues were experts at that game, whereas, I would just give up pretty quickly..

so, when I was creating my bucket list – things to do, places to see, people to meet etc. – to keep myself productively occupied, I rediscovered mahjong..

not the traditional mahjong, but the solitaire variety – made by Microsoft, on the Xbox system.

the idea is to remove the tiles that were piled up in some pattern, one by one.

only tiles that are not touching other tiles may be removed..


once you sign in, you have the option if playing games at different difficulty levels or choose the daily challenges. three challenges per day!


as you play and reach some milestones or achieve some targets – such as some # points within a given time, you earn badges!


I guess, the badges the cumulative scores / leaderboards, provide the gratification to play more!


in the last couple of months, I used to play, like I used to play other puzzles.. give up when I could not solve it in the first attempt.

but, somehow, one month, I ‘earned’ a bronze medal!

and last month was bad, in that I could not get even that.

July, has been different so far as you will see below, I have been on a winning streak for five [six, as I write this piece] days in a row!

which means, that I also got the bonus points for solving all three puzzles in a day! and am now well beyond by bronze medal already!


this note is just to warn you that this game can be addictive! and it grows on you..

Monday, July 1, 2013

Unplugged anniversary


It has been now just over a year since our trip to kailash – mansarovar

I have been reading recently of persons who unplug briefly from the internet [and other communication channels].

I guess it is a question of an overdose of anything – in this case, social media, that one gets tired from time to time and would like some time and space for oneself.

last year, by this time, we were back from a two week unplugged experience for most of the time.

out there in the mountains, it is just space and one has pretty much all the time – except for the schedule to be adhered to for the travel.

and not really much else to do except look around us and enjoy the vastness and rarity of the air!

while, initially, there were some anxieties about how things were ‘back home’ and not having even mobile connectivity being a concern in cases of emergencies or just getting updates, as we got close to the main section, time just went by and only fleeting thoughts occasionally of the happenings in the rest of the world.

I did not miss the daily dose of depression – I mean, the news channels on TV and to a lesser extent, some of the newspapers.

the entire trip was very relaxing.

with an out of message warning that mails backlogged may not be responded to at all – and directing the senders to contact other persons officiating during that period, it was a great pleasure to just move all the backlogged mails to an archive folder, only to be looked at, when someone follows and and a reference to an earlier mail was needed.

earlier, vacations would end with a sense of dread of the inbox, when returning to work.

people practicing vipassana do this regularly.

of late, with my personal calendar becoming more packed with many things to be done and also the transition to a ‘retired’ life from work filling up the work calendar, my online presence and activities had come down.

though I did not have any withdrawal symptoms during this period [which was not the case a few years ago, even when I went on a vacation without connectivity!], I am happy to be able to spend more time online, catching up..

but for those of you looking for a digital-detox exercise, this reference might be of interest.