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Getting to know ‘Age of Conversation’ Authors – 5 May 13, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital.

Hello there! Click here to visit the updated profiles of ALL ‘Age of Conversation’ authors on one page. UPDATED ON 16 JULY 2007.

I’m still at profiling the ‘Age of Conversation’ authors. Behold today’s picks:
At Brand DNA, Stanley Johnson aka Stan Lee takes us to the weird and wonderful world of brands and communication. He is employed in the media / communications industry as a ‘creative problem solver’. I like his short blog posts & his pithy commentary on the latest brandcom buzz .

Copywriter Spike Jones is also the ‘Firestarter’, the official ‘voice’ and the ‘New Business Hound’ of Brains on Fire, a national naming and identity company based in Greenville, South Carolina. Spike holds a double major in Environmental Studies & Journalism and is also an experienced cattle ranch hand. Spike comes from the Lone Star state, where he was born and raised. Spike considers BMW the ultimate driving machine (he writes copy for BMW Manufacturing btw), and I hope BMW pays heed to his roundel request. (BOF’s got such a cool website too.)

Nathan Snell blogs on Giddlebits. Originally from CA, Nathan lives in NC. Nathan’s currently a junior in the entrepreneurship & business development program at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. He’s been involved in internet marketing, design, web development, CRM implementation for small business, training for said implementation, mutual fund analysis, game design, I.T. work, lead event media & more. And he likes long walks… on the beach…

Writer, editor and marketing consultant Simon Payn is the go-to guy if you want to discover how powerful customer newsletters can benefit your business. Simon believes that newsletters are so powerful that every business should have one. That’s one reason he gives one free away at Ready to Go Newsletters. With 13 years’ experience at all levels in magazines and newspapers, and a successful 7 years developing and managing the content of continental Europe’s leading online English-language publisher, Simon can help you achieve your editorial and marketing aims – in print and on the web.

Based in Chicago, Ryan Rasmussen is Director of Social Media Engagement and Research at Levenger, a company that manufactures high-quality planning and organizer materials including stationery. As a part of his job, Ryan researches emergent social communication networks and engages communities to elicit co-creation of new products and services. In addition to speaking with customers in blogs and community forums, he uses services like Flickr, Twitter, Blip.Tv, and interactive virtual environments, like Second Life, to cooperatively redefine brand experiences. Collaborative Ideation is a tumblelog he uses to synthesize voice and perspective for the various social networks within which he experiments. Ryan-speak: I’m here to listen, learn, and participate in discussions about organization and creativity.

Ron Shevlin is VP of Marketing at Epsilon in Wakefield, MA. Prior to joining Epsilon in April 2006, he spent nine years at Forrester Research where he was a Research Director and Principal Analyst of the Financial Services team, and led Forrester’s consumer research efforts in financial services. He has set 3 objectives for his blog: 1) Help marketers succeed. 2) Make marketers smile. 3) Enter into new conversations. To achieve  any or all three of the above objectives, please visit his blog! Read his post How To Give A Great Presentation (In Nine Words).

Roger Anderson is a Scientist, Entrepreneur, Evangelist, CEO, Consultant, and Author. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Caltech in 1996, he has been on the business side of science. He has experience in three previous start-ups, twice serving as CEO a combined 6 years. Dr. Anderson has also served as a consultant to dozens of companies in the laboratory reagents and diagnostics markets.

He is the first person in the whole wide blogosphere to link to me. A native of Houston, he has worked as a (among other things) Fuller Brush salesman, carpenter’s helper, piping designer, Y2K consultant, management consultant, and a mechanical engineer. These days, he is enjoying his current job as a project manager for a large engineering firm. He’s moved at least 60 times since marriage and took over 20 years to complete his first degree, but then went on to complete his Master’s in Engineering Management and a Doctorate in Business Administration to round-off things!!! (Both exceedingly rewarding experiences according to him.) His blog Middle Zone Musings is where you go to have a good time and participate in the occasional literary contest that brings bloggers from the world together. Three cheers for Bob Hruzek.

Design and Management student at Parsons School of Design, New York, Rishi Desai’s blog ‘Gumptious Design’ is a simple, austere yet intense intersection of design and society. Rishi is the Founder and Chairperson of the Parsons Sustainable Design Review that aims to foster and encourage awareness of the social, artistic, and design-based sustainable solutions to the dynamic challenges presented to students at Parsons University.

Phil Gerbyshak is a writer, motivational speaker, helpful guy, blogger, and lifelong learner. He is the president of  the Professional Help Desk Association, works as a Help Desk Manager at a financial services firm in Milwaukee, WI, a prolific blogger, and an overall great guy who enjoys spending time with his wife and his friends, and is willing to help you Make it Great! He is also the author of the book ‘10 Ways to Make It Great!

Peter Corbett blogs on ‘Advercation = Advertising + Education’ and is Manager, Marketing Services at Blattner Brunner, a leading full-service ad agency with offices in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Washington D.C . Pete’s interests include interactive advertising, interactive guerrilla marketing, integrated marketing, international content licensing and social media. He received an ‘Excellence in Volunteer Service Award’ (2003) from Former President Jimmy Carter in 2003.

Pete Deutschman is the Chief Buddy and Founder at the Buddy Group, an interactive creative agency based in Lake Forest, California that uses the ‘Buddy Up!’ spirit  to bring in trust, camaraderie, heat, energy and fun while creating compelling online brand communciations for clients such as eBay, Washington Mutual, AOL, Reebok, Hansen Beverage Company and Warner Brothers. Pete’s interests are: Youth and Entertainment, Viral Marketing, Rich Media, Interactive, Online Creative, Application Development, Promotions, Live Entertainment & Interactive Video. He has worked in commercial theater and earnt his MFA in Theater Management from Columbia University School of the Arts.

Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Nick Rice, Nick Wright, Mitch Joel, Michael Morton, Mark Earls, Mark Blair, Mario Vellandi, Lori Magno, Kristin Gorski, Krishna De, Kris Hoet, Kofl Annan & Kimberly Dawn Wells. 

Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Karl Long, Julie Fleischer, Jordan Behan, John La Grou, Joe Raasch, Jim Kukral, Jessica Hagy, Janet Green, Jamey Shiels, Dr. Graham Hill, Gia Facchini & Geert Desager.

Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Gaurav Mishra, Gary Schoeniger, Gareth Kay, Faris Yakob, Emily Clasper, Ed Cotton, Dustin Jacobsen, Tom Clifford, David Pollinchock, David Koopmans, David Brazeal, David Berkowitz & Carolyn Manning.

 Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Craig Wilson, Cord Silverstein, Connie Reece, Colin McKay, Chris Corrigan, Cedric Giorgi, Becky Carroll, Andy Nulman, Amy Jussel, Kim Klaver, Sandy Renshaw, Susan Bird, Ryan Barrett & Troy Worman.


Getting to know ‘Age of Conversation’ Authors – 4 May 10, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital.

Hello there! Click here to visit the updated profiles of ALL ‘Age of Conversation’ authors on one page. UPDATED ON 16 JULY 2007.

Heyall: I’m back with more interesting bios of the ‘Age of Conversation’ writers: Nick Rice, Nick Wright, Mitch Joel, Michael Morton, Mark Earls, Mark Blair, Mario Vellandi, Lori Magno, Kristin Gorski, Krishna De, Kris Hoet, Kofi Annan & Kimberly Dawn Wells.

Let me specially thank Drew McLellan, Kris Hoet, Scott Monty, Gavin Heaton, C.B. Whittemore, and Lewis Green for their very kind words of encouragement and appreciation. Thank you. Enjoy this post!

Nick Rice is an accomplished marketing consultant based at Lexington, Kentucky having rendered marketing and advertising advice to global businesses and small organizations over a decade. In his present avatar, he is responsible for Account Strategy and New Business Development at Cre8tive Group, an organization that creates ‘cause communication for social innovators’. Cre8tive Group works with cause-driven organizations that struggle with awareness and stakeholder commitments. Here are two things that differentiate CG from a typical marketing communications firm – they only work with eight clients at a time and donate 10% of profits to a non-profit foundation that tells the stories of cause-driven firms who cannot afford their services. In addition to writing Strategic Design, a Top 150 Marketing blog, he is an Expert Blogger for the Fast Company magazine and writes for SmallBusinessBranding.com. His chapter in the ‘Age of Conversation’ book is entitled, “Authenticity-based Branding”. Click here to read Nick’s article – 5 Steps to Join the Conversation Economy.
(Full-marks to Cre8tive Group for an effective website that captures their brand essence exceptionally well.)

Nick Wright is a Freelance Research Consultant from London who blogs about Vir(tu)al Marketing and Media – How is social media affecting the world of advertising?. He says: I blog because I enjoy it and can’t hear enough about the latest Web 2.0 marketing trends. I’m always trying to find the best, most creative solutions for the problems clients face in regards to Social Media today. I find his blog loaded with rich nuggets of knowledge on Web 2.0, viral marketing, user-generated advertising, social media & mobile video.

Perpetually dressed in shades of black, Mitch Joel started off as a rock music writer. Called “Canada’s Rock Star of Digital Marketing” by Marketing Magazine, Mitch Joel, 35, is President of Twist Image, a Digital Marketing agency & a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert, community leader, freelance journalist, Blogger, Podcaster and believer in doing the impossible. But mostly, Mitch is a passionate entrepreneur and speaker who connects with people worldwide by sharing his communications insights, marketing strategies and commitment to building a better community. He has recently completed 50 episodes of his marketing podcast Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. His other blog ‘Foreword Thinking’ discusses today’s top business and motivational books. He is presently writing his first book, Six Pixels of Separation – How Marketing Connects in a World Where We’re All Connected. Mitch also co-launched Distort Entertainment, the only hard music label in Canada to have major label distribution (Universal Music) and whose roster features the platinum-plus and Juno Award and MuchMusic-winning acts, Alexisonfire and City And Colour. He’s on Second Life as Mitch Till. Wow!

Michael Morton brings in oodles of energy and professionalism not only into his office, but also into his blog – Marketing Monster. He believes that knowledge is power, that leadership trumps management, that customers are more influential that advertisements, that content is king, that two heads are better than one, and that he’s a darn good marketer. He says that Marketing is fun as you must always learn new tactics and technologies to make marketing worthwhile to your company. Currently, he’s a marketing associate for Inventory Locator Service, a Memphis-based business-to-business Internet company with thousands of clients across the world while pursuing a Masters degree in PR. He enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and swimming. (Mike, I’m hooked onto the Nintendo Wii after reading your post. Quite the consummate marketer you are!)

Mark Earls leads the ‘Herd’ – a journey that aims to expose the hidden truth about who we are. He is a proponent of the Herd theory – an alternative view of human nature that suggests we do what we do largely because of the influence of other people. Mark has worked for most of his working life in advertising and communications as an account planner – at agencies like St Luke’s, BMP and Ogilvy. Mark says: My only intent is to make things better by making our thinking about things better – a lot of the time our thinking is quite lazy. I don’t have all the answers – never would pretend to – but by engaging folk in thinking about our assumptions has always helped my thinking (and I hope theirs) be better, clearer and more effective… I’ve now written my third book or second-and-a-half. I’m passionate about many things. And I’ve given up the day job to make more time for Herd and these other things. Because frankly life is too short. His interests are: Creativity, Music, Marketing, Advertising, Psychology, Econophysics, Neuroscience, Sociology, Art, Cooking, Cricket, Fishing, Diving, Spirituality & Changing the world.

Mark Blair is a coffee guzzling (just like me!!!), web-developing sociologist from Sonoma County, California. He’s been following the growth of social media since the late 80’s and obtained his degree in Sociology from Sonoma State University in the early 90’s. From there, he went on to co-found Pacific Web, a web development company with a special emphasis on building community-oriented websites. Mark’s SMO Blog is an exciting safari into the jungles of Social Media Optimization and Marketing. He continues to do consulting, development and marketing for select clients under the banner of Blairworks. You might also be interested in his website optimization blog, where he shares valuable tips on how to better optimize your website in general.

Mario Vellandi shares his latest thoughts on the world of business and design at Melodies in Marketing. Mario says about his work: I do graphic and interactive design for small businesses, on some days. Basic marketing consulting and giving referrals on other days. Lastly I’m on a self-study personal MBA program. Mario is also involved in Volunteer OC, as the Community Manager for a local nonprofit group. His topic for ‘The Conversation Age’ is Collective Intelligence. And I think The Spirit of Paris is his best snap in his Flickr album. Wait, I like the Sacre Coeur too.

Lori Magno describes herself as an Audi driving, Mac using, doppio drinking, (mostly) Red Sox loving liberal. Based in Boston, Mrs. Magno’s interests include jewelry design, precious metal, clay, gemstones, 60s California pop music & Noir films. Lori is an accomplished fashion designer / jeweler who sells ‘accessories for stylish living’. Visit her shop Moda di Magno. She’s the livewire at Moda di Magno, a blog started with a simple goal of presenting her take on handmade jewelry, metal arts and design. And along the way it has wandered into politics, the Boston Red Sox, a category called WTF and lots of marketing news. She also blogs at The Digital Hive, the “official blog” of Digitas, Boston, that brings the world of marketing, advertising, social media and active branding to life in one place. Her chapter in the ‘Age of Conversation’ book is entitled “Speak to me TJX” where she ponders on what has happened to the deep and abiding relationship she’s had with TJX, the largest apparel and home fashions off-price retailer in the U.S. and worldwide. I’ll be back at the Moda di Magno soon.

Kristin Gorski is a freelance writer, editor, copyeditor and proofreader who blogs about anything and everything to do with the written word. Join her on her wordy quest through life at her blog ‘Write now is good’. Back in the days, Kristin was a college-radio disc jockey and music director. It’s May 2007, and she’s involved in some very exciting projects. Apart from her recent contribution to “The Age of Conversation”, she’s presently working a journalism endeavor called “Assignment Zero: Adventures in Pro-Am Journalism”, which is supported by Wired Magazine; researching “crowdsourced novels”; blogging on occasion for PSFK, an inspiring blog about ideas, trends, and culture; and finished her second novel’s first draft, apart from regular freelance writing and editing assignments. Prolific, I say.

Krishna De is an international broadcaster, journalist, professional speaker and business development mentor and the Managing Director of Oneocean Ltd, a business strategy and development consultancy for professional services firms, and is Ireland’s leading Personal Branding Strategist. She was the youngest person and first ever female to be appointed to the board of Guinness Ireland. She is also the host of Biz Growth Live, Europe’s leading virtual branding and business development programme for corporate leaders.

Kris Hoet has written a few thoughtful words on my humble profiling project. Thank you Kris! It means a lot. Moreover, this feedback is very encouraging for a young blogger like me who is otherwise content to write about movies in Oman and travel in India. Kris is a colleague of Geert Desager, who I’d profiled in Getting to know ‘Age of Conversation’ Authors – 3. Kris studied Communications Management in Antwerp, Belgium. After a 7 year online marketing stint at Kinepolis.com, he joined Microsoft MSN where he has been the Consumer Marketing Manager for MSN/Windows Live in
Belgium for 1½ years and is now Consumer Marketing Manager on the EMEA team. You will find him these days in the Microsoft offices working on all the new Windows Live services. I think Kris’ idea of creating a map to highlight the locations of the contributors of the ‘Conversation Age’ is quite exciting & will highlight the global aspect of this project. Actually your comment has had me thinking… firstly, the e-book has done a terrific job of creating this super-club of conversationalists, and now with my little profiling endeavor, people are getting to know each other better… and now we need to think on how we can as a collective group work together on more such endeavors… I’m sure Drew and Gavin will be mulling the same. (I’ll be reaching Luc soon to complete my profiling of the triple ace ‘Belgian’ club. I can’t wait. 🙂

In a rapidly changing world, the African influence is often overlooked. From Sydney to Sao Paulo there are individuals who are helping shape a new image of Africa. Kofi Annan’s Annansi Chronicles reports on the styles and trends which are ushering in a contemporary definition of Africa. He also profiles Africans who are making an impact in the world we live in. A Ghanaian fashion designer and strategist (cultural trends, marketing, branding) who specializes in the emerging African market, Kofi is the principal of Annansi LLC a consultancy which produces both Annansi Chronicles and Annansi Clothing Co., a premium streetwear clothing line. Annansi LLC’s goal is Makin’ Africa Pop(ular)!™.  Read Kofi’s Interview on “Bling is Dead”. Here’s to Kofi’s mission – Afrique C’est Chic” (Africa is Cool).

“Like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.” Kimberly Dawn Wells from Medford, Wisconsin is an individual with many qualities and who’s into – everything! She is the Editor of the SquidU Review for Squidoo.com, the Topic Editor for Suite101.com and current Resources for Writers Topic Editor, and currently owns a variety of CafePress shops. She “retired” from her 8 year career as a web designer in March, 2005 and has been writing full-time ever since. She currently has a contract out for three non-fiction (real life) books and is working on about 20 different fiction (made up) books. She’s enjoys fighting flames… she joined the Medford Area Fire Department in August, 2004 and says it’s a blast to be a firefighter. She’s musical – she’s been playing the piano since she was 5, violin since she was 8, drums since she was 14 and many more instruments. She’s also an ‘unnatural’ redhead, born on June 23rd (a day after me), draws cartoons, collects snowmen, digs the color red and abstract art, roots for the Detroit Red Wings, and is 24 years old. Touché. And this is how her brain works.

Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Karl Long, Julie Fleischer, Jordan Behan, John La Grou, Joe Raasch, Jim Kukral, Jessica Hagy, Janet Green, Jamey Shiels, Dr. Graham Hill, Gia Facchini & Geert Desager.

Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Gaurav Mishra, Gary Schoeniger, Gareth Kay, Faris Yakob, Emily Clasper, Ed Cotton, Dustin Jacobsen, Tom Clifford, David Pollinchock, David Koopmans, David Brazeal, David Berkowitz & Carolyn Manning.

Profiles of ‘Age of Conversation’ authors: Craig Wilson, Cord Silverstein, Connie Reece, Colin McKay, Chris Corrigan, Cedric Giorgi, Becky Carroll, Andy Nulman, Amy Jussel, Kim Klaver, Sandy Renshaw, Susan Bird, Ryan Barrett & Troy Worman.

The ‘Age of Conversation’ is here April 29, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Digital.

It’s been a few weeks since I came across Drew McLellan’s blog post mooting the idea of ‘Age of Conversation’ – an e-book dwelling on the theme of conversation created through collaborative efforts from 100 bloggers around the world.

A brainchild of Drew McLellan (Drew’s Marketing Minute) and Gavin Heaton (Servant of Chaos), two ace-bloggers worth every ounce of their salt, proceeds from the 100 page e-book will go to Variety, the Children’s Charity, which is committed to serve children across the globe.

As a young digital media professional based at Muscat, Sultanate of Oman & interested in learning more about anything and everything to do with conversation, I had no hesitation in throwing in my hat in the ring by writing a chapter.

I turned in my contribution to this inspiring endeavour this evening. My chapter ‘The Rules of the Garage. For Digital Media Conversationalists.’ is about how brands, professionals and organizations in digital media can work together to create exciting and powerful interactive conversations by taking inspiration from HP’s seminal ‘Rules of the Garage’.

I’m honoured to be a part of a very passionate community of conversationalists who have given their best shot at this endeavour. I’m humbled to enter my work along with a galaxy of inspiring ideas and insights on conversation. I’m excited that we are using technology that helps minds collaborate over long-distances to create knowledge that will take us forward in this age of conversation.

Cheers again to Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton for spearheading ‘Age of Conversation’ and the following band of ace bloggers, some of them incisive voices in the world of marketing, who have lent their might to this seminal project.

Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Mindblob (Luc)
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Bob Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Mitch Joel
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Krishna De
Kris Hoet
Kofl Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells
Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Pollinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett &
Troy Worman

Tuesday, 19 Dec 2006: Schmoozeby hits Goa! January 12, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Watched the sun rise, as the train sped fast over the Sharavati River on the longest bridge in Konkan Railway near Honnavar in Karnataka. Chatted up to a British family who shared my sentiments regarding Kovalam. A fellow passenger was kind enough to share ‘dope’ on Goa – what to see and where to go. Vital information which came in much handy, later! Got down the train and posed for snaps as we waited long for a train to cross us. The almost deserted train trundled into Madgaon around 11am.

Posed for a pic next to the Kalyan WDM2 with my backpack, Pepsi bottle, et al. Trudged straight into the reservation office, to book my return ticket to Kannur (Cannanore) in North Kerala. Was told that all trains were full. So took a ticket to Mangalore which is close to Kannur. Got a bike taxi outside Madgaon Station. The driver, a Keralite himself, added onto the useful knowledge accumulated on Goa. Made my travel plans on the bike. He insisted that I take notes! It was going to be North Goa. Travelled from Madgaon to Kadamba bus stand. From there to Panjim. And then decided to take life on the road as it came. The ride to Panjim was exciting. The landscape bore much semblance to Kerala. Kingfisher billboards adorned the landscape… wherever you went there was Kingfisher. A fitting tribute to Goa – the land of good times. And then there were the Hutch hoardings. Wherever you go, our network follows. Very much ironical, as my Hutch connection never worked outside Kerala. Thus, Hutch hoardings were always an eyesore. Met a lady on my bus ride from Panjim to Miramar, where I wanted to stay. She too became my ‘Goa Guide’.

Like providence would have it, I got dropped right in front of the Miramar Residency, at the Miramar beach. Checked into a cosy cottage. Had lunch and then explored Panjim in the afternoon. Took a ride on the Mandovi River in a ferry. Even indulged in some shopping. Scoured Panjim’s lanes for the famed INOX theatre. Finally discovered it and watched Kabul Express. So-So. Decided to hit Calangute next day.

To view more snaps from Goa and Konkan, click on http://new.photos.yahoo.com/schmoozeby/
Type ‘Goa’ or ‘Konkan’ in the ‘search tags’ field in the top right corner and click ‘Go’.

Friday, 22 Dec 2006: Mangalore Siesta January 12, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Got into the Matsyagandha Express, a train that once met with a nasty accident on the Konkan Railway route a few years ago. The 437km ride promised to be uneventful, till I met a family who had inadvertently booked tickets for the previous day and realized their folly when they boarded the train. The good Samaritan in me burst forth like a blooming flower and I gave them my berth. And soon, I was trying to sleep, in container rack where they store blankets and pillows in an AC coach. Woke up early just as Matsyagandha left Udupi around 4.30am. There were like a million stars in the sky. Ok, probably a thousand? But loved the view… just amazing. Matsyagandha trundled into Mangalore around 6.30 in the morning. Took a few snaps of the Erode WDM2 being shunted, before hitting the reservation office at Mangalore Railway Station to book a ticket to Cannanore (Kannur) in Kerala. Was told by the lady at the counter that it was better to buy it from the regular ticket counter on the day of the journey. Checked into the Hotel Hindusthan. Took a well-deserved break. Watched the animation movie ‘Open Season’ at an Adlabs theatre at the hep Bharath mall in Mangalore. Did some shopping before hitting bed. MTV blaring as always.

To view more snaps from Mangalore, click on http://new.photos.yahoo.com/schmoozeby/
Type ‘Mangalore’ in the ‘search tags’ field in the top right corner and click ‘Go’.

Saturday, 23 Dec 2006: Wandering Ministrel in Mangalore January 12, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Got to Mangalore Railway Station early morning. Boarded the Mangalore – Coimbatore passenger train for the 132km ride. Soon the compartment changed into a carnival ground with dudes around me belting old hindi songs and me providing accompaniment on my dhol. The gang of crooners got down at Kanhagad, while I continued with my ride. Reached Cannanore around noon. Called up my buddy with whom I was travel with from then on. Wondered if we should hit Rajasthan or go somewhere nearby – may be Coorg or Kodaikanal. Decided to head to Kodaikanal to spend X’mas. Took a bus to get to his medical college in Pariyaram, Cannanore. We set out in the evening back to Cannanore. Got to the railway station where we witnessed a pickpocket being caught red-handed. Our train was still a few hours away. Watched a Malayalam movie ‘Smart City’ in a ‘multiplex’ called Saritha. Got back to the station for our train that would lead us to Kodaikanal. I dozed off on the platform bench serenaded by mosquitoes…

To view more snaps from Kerala, click on http://new.photos.yahoo.com/schmoozeby/
Type ‘Kerala’ in the ‘search tags’ field in the top right corner and click ‘Go’.

Sunday, 24 Dec 2006: Disaster at Pollachi! January 12, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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The 6628 Chennai – Mangalore West Coast Express snaked into Cannanore at midnight. Got ourselves seats in a first class coupe, as AC and sleeper classes were full. We reached Podanur Junction in the wee hours of morning. Had to change trains and board the metre gauge passenger that would take us from Podanur to Palani. A hundred people gathered around the station building to board this train and the railway authorities held back the train by over 20 minutes to allow everybody to entrain.

Meanwhile I requested the driver of the metre gauge passenger if I could take a snap of the train, only to be flatly refused. We got ourselves first class seats on the passenger train which was headed by a Ponmalai-based (ex-Golden Rock, Trichy) YDM4 which turned out to be a mother of a smoker. Both I and my buddy hung out of the train snapping up the scenery – a million hues of green! We soon made a grand entry into Pollachi Junction. Devoured the yummy vadas (rice cakes) sold on the platform. Ventured to take snaps of an incoming passenger train.

Was promptly booked by the duty station master, who was joined by the driver of our passenger train who complained that I still took pics in spite of being warned by him. The duty SMR turned a shade red when he asked me if I was a terrorist… I tried to bask in the glory. He finally asked me to show him my ID. He cooled down once he saw my innocent mug shot in my passport. Forget about causing terror, he must have made out that I can’t even kill a fly properly. For all the uninitiated rail fans out there, it’s illegal to shoot trains in India, especially on railway premises. You can get booked / get your camera confiscated / or cool your heels behind bars, if you get caught by the Railway Protection Force (RPF). And rail fans still continue taking snaps of trains on Indian Railways. Just visit http://www.irfca.org/ to see for yourself.
Got back into the train and winked at my friend who was busy munching dal vada. We were soon on the ‘rails’ snapping up windmills on the way. Reminded me of Netherlands… the weather was amazing with fog and sunlight playing hide n’ seek.

We reached Palani around 11am. Got to the bus stand and found that the next bus to Kodaikanal from Palani was hours away and that the ride on the government bus was guaranteed to be uncomfortable. Dindigul or Madurai is a better place to get to Kodai than Palani, as it offers you more connections via bus. But as our luck would have it, we soon ran into a couple and an Israeli tourist and teamed up with them and engaged a taxi. If there’s one car that can take six individuals and tons of luggage up to Kodai on a trot, that’s the hardy Hindustan Motors’ Ambassador. The ride on the Palani Hills was pretty exciting as we climbed up the gradient to get to Kodai. The mercury plummeted and fog descended on us. We reached Kodaikanal around 3pm and enlisted the help of a guide to get a room in MYH Green Mountain Lodge. Owing to Christmas & New Year, rooms were very difficult to get in Kodaikanal. We signed up for a full day guided tour of Kodaikanal the next day, followed by a forest tour the day after. We went for a walk around the Kodaikanal Lake, and then took a horse ride.

My steed acted like he would throw me into the lake any minute. My friend got an amazing beast, a 10 month old stallion named Rahul, who was so friendly and docile. Posed for pics with Rahul and then walked the entire perimeter of Kodai Lake which is around 5kms. Went to bed early. The chilly climate did its best to keep us quite awake.

To view more snaps from Kodaikanal and Tamil Nadu, click on http://new.photos.yahoo.com/schmoozeby/
Type ‘Kodaikanal’ or ‘Tamil Nadu’ in the ‘search tags’ field in the top right corner and click ‘Go’.

Tuesday, 26 Dec 2006: Adventure in the Kodai Forests January 12, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Travel.
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Today was our last day in Kodai. Our efficient guide got me a bus ticket from Kodai to Madurai and then from there to Kollam by train. (Just for a charge of 10 Rs!) My friend was travelling from Kodai to Coimbatore and from there to Cannanore. We visited Sami’s stall for breakfast. It was vadas for me again. Took some snaps with Kodaikanal Lake and the Kodai Hills in background. Thank God for the feature called ‘auto click’ in cameras. I lost my jacket, while posing with a ‘monkey’. My buddy went back there in the evening and got it back, apparently the watchman had preserved it for us! Went for our Kodaikanal Forest Tour. Visited Coaker’s Walk and then saw the magnificent Kodai Lake at a height from a view point, quite naturally called, Lake View.

Passed by the Kodaikanal Golf Club. The guide told the tourists: We are passing by the Kodaikanal Golf Club. To which a tourist from Mumbai promptly replied: If we are not stopping here, why the hell are you telling us that this is the Golf club? To which the guide replied: The club is closed to tourists as they used to have lunch on the greens and litter it. India for you. Took a trek through the rows of pine trees and deciduous shola trees where playful monkeys flitted around as people were shrouded in clouds of mist. These forests have been a shooting location for many movies. Had a group of local village women, who were returning from the forest after gathering wood to pose for a snap with their bundles of twigs. Couldn’t catch a glimpse of the famed Pillar Rocks as fog played havoc. Saw the ‘in’famous Guna cave aka Devil’s Kitchen, which was a shooting location for the famous Tamil film ‘Guna’. Apparently the cave is off limits to tourists, as 12 people have fell into the depths of the cave and they haven’t yet discovered their bodies. I guess that’s where my buddy lost his mobile phone trying to perform acrobatics with monkeys. Also got to see the famous ‘suicide point’ which is now called Green Valley. Couldn’t see anything beyond the edge of the cliff, but managed to a few click amazing snaps.

Even saw a flower merchant selling flowers that are said to last at least 20 years without wilting. Visited the striking 133-year old blue and white Lady of La Salette Church built in gothic style, Kurinji Andavar temple and Chettiar Park before getting dropped at the bus stand to take my 4.30pm bus to Madurai. The drive to Madurai was fun. Watched the bus descend the hills covered by dense forests, through the very narrow, winding road. We occasionally stopped to give way to vehicles making the ascent to Kodai. Even captured a massive fight between some rowdies on the road on video. Once we reached the plains, the bus picked up speed and we soon cruised past Dindigul, overtaking luxury coaches as well as bullock carts.

Reached Madurai Railway Station around 8pm. Shopped for dhotis and was told that Sree Sabaris was the best veg joint in town. Managed to get a seat in the jam-packed eatery. Splurged on paneer omelette, and masala dosa? Deposited my backpack at the railway station cloak room. Got to a Satyam Broadband Internet shop. Got back to the station, gawked at the trains and babes. Drooled. Saw an MLA being escorted by his entourage to a waiting train. Watched at least four super fast trains enter and exit Madurai Junction’s platform no. 1, enjoyed watching the loco pilots do their custom checks and start off their trains. A particular senior driver named J. Periaswamy made a lasting impression. And so did the dozen odd mosquitoes that gave me unwanted attention.

The 727 Madurai – Kollam Passenger rolled into a very crowded platform no. 3 for departure. The station staff did not turn the lights on in the train. A Canadian couple led the way to passengers in my coach with a flashlight. Yours truly impressed himself by turning the lights on from the coach electrical switchboard. As the train slowly trundled out of Madurai, I plugged into my music player…

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Type ‘Kodaikanal’ in the ‘search tags’ field in the top right corner and click ‘Go’.