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Life on the curve May 17, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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The WAP-4 hauled 2644 Hazrat Nizamuddin – Trivandrum Swarna Jayanti Express on a magnificent curve between Gwalior and Sandalpur on 1 February 2008. It was a burning hot day and I had an affable railway worker from Gwalior to give me company in the deserted coach. Enjoy the ride!

The Best of Indian Railways January 20, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Here are 2 mash-ups of my rail-fanning adventures across India in 2006 & 2007.

Highlights:

  • Mangalore bound Parasuram Express bleating its horn at Valapattanam
  • Speeding through a Mumbai local station
  • Trainspotting at Varanasi
  • Konkan Jan Shatabdi at Divankhavati
  • Overtaking a MG train at Kollam outer
  • WCAM/WAG banker freight action on the ghats at Igatpuri
  • Mumbai bound Ratnagiri Superfast Express entering Jalgaon
  • Cucumber seller at Jalgaon
  • High-speed rail action / crossings in the Kollam-Kayankulam stretch and Kannur
  • Footplating on the WAP4
  • RORO train on Konkan Railways
  • Double-headed WDM2 freight action after Madgaon
  • Friendly railway staff on Konkan Railway
  • Kerala Express spotted at Aluva and Kollam outer

The background score in this video is from Androsphynx & TechnoDaftpunk, but I have also preserved the original sound from the clipss so that you can hear the train beats and the loco horns.


The background score of this video is a song from the Tamil movie Aran. No train beats, just rail action!


Hope you enjoy them!

What is Advertising? January 15, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Conversations, India.
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Advertising is a creative tool to sell a product.
Can’t agree better with this definition by maverick Indian adman Bharat Dhabolkar.

Vodafone India: VAS Commercials January 7, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Conversations, India.
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I love these recent commercials from Vodafone India promoting their value added services. The best thing about them is that you don’t know what they lead to till the last frame, which makes you hooked on to the commercial. This kind of storytelling looks very refreshing and entertaining on TV.

The WAP4 Ride January 7, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Moi with a WAP4, Ernakulam

The WAP4 is one of my favorite electric locos. (Well, I’ve an internal tussle going on for the favorite spot between the WDM2 and the WAP4, but that can wait later).

Here’s a video of my first ever footplate* ride on a WAP4 in Kerala in 2007. The ride was awesome as we cruised along lush greenery. Check out the assistant loco pilot call out the signals. Creating this video required some deft editing skills, especially since I didn’t want to show the loco drivers. Windows Movie Maker rocks. Enjoy the ride.

 

Footplating
To ride in the cab of a locomotive, from the old term footplate from steam days, referring to the horizontal surface projecting from the locomotive frame, on which the loco cab was constructed. Although diesels and electrics do not have a footplate like that, the terminology persists.
Source:
http://www.irfca.org/faq/faq-jargon.html

Doha Blogging: Raja Hasan & the Oryx Lounge October 11, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, India, Travel.
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Hero Honda Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007 is a popular Indian Television singing competition… which I don’t follow :). However, the entreaties of a colleague at work recently made me notice Raja Hasan, a singer of great promise who is a finalist on this year’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge.

When Sudhaji (Sudha Janardhan), my colleague at work, who is also a hardcore fan of Raja Hasan requested me to listen to his songs and write a post on my blog asking viewers of Hero Honda Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007  or supporters of Raja Hasan to vote for him online, it was a request I could not refuse. I was supposed to write this post 2 days ago, but with mound loads of work, it simply never happened. So here I’m going gaga over Raja Hasan at a fancy airport lounge in Doha!

Listen to Raja Hasan’s amazing voice:


 
If you like Raja Hasan’s music, please vote for him by clicking here. Please note that voting closes on  Saturday October 13, 8 AM. Visit the following link for Hero Honda Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge website on rediff.com. Click here to visit the official Raja Hasan Blog.

Oyx Lounge Doha Airport

Um, I just got to Doha an hour ago. I’ve a few more hours to catch my connecting flight to Bangkok. (I’ve told you about my 7 day backpacking trip to Thailand and Malaysia, right?) Doha International Airport is amazing and I really love the Oryx Lounge from where I’m writing this post. Oryx Lounge has great facilities for travellers in transit who want to unwind at the airport. Their net connection is great, the snack bar looks sumptuous and the attendant just handed me towels for my shower. Great comfort and convenience for 6 hours at just 90 Qatari Riyals ( 24.7 USD)!!!

My Qatar Airways flight from Muscat was awesome. Loved those soft, fluffy seats that sent me and the cute kid who sat next to me to snoozeland. My flight to Bangkok is on an A330 and that means – personal AVOD (audio video on demand) – don’t know which movie I will choose, there are at least a dozen I want to watch from what they offer. 🙂

Um, I’m gonna put the brakes on blogging now, need to do some travel research on Thailand and Malaysia… will be back soon! And Sudhaji, hope this post makes your day today!

Another Awesome Onam September 3, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Pot Pourri.
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Another Onam passed by. And I was just thinking that every year it just gets better and better. Before I get into details, here’s a little backgrounder on Onam for a lot of my blogger friends who may not know about this festival.

Onam is an annual harvest festival, celebrated mainly in the south Indian state of Kerala. It is a popular festival among Malayalees, and falls during the month of Chingam (August-September as per the Gregorian calendar), the first month of the Malayalam calendar and lasts for ten days. Traditionally celebrated as a harvest festival, mythologically it is linked to Malayalee-Hindu folktales. However Onam is celebrated by people of all religions.

In Muscat, I celebrate Onam twice. One is a private celebration on the actual Thiruvonam day (August 27). This is the day I come to work dressed in the traditional clothes (shirt and mundu mostly). A good part of the day is spent in connecting with near and dear friends around the world and exchanging greetings. Come afternoon, I’m ready to tuck into the best lunch of the year – the Onasadya or the Onam feast which is a delightful spread of some of yummiest Keralite vegetarian dishes served on a green plantain leaf.

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This was my first course of Onasadya this year. It was followed by three more servings and helpings of two kinds of payasam (dessert). Boy, I can eat. Hats off to Rakesh and Bina – my very endearing hosts this year. For dinner, I had another sadya, but this time a more toned down celebration of food.

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Enjoying the Onam feast…

The second celebration was a few days later, in fact on the first Saturday after Onam. (1 September). That’s when all the Malayalees at my work get together and give the rest of the crew an Onam treat every year. There are 10 of us in a total team of 120. This year was no different. We started preparing for the celebrations the previous evening. I’m the caterer, the treasurer, purchasing and chief cheering officer for this operation.

A gang of us teamed up at Nirvana (our chill-out den at work) and prepared Pookalam (a floral spread which is one of the many ways in which Onam is celebrated). Flowers are hard to get in Muscat and I still remember a lot of us running around last year plucking flowers from any plant we could lay hands on. This year, it was different. We had a surplus of flowers, specially procured from Mumbai, India.

You can see some of us sorting out the flowers.

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And here’s our Pookalam. A truly fascinating sight to behold!

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The next day, Onam is on at UMS. Diyas (lamps) are lit on the floral spread. A traditional vilaku (lamp) is placed next to the spread. Onam songs are floating in the background. The full troop marches in. After all, they are going to be served a fabulous South Indian breakfast with idlis, vadas, sambar, chutney and vermicelli payasam (dessert). The celebrations begin when the lamp is lit by Sandeep, our head honcho. And then Rekha – who is our ‘Voice of Kerala’, goes on to give a small spiel on the legend behind Onam.

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The Gang of Malayalees…

And then everybody tucks into the sumptuous breakfast. It seems that the vermicelli payasam is outstanding. Shamir, who is our Head of IT, is seen discreetly downing glasses of this delectable dessert while serving rest of the team. Mr. Nair, who is the overseer of this celebration, is always doing the rounds ensuring things are on smoothly.

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Everyone is happy and the spirit of Onam is truly in the air.

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Myself with Rakesh (Rocks / Rocky)…

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It’s an amazing morning – a day when you feel you’re back home in Kerala and not in Muscat. Onam rocks!

A trip through Konkan Railway-1 August 10, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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A rail journey through the scenic Konkan Railway is the Indian rail-fan’s ultimate dream. The first time I travelled through Konkan Railway was on 14 December 2006 – from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) to Kerala on the 6345 Netravati Express. It was one of my most scenic rail trips ever. I clicked a few snaps then on the LTT-Panvel-Roha-Chiplun stretch, promising to do a full-fledged rail-photography session in the future.

A few days later, I travelled again from Kerala to Madgaon on the 168 Trivandrum-Dadar Holiday Special. I clicked a few snaps again, mostly on the Honnavar-Asnoti-Madgaon stretch. From Madgaon, I travelled to Mangalore on the 2619 Matsyagandha Express, mostly clicking snaps of Mangalore when the train got there in the early morning.

This year, I travelled from Ernakulam to Dadar on the Ernakulam-Dadar Holiday special that left Ernakulam after midnight (8 June 2007). This gave me a chance to photograph the stretch from Kannur-Kasaragod-Kankanadi-Udupi-Bhatkal-Kumta-Cancona-Madgaon during daytime. Click here to view a Google Map of my trip.

The journey was exciting and featured the following:

I have uploaded images of the Ernakulam-Dadar (UP) trip on Flickr. Click here to view them. There are 162 snaps in all. I will upload snaps from my return trip from Mumbai to Kerala (DOWN) trip soon.

Slide gives me an awesome way to give you a sneak preview of my images in this happening ‘8mm film treatment’. If you like what you see in here, you can head to Flickr. As always, your comments are welcome!

Here’s my pick of the best 5 snaps.

And this is my all time fav…

And here’s a sneak look at the entire lot.

Konkan-Railway-Trip-1 Thumbnails

Trainspotting at Kollam August 10, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Here’s a video from an afternoon of rail-fanning at my hometown – Kollam, Kerala, India. The train is none other than the 2626 New Delhi-Trivandrum Kerala Express hauled by new WAP4 on the block – 22694. The 2626 is my fav train! This rail-fanning spot is just opposite the SN College, Kollam next to the Kollam Junction Railway Station. You can hear me and my best buddy pass inane comments while ogling at the train. The best thing about this video was the group of travellers singing ‘Laila 0 Laila’. Enjoy!

Minutes later, the Kochuveli-Bangalore Express, hauled by a WDM2 passed by. Couldn’t take more snaps than this as the train passed just a few inches from where were sitting… 🙂 But it was such a scary but exhilarating feeling!

Trainspotting videos make me happy! July 25, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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I never knew what an ‘anorak’ meant till an enlightening conversation I had a few days ago with a journalist from Khaleej Times, Dubai, UAE. The conversation triggered me to start a new blog – one exclusively for the train love, snaps and the usual weepie tears of longing on days such as today when I terribly miss the clackety-clack of trains (a phrase coined by good friend Lewis Green) . The blog is currently under development, and it will be a while before I unveil it to the world… but now, here’s a collection of trainspotting videos from the back in the days, just to cheer me up. Hope you like them too 🙂

This is one is shot just outside Varanasi Railway Station. A group of straggler kids who live next to the railway lines join me in my rail-fanning pursuit. One of them was pretty high on dope. Note the smoker WDM2 from Gonda with the classic shrill steam engine whistle, a piece of paper getting buffetted in the wind by the sheer movement of the train, travellers hanging onto the door of the coach, the lady drying dung cakes (source of fuel)  next to the tracks, even my ‘poor’ Hindi – trying to catch the attention of the smiling assistant loco driver by calling him ‘Bhaisaab’ (brother), banter with the kids surrounding me… Shooting this was exciting!

The next two videos are shot on Konkan Railway… where my train had stopped for crossing. One of them is the Konkan Jan Shatabdi, probably the fastest train running on Konkan Railways & the other is the Okha-Ernakulam Express. Enjoy the ALCO beasts! And drop me a comment to cheer me up!