Thursday, November 27, 2008

Battle Ground Mumbai

Great city of Mumbai lived through the night of terror; all of us know that Mumbai will be back to normal even before the news channels find other BREAKING NEWS. But why should we always expect the city to bounce back terror after terror?

Over 120 killed, 330 injured, assets worth crores damaged, crores of revenue lost, terror stuck citizens, this is what Mumbai has been for the last 25 hours, bring the city to a standstill.

14 Policemen 2 Army jawans laid down their lives fighting militants, the city came to a stand till with the most prominent landmarks under siege. The ATS chief who has been blamed by the BJP & Co for the last few weeks over the Malegaon investigations, lead his team from the front and took 3 bullets straight on his chest. Do the BJP still want to question his integrity? It's sad that people like him who wanted to make a difference had to lay down their lives fighting for the rest of 1 billion people.

It's disgusting that not even a single politician made an effort to visit the place of horror. I wish these places had the kin of a politician, just getting killed by terrorists, then they would have reacted I guess. Innocent people are being targeted; I wish it was not the common people, not the brave forces but the politicians who were targeted for once. They would then know what is the result of their disgusting politics over religion and power. Our politicians are so thick skinned and petty minded that they would ONLY know what it is to live in terror if they are held hostage.

The police force moved-in with no proper ammunition and ill-equipped to fight highly armed terrorist, the Prime Minister of the country says on TV, that the police should be equipped better and its time for police reforms, is that not common sense Mr PM? Its been due for the last 20 years Mr PM?? Or is it that you woke-up now?

The Army marched in, and the people of Mumbai stood up to cheer them, it was an assurance for the terror stuck citizens that they will be safe now. But what have we done for the Armed forces? The 6th pay commission is still to be finalized? There has been no betterment for lives or conditions for soldiers braving it out in the most difficult terrains in the name of DUTY.

Maj Gen Hooda came in with his men, they did not march thinking about their pay scale or their lives; they came on duty to serve the country, they came to kill the terrorists, and prepared to lay down their lives if required. They did not go on a strike like PSU employees or State government employees or Bank employees or Teachers, they did not refuse to work if they did not get the much needed and long-overdue pay hike. We should be ashamed as a country that we treat our brave hearts with absolutely NO dignity.

It's time we woke up, see what the brave hearts of this country are going through. It's easy to blame them when things go wrong, but how much of freedom do these brave hearts have to implement, to act and to achieve results. How many more officers will we lose in this petty politics? It's time leaders LEAD from the front and that is what LEAD means, in case our politicians do not know the meaning of the word “LEAD”.

My heart goes out to those brave men; they fought for all of us. Nothing at all can replace the loss to their families or the police force, but I know that they would fight once again with the same determination if they were alive.

Taj Hotel is not just any other landmark or just a 5 star hotel, it's a monument that was built by Jamshedji N Tata when he was refused an entry in a Hotel during the British rule. It's a symbol of determination, protest against discrimination and voice against the British rule.

May be its time to refuse to vote and register a protest vote, making it loud and clear that we will not elect anyone till they clean up their act. It's time to confront the so-called leaders of this country on our terms and refuse to accept them as leaders any more. We have a choice to speak out and make our voice heard and our blogs read. The media should black-out all politicians on both print and electronic media, running a protest campaign like the Indian Express running blank papers during emergency, and bring the politicians down on their knees.

We are a nation of great tolerance; we have tolerated our politicians for too long. It's time we declare our independence from the politicians, the atrocities and the polarization they have put us through, with no sight of any reforms or constructive action.

In this emotional moment, I received an SMS saying, “Forgiving a terrorist should be left to GOD, but fixing their appointment with GOD is OUR responsibility – INDIAN ARMY”. The armed forces and the police know their responsibility, let us help execute their responsibility to the fullest.

Jai Hind.

- Kavitha Reddy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flirting with Mt Everest

Someone asked me what do mountains mean to me?!! Hmm…taken by surprise..!!..I never thought about what mountains mean to me; since I can relate to them, never felt the need to define. But I know why I love them, Mountains are Arrogant, Cranky, Confident, Lonely, Magnificent, have their own mind, Rude, Beautiful, Protective, Moody, Tough, Elegant, NO one can mess with them, you simply go by what they dictate. My choice of people in life is no different ;)…many of them reading this will smile in agreement.

The Trek Route: Lukla–Monjo–Namche–Deboche–Dingboche–Lobuche–Gorakshep– Everest Basecamp (EBC)–Gorakshep–Kala Pattar–Pheriche–Namche–Lukla

Number of days
: 12 days

: Ajit, Kavitha, Keyur, Shabna, Srikanth, Subbu, Maila (Guide), Adarsh +2 (Porters)

Six people one mission “to see Mt Everest form the closest distance”!!! 3 days at Katmandu domestic airport waiting to fly to Lukla in THE best the season says only one thing, “mountains have not made up their mind yet”. Many of the co-trekkers from different parts of the world had some how reached Lukla or decided to do other treks.

In the most desperate attempt on day 4, we landed up in the airport at 6 am for a 9 am flight. Looking at our sad faces but sheer determination, Agni airlines staff boarded us on a charter flight immediately, we made it to Lukla within 24 minutes.

With the enthusiasm and the thrill that we made it to Lukla, the 1st day trek to Monjo seemed like a cake walk, even thought we climbed up and down few hill and crossed over form one hill to another on the swinging bridges across Koshi, it was all picture time.

The beauty of Himalayas is that, till the tree line ends the entire landscape is lush green and covered with beds of flowers, and this trail was no different. Dudh Koshi that causes havoc in Bihar was gushing between the valleys, looked like it was in a hurry to hit Bihar once again. Like the name the water is white due to the speed at which it travels, maneuvering all the turns and twists between the hill range and on the rocks. All through the trek one thing that was running parallel with us was Koshi River and its tributaries.

Namche was a big trek, as we gained an altitude of 3440 mts, and had an extra day stop over. Namche is like a supper market in the middle of the hills, you can buy any thing you want but at a slightly higher cost. It also gives the 1st view of Mt Everest & Lhotse and tempts you to go ahead.

At Namche we heard that one of the flights crash-landed at Lukla, all the 18 people onboard died. Lukla airstrip is scary, its just 150 mts long, elevates 15-20 degrees on landing, if the pilot does not land with great precisions it’s a nosedive. The flight was carrying a German family, few Canadians and Nepalese; I was lucky to be alive and breathing even in the thin air.

As we trekked to Deboche the visibility of Mt Everest was more and more clearer, the night in a tent, which Subbu and me opted for woke me up to Mt Everest. As I stretched out from the tent, I saw the fascinating hump of Mt Everest, tiny teardrops trickled, I could not have asked for more, it was truly “dream” come true.

The weather was getting colder and had dropped to 2-5 degrees; wind got colder, stronger and wilder making it difficult to breath. The terrain was rapidly changing, the stupas, which had the Buddha eyes all through the trails so far were getting replaced with memorials for people who died or just never found. It was an indication of what is it going to be next. The landscape was darker and less green; the trail was heaps of rocks and pebbles making the trek slower. We turned into the range that had Touche to our left, Amadablam to right and Mt Everest & Lhotse ahead, which eventually crossed over to Pumori, Mt Everest and Nuptse in the front.

As we crossed over to Lobuche, Shabna decided to return. Rest of us trekked to Gorakshep on the ridges alongside Khumbu Glacier, the moraine became visible. We entered the EBC route, and could see the pinnacles and the deadly Khumbu icefall jetting out, one could only wonder how the climbers would cross over to open route to Mt Everest peak.

Moraine is an unforgiving terrain; ice below topped with debris can slide you down if you are careless. It’s exhausting; with wind blowing at a high speed and the temperature dropping, trekking after 2 pm in this terrain is a task. Many, rather most of them were returning from the ridge, but I was determined to make it to EBC by 2 pm, so was Subbu, but the rest were still not visible at that point.

Ah!!! Reaching EBC (5364 mts) was a reassurance that I still have a lot more left in me. I remembered Vishal as he would be here next year for his Mt Everest expedition, so left a message wising him good luck and safe return. The rest of group arrived, it was a perfect picture moment, I was very happy that all of us (expect Shabna) made it to EBC…..and could say loudly here after “been there done that”.

In the middle of the night I felt breathless, my lungs refused to take oxygen, I was not wiling to die in Gorakshep!! If it is, its when I attempt Kanchanjunga my 7th 8k’er ;)!! I realized that 3 layers of clothing lead to excess heat and it was choking me, I immediately got rid of a layer and started to breath easy.

After EBC the next mission was climbing Kala Pattar, it’s just a trek up, but at 5545 mts and the steepness it’s quite a climb, finally only Subbu and me decided to go. It took exactly 2 hours, loads of energy, not to let it go spirit to reach the top. Kala Pattar gives the best view of Mt Everest, and that all I wanted. Not sure what went into our heads, Subbu, Maila and me made it to Pheriche in 4 hours flat, next day the entire team was back in Namche and the following day at Lukla.

On return to Namche, Adarsh & Maila looked at me at the breakfast table and said “Didi, next time you should come only to climb Mt Everest, you are very tough”… compliment I will cherish for the rest of my life. After spending so much time with the mountains, my belief in destiny has become stronger than ever, and I know when the mountain calls nothing can stop me. So I am waiting for my DATE with Mt Everest.

- Kavitha Reddy
6th Oct – 17th Oct 08

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

“Namaste” Nepal

Area: 147181 Sq Kms

Population: 24 million

8+k Peaks: Everest, Lothse, Makalu, Cho-yo, Dhaulagiri, Manasalu, Annapurna, Kunchanjunga just in the fag end into the Indian border

Activities: Trekking, Mountaineering, Rafting, Bungee Jumping, Mountain Biking, Sky diving, Paragliding etc

Namaste”, “ Tapaai Laai Kasto Chha?” “Mo Sanchai Chha” are the first few words one gets to start with. If any one says Namaste instead of Hello, it’s for sure that he/she is a Nepali or a Mountaineer or just returned from Nepal. One not only falls in love with the mountains but also its people, language, culture, and smell of a country that has embraced modernization on its own terms.

The “Himalayan country” eats, sleeps, breaths, drinks Himalayas. Every peak is a selling point, with almost 8 of the 14 8000 mts peaks in Nepal and several 6000-7000 mts peaks mountaineering /trekking is unlimited rather never ending in Nepal.

T-shirts, Mouse pads, Fridge Magnets, Caps, Bags, Posters, Calendars, Pin-up’s, Note pads, Paintings, Photos, Bands, Badges, Playing Cards, Mugs etc carry symbols of Nepal and the Himalayas, and are sold for NC 50 – 2000. One could confidently say that the brand equity of Himalayas is unmatched to any other brand in the world.

Nepal is a paradise for shopper, artifacts, Kukries (traditional Gurkha knife), ethnic stuff, hand made ornaments, mountain wear, paintings etc etc. It’s quite inexpensive and actually cheap if you are a qualified bargainer. One important fact is that every brand in the world that manufactures anything related to mountaineering or adventure can be seen in Nepal, you will find both the original make and the “Made in China” under the same brand name. So if you are looking for real stuff check the “Made in” tag, there are also few possibilities of “Export” quality made in China stuff and you can make out the difference most of the times.

You look around from Thamel Circle it feels like a mini-world, people from all nationalities walking around freely as if they have been there forever. Travel junkies, Nature admirers, Photographers, Travel Writers, Honeymooners, Holidayers, Pilgrims, Mountaineers, Trekking enthusiasts all at the same time and the same place is simply overwhelming. Each one has come with a different reason but will leave Nepal with once in a lifetime experience (Good one).

Some come back searching for more and more and keep following the old lanes that looks new always, that has not lost its past glory or the rustic looks. Nepal is a land where both the worlds meet without intimidating or challenging each other, the two worlds seem to have made peace forever and let the country flourish with a free mind, body and soul.

One would leave Nepal saying “ Dhanyabaad, Malaai Nepal man parchha….Pheri veethaula.”

- Kavitha Reddy, 3rd Oct 08

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Great Indian Train

The stench of the urinals welcomed on-board of S4 compartment of Karnataka Express. CR could not take it even for a minute that I was traveling by train to Delhi. He was trying to convince me that I should ditch the Train and fly the following day.

I asked him to leave even before the train left fearing that he will force me till the last minute to take the flight, but he refused saying that he will give send me off like the way Shahrukh does to Kajol in KKHA, ah..ah.. how romantic!!!

To my delight the stinking toilets were getting cleaned and it was smelling better..if I may say that. The platform was filled with people of all shapes, color, size, religion age and culture. For a minute, I wondered how fearlessly they traveled in such large numbers with all the terrorist threats and blasts in the recent days. I remembered Godhra, as I saw the train there was a hesitation, but looking at people who seem to be less cared about what could happen or may happen or never happen I felt free and boarded the train.

Indian railways are as mighty as the Indian middle class; the contrast of real India v/s an aspiring India can be simply explained as Train v/s Flight.

The mighty middle class bares the brunt of it all; with pro-poor and pro-rich policies the middle class is forgotten conveniently at all times. The lower-middle class do not get the benefits of pro-poor reforms and the upper-middle class cannot “afford opportunities” of the rich.

Rahul Gandhi on the floor of the house spoke about a poor lady from Maharastra, Mamatha Banarjee is up against one of the richest man in India, and millions of middle-class are left for RK Narayan!!!…the common man….

No lower-middle class citizen wants to be called poor; the upper-middle class wants to be rich, this is the “class” that can question and think but does not have a voice, hence gets pulled between “compassionate terms” of poor and the “unfair terms” for being rich.

Anyway, as the train started moving the passengers settled down, since it was a late evening train very soon I could see people taking out the home packed food, the dinner table J almost had all kinds of conversations. We had a Fuji who had a RAC ticket and was waiting to get a seat allotted, TT had very little respect for the man who has been called to guard the country mid-way of his leave!! He was carrying a warrant (it’s a letter issued by concerned regiment/ army HO to report to duty), as per rules seat should be allotted on priority in such cases, but little did the TT care.

Early morning the train was passing through Maharastra, Pakni junction was when I was completely awake and watched the birds flying across the vast cultivate fields. I was trying to identify the birds and suddenly wondered why storks were flapping in the air at the same place, without realizing I am on a moving train. Its so true, many times in life, we do not realize that we are at a higher induced speed due to better opportunities or pure luck and have little respect for those who are not keeping to our pace. Suddenly I spotted blackbucks running across the fields……and few peacocks.

When I pulled myself out of the sleeping bag, passengers around wondered what the hell was it and were quite glad to see it; I wasted no time in explaining the usage of it.

One more full day and a night to go to reach Delhi, I was not really keen on the time anyways. As stationed passed I remembered my last travel on the same train 16 years ago…for the Republic Day Camp as an NCC cadet, quite a time since I traveled on a train. I sensed that I had lost in touch with the real people and real India, at some point almost felt like a foreigner in my own country.

People around were all talking and getting to know each other, the Fuji had still not got his seat, he asked for the newspaper I was reading and within minutes we started talking, I asked him which regiment he belonged and where was he posted….he looked at me with surprised smile and almost stood-up, asking me if I was from the army too, refusing to take no as an answer….I had to show him my entire wallet, and that I had no document that anywhere states that I am from the army. He was still not convinced; his convection was that no civilian could ask such appropriate questions. My eyes went moist for a second, would have been happy to be called “Maj Kavitha Reddy”, life is a bitch!!!! I thought…but….that what it is for me.

There was a calmness traveling on a train, the large green fields, and the changing landscape from state to state felt like actual divisions. Karnataka has large boulders and mass hills where as Maharastra had pinnacles and layered peaks giving sandstone kind of a feel. As the train entered Madhya Pradesh, stones almost turned to heaps of red soil, and barren miles of rocky ducts. MP once upon a time was famous for the dacoits, and even trains were not spared, but that was long long ago.

It was very interesting to hear people talking about many things I would generally not care about. One among the passengers was a pakka Tamilian woman now staying in Faridabad with her husband, her Hindi was so Tamil and she was talking about the various festivals and the reason behind each one of them. Couple of college kid who were in the next compartment rushed to check if their mother was ok, they were talking about the college and the fun they have which I guess was the same when I was in college too. One of them realized that I was carrying a book “Shantaram”, he asked me why the foreigners make India look so ugly? And as Indians we should stop buying or reading those books. I was quite glad about the thought he had, I told him that whatever the foreigner talk, think and write etc about India, its important to remember that they simply cannot ignore India. That led to a long conversation about our country, war with Pakistan, Cricket, Kashmir, America, Bush and the rest of the ingredients till their mother forced them out to let me sleep.

Morning got warmer and Delhi approached really quick, with 40 hours of travel I still felt fresh and there was a sense of happiness that I did what I always wanted to, travel simple and see real Indians.

- Kavitha Reddy

29th Sept 08

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mission "227 Annapurna"

You do not have to work hard to ‘Dream’, to make it come true you better”, for Shekar and I “227 Annapurna” is the culmination of our dreams. “Annapurna” is our tribute to the toughest 8000+ meter peak and optimism that the goddess of harvest would bless us at all times.

It was indeed the toughest and biggest financial commitment we ever made, coming from a humble background we know only one thing, to “Work Hard”. We were less fortunate financially than many of our friends at school and college; our parents were working their heart out to give us the best possible life as they prepared us to succeed in every possible way. The best comes in the toughest of the situations and we lived each day of our life determined to change our destiny.


“This is the most ideal location, let us know if there is a proper dimension site out here, we will buy”, was what I told the real estate agent when he showed us an odd measurement site, he confidently said that there is no possibility at all, exactly 5 month later we registered site # 227 in Oct 2006, 60 feet to left of the site we had rejected earlier. When you get what you ask for it’s an indication that you are on the right track, and there was a sense of relief that our decision was heading in the right direction.

“24-27 lac is the maximum construction cost considering the best of the material” was Venu’s (my brother) estimate and I can kick him a million times for the rest of my life for saying that.

Sometimes we meet people and feel that we met for a reason; I would have never imagined that Jeetu would design our house when I first met him at a rock climbing camp ;). I liked the roughness and the sense of space Jeetu has so for me, there was not much of a deliberation, Jeetu met CR for the 1st time over lunch and we got started.

Venu spent all his time running around to get the work started, right from getting the BDA approval to the final BWSSB approvals every single vendor, worker, service provider was listed out negotiated ready to delivery material or service over a phone call.

My personal focus was on cost control and being as environmental friendly as possible, I started accounting every penny we were spending.
CR and I agreed on the draft designs very quickly but went through Vaastu consultation process just to be on the right side of the ancient science of house construction.


We started at good speed, the soil was wet due to rains, digging for
the foundation and the underground water tank was really fast; the material requirement was very basic the expenses were quite controlled. There was a lot of excitement around, we started enjoying it all. We took turns to monitor the work and the curing activity on a regular basis, checking every bit of the site and ensuring the water is adequately sprinkled. The next level drawings came in; it was time to start raising the walls.


It was my time for the Himalayas, I signed all the required papers related to the property and packed for a month long trip. By the time I came back ideally the 2nd level roofing should have been completed, but sometimes worst things happen. My mom-in-law passed away and I was out in the mountains, worked stopped for a month. If there was one person who wanted to see the house completed more than anyone else, it was she. I walked into the house still imagining that she would be sitting on the sofa as usual, she was not. She did not suffer, and that was a relief for the entire family as we had seen our dad-in-law going through hell.


The list of materials increase so was the cost, CR stared to pull out of his saving, as the loan approved by the bank was released in stages, the final 3rd level roofing was finally complete. Shopping for wood, marble, tiles, bathroom fitting began, Venu and me went around shopping based on the references, when we zeroed on the vendor we did cost analysis and explored options. Kaveri, our labor contractor was driving us crazy by now, he stared changing the workers and since there was no consistency the plastering work was getting delayed, so we had to get in back on track. Even thought Venu had different views, it was easier to make choices on the marble, laminations, design, tiles etc as CR & I both ended up pointing at the same thing, majority won ;).


We were on very thin air, the cost had crossed 25 lacs and there was still lots
to do. The co-ordination between workers was getting tougher and work started to drag, they started to blame each other for mistakes and delays. Our patience was running out, there was more screaming sessions and tempers were running loose. Venu & I had many fights on everything possible, mom played the moderator since my dad would only support me. Painting work started, George and his team were quite at work and understood the requirement. There was some release of funds from the bank, it was a real breather and striking off the items on shopping list was the only thing we wanted to do. With all the pain around, just looking at the house brought a smile and kept us going. The internal layout was looking excellent and bright, that brightened us too.


We were exhausted and completely drained, but we knew there was no looking back and summit was the option. CR was the only one who had not yet lost his cool; guess he was balancing it all for me. Flooring work was complete both Vijay and Ramesh did a great job on it. Few more lac was pumped in, selecting the right color paint, texture, glass, bathroom fittings, light fittings etc etc kept us very busy. Work speeded up as we fixed the day for puja and that could not change at any cost. As each day passed we kept our fingers crossed, the final result was what we were focused on, as we were by then clear that it was not going to be easy anymore.


The last stretched was all left now and what ever energy and money we had was almost down to zero, but what has to be done has to be, we reassured ourselves that there was no looking back. So we managed to pull in more funds, Puja arrangements, Food, Flowers, Labor settlements, pending material bills and cleaning was all in the list. The moment of truth, the D day was finally arrived, all the difficulties we went through looked trivial. We had our day, a great satisfaction that it was the right thing to do and that it was all over now. Our entire family was very happy and proud of us. We are still licking our wounds but there was a sense of comfort that it will heal with time.

We will remember Kaveri, George, Muniyappa, Nagaraj, Vijay, Ramesh, Shiva, Nagina, Sunil, Vijay, Muniraju, David, John, Pattabi, Chandru, Maruti, Reddy, Madhu, Muragesh and all the vendors who were part of our mission for the rest of our lives, even though they give us some tough time, once they saw the final view they were proud too. They knew they will have more references in time to come and more business to do with people known to us.

I realized that some things are just once in a “Lifetime”, we will never be able to experience what we did. Mission accomplished, “227 Annapurna” stands tall and beautiful, smiling as the sun rises.

- Kavitha Reddy

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Welcome to the Club

India gets a nod at the NSG!!!, we are now part of THE CLUB, it’s indeed a proud moment for every single Indian. The need to find an alternate source of energy to fuel our growth is one but being accepted on our own terms is a different high altogether.

Great show by the team lead by the PM. “When you put everything you have on the table THEN winning is the only option”. They must have gone through a million negotiations and phone calls at a diplomatic level, but this time they got their PR right with Indian Media.

Opposition started its blame games 3-days ago, then came the letter follow-out, then blaming the PM for misleading the country, selling out to US, giving up the option of testing a bomb etc etc.

None of them realized that they are talking about the nuclear tests as if its some firecracker we burst during our festivals. It takes decades to come close to a test; India has just done two tests, from the day of its existence as a free country. But who will tell the fools, their intentions are to “oppose” because they are the “opposition”.

Last evening news one of the representative of a political party asked, “if this deal was good, why was it not done during the tenure Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi”? I thought it was the most stupid question. I felt like screaming out “dude we would have never got what we wanted if we had signed the deal then, and it was not difficult for the world to ignore us then”.

We have not signed the NPT, we have conducted nuclear tests, we possess nuclear weapons, we intend to test, we aspire to increase our nuclear arsenal, we are purchasing the combat aircrafts that are capable of dropping a nuclear weapon, we have disclosed the names of the cites our missiles can target in case of a war, we have a huge defence budget, so why did this part of the deal come through?

It’s our track record, and the fact that world cannot ignore us anymore:

- We are a responsible nuclear power
- Our democracy ensures that we debate what we intend to do
- Our armed forces defend the country and not invade others
- We are an intelligent nation; we exercise our soft power first
- We tell the Americans to go to hell when we HAVE to

Hope we implement many more initiatives that are good for the country, that have a sustainable growth without impact on the environment or our social structure.

We have arrived!!!

- Kavitha Reddy

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This flower is now part of 'Endangered Species' list

I gave the title “Mad ANGLES” as I intended to write about 'photography', but that’s not what I really care about. Photography for me is ‘flirting with nature’ capturing the moments and an honest attempt to bring in as much attention as I can to Environmental issues.

As a trekker my bond with nature is very close, it provides me an opportunity to visit Wild Life Sanctuaries (WLS) and National Parks (NP) across the country. Over the years I would have trekked some of the places more than 2-3 times and there has been a substantial change in the demography.

Currently, India’s geographical forest cover is a mere 19% as against the stipulated 33%, going buy the current rate of growth it’s a mammoth task to retain this 19% and working towards the 33% is not even close to consideration. Government’s initiative of declaring additional WLS on one side and constructing dams, permitting mining and regularizing encroached forest land is certainly not doing any good.

Yes, India, as a country is growing younger, which implies that our working population is increasing rapidly and demanding for more infrastructure. This is continuously adding strain on our natural resources; is it not time we asked the most important question, “Is there a road map to conserve our natural resources and wildlife?

Think about it, today “Conservation” for majority of the population only means a cause for which environmentalists are fighting for, rest of us think there is very little we can contribute. Given this, why would our voted representatives and lawmakers care about natural resources or wildlife? Animals, sadly, do not vote and people fighting for the cause are not a substantial vote bank! Such is the plight of ‘Conservation’.

Positive thinking and belief in the system is critical but “let's do it” is more important than forwarding e-mail or discussion over a cup of coffee/tea. The condition of Environment conservation in India could only change if there is an increased awareness, involvement as stakeholders and more importantly participation of the larger population. The awareness cannot be just at the local level, it has to be at a level where one could be heard loud and clear.

Next 30 years is not about Economics, Employment and Education its clearly about Environment, Energy and Ethnic issues. Many major issues that have been consistently increasing in the last 5 years are related to the later 3 E’s. We are busy with our lives, driven by India’s growth prospects without even pausing for few minutes to think where will we finally reach.

- Kavitha Reddy

Do watch this space for more on the “3E’s” of the next 3 decades.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Wipro is my favorite company; I have never worked there, but was associated as a service provider. I always admired the Wipro way, it’s has produced the most number of entrepreneurs and some of the best know CEO’s in the industry, it is also very institutional by DNA.

Wipro has an ID card tag color system, were a person who is 4-years old in the organization gets to wear a different color ID tag. I always felt that it’s a cool HR concept, just to look around and see how many people are there with purple tags and feel good that the organization has retained its people.

This week I got my own “Mont Blanc” with my name printed on it, it a sign that I completed 5-years in the organization. Otherwise overly enthusiastic me, was completely emotionless and did not feel anything at all. Madhu’s words echoed over and over making everything sound trivial.

Few weeks ago, Madhu, my ex-Boss called me over for lunch, as ever we both got talking a lot about everything including our ex-colleagues who have been in the same company for several years. “Companies feel that your ex-colleagues are not risk takers”, was Madhu’s response to my view on how companies would like to hire people with very stable profiles, it took me by surprise. My immediate question was “do you feel the same about me?” he tired to sound diplomatic, but I had his view on it already.

Not risk takers” haunts me every day; I tried to question my stand on this point in many ways and searched for answers.

- Will working in an organization for too long make your profile look like less risk taking?

As one spends longer time in an organization, there is always a comfort zone that develops, making you dependent and committed to it. Our social instinct of nurturing what we have takes away the imagination or the need to think out of the comfort zone making us less and less risk taking. But, is risk taking really positive, will it not be perceived as recklessness? Well, it’s as good as assessing a debtor’s ability to pay or willingness to pay based on past records.

- Are you able to do your job well or capable of doing your job well?

As the circle of influence develops over a period of time, ability to get things done becomes directly proportional to the time spent in the organization, undermining the actual capability of getting things done. No one really cares if it’s the ability or capability, if what ever has to be done gets done.

In the hindsight, when the best was about to come I had quit my earlier 3 jobs, did better than I would have in my earlier job. Never regretted, primarily, because I was determined to prove myself that I took the right decision and secondly because I was fearless.

Today, when I am convinced that Madhu is right, there is a sense of unwilling to try ‘living on the edge’, does it make me less fearless or more of a coward? What ever it is, it has shaken me up and is making me restless…..

- Kavitha Reddy

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fighting DREAMS

I read these news clippings that appeared back-to-back in a national daily for over 10 times, at last!!! I can see this happening in my lifetime; it made me happy but was angry at the same time.

The source of my anger was personal, for woman like me who ‘Dared to Dream’ of a combat career in the Armed forces 17 years ago, it just stayed as a dream. I was very proud when many of my college seniors joined the 1st batch of women pilots and the 1st batch of women officers in the army. I clenched on to the hope that, when my turn comes I will have a choice of being a Fighter Pilot or join the Infantry.

At 21, like many I wanted to change India, and tell the world that women in India are ready for the next career. With fire in my belly, determination and hard work, I gave my best, still did not get what I truly believed ‘I deserved’, I was not prepared to take ceremonial role in the Armed forces, thus ending my dream of wearing the uniform.

It was not about men v/s women, it was about how only ‘male’ dreams came true. Whenever there is a debate on women in Armed forces, the only conclusion that has been drawn is that women are not prepared for it yet, or the reality could be that men in Armed forces are not prepared for it?

In the last 17 years we have had four women chief ministers in the four biggest states, we have over 75 (recall names) women CEO, missile team at DRDO has women scientists and women joining the Civil Services had only doubled. What more should women prove to be accepted as equals in the Armed forces.

Yes, I do agree that whenever there has been a sexual harassment case lodged by a woman officer, it has got negative publicity for the forces and so called women groups get demanding for a better treatment or differential treatment, for god sake!!..they are not the aspirants of a career in Armed forces. These some time minor issues should not deter the Armed forces from opening up more demanding opportunities for women. I do believe that women who opt for a combat oriented role want to be treated equally and not differently, it will be only fair to give them the opportunity they have been deprived of and prepare them for the same.

A model claims, she was asked to sleep with a producer for a role in a movie; a male IPS officer made an inappropriate gesture at a female IAS officer, a male teacher molested his female student etc. There are many such incidences and situations where men take advantage of women and its not career specific, but it does not give anyone the right to tie a woman down or protect them by restricting, instead its an opportunity to prepare them to face it on their own and importantly with grit and dignity.

Times have changed; women are more self-aware and are more prepared than ever to live their dreams, and an acknowledgment to the changing times will only be appropriate if the ‘thought’ of the Armed forces, as said in the news papers becomes a reality.

Looking forward for the day, when India has its 1st woman fighter pilot and the 1st woman along the borders guarding the country.

When the dream of a ‘combat’ career shattered, every other career option just looked as a compromise, but I still ‘Dare to Dream’ many of im (possibles).
Jai Hind!!
-Kavitha Reddy

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Let the games begin!

Li Ning lit the Olympics flame in a breath taking trapeze act, the images of the torch journey across the world revealed on screen with ever leap Li took across the rim of the stadium, covering a distance of 350 meters. When every one wondered how the torch would be lit, he extended the flame that blazed to the top of the big torch on a trail smeared with gunpowder.

Protests against China, disruptions during the flame journey, charges of human right violation, free Tibet campaigns, world leaders refusal to attend the opening ceremony, nothing in the last few months was in favor of China, except for their determination to make Beijing Olympics ‘BIG’.

If ever there was one most powerful place on the earth, it was the Bird’s Nest on 8th Aug 08. World leaders including all those who threatened to boycott the opening ceremony sat through the grand start of the world’s greatest sporting event, making the motto of this Olympics “One World One Dream” a reality at least for that moment.

Watching the presentation of the journey of a 5000-year-old civilization, depiction of the spirit of China through its people and art forms, usage of technology in the best creative way, was the most humbling experience. The sound of ‘Fou’ (an ancient instrument) thundered and roared with great percussion welcoming the world to China, the fire works blazed across creating the 29-foot prints indicating the 29th Olympics.

Children from the 56 ethnic groups in China gathered around their national flag, and as the flag moved in, a chorus of 56 artists representing the 56 ethnic groups sang the national anthem in one voice, simply saying they all represent one great nation.

2008 drummers synchronizing movements & sound and the light effects there after, was a visual treat. It was paradise on earth, when the women dressed in white did the dove dance expressing peace, freedom and love with music playing in the background, the spectators imitating the hand movements of the dancers and cheering loud. Well co-ordinated firework lit the dark sky in colors, as the laser displays mesmerized the 91000 odd spectators in the stadium and billions across the globe watching it on television.

As estimated $40 million has been spent on the event, but the preparations to be the perfect host started the day China won the games bid. They left no stone unturned, be it making their people learn English, stopping the climbers at Everest camp 4 to ensure the Olympic torch reached the Everest summit without any disruption, diverting traffic to reduce pollution levels in their cities, ordering the restaurants in China not to serve dog meat, encouraging their people to prepare their businesses for the visitors etc etc the list can go on.

If the US flag bearer was Lopez Lomong, a refugee rescued by the US army from Sudan, who is also a 1500-meter medal hope for his adopted country, China had its ‘tallest’ Basketball star Yoa Ming carrying the flag, with a tiny little child who survived the devastating earthquake in China marching along. It was as expression of reassurance to its people that the country is with them during their difficult times, and also telling the world that nothing can deter the spirit of this 5000 year old civilization.

It’s a shame that, India with almost the same population, civilization as old as Chinese and technology better than the best in the world has a mere 56-members contingent as against the 639-members Chinese contingent. Discipline, Hard work, Determination, which I call the ‘Chinese way of life’, is some thing we lack as a country. Amaranth land row, name boards in Marati, Tamil protests against Kannada’s classic language status etc etc, is all we care about, wish we grew beyond these trivial things, and look at bigger challenges that are only getting bigger each day.

8 is considered the most auspicious number for the Chinese, the day was 08-08-08, time 08 pm, 8 runners in the flame relay, 8 flag bearers, and many of their themes revolved around number 8. It’s definitely an 8-on-8 for this Olympics games host.

If a four-hour long Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was one thing, it was the display of Dragon power.

For China, it just not Olympics, its also about telling the world that they have arrived and arrived with a big bang. They achieved what they set to, revealing all the mysteries behind that “Great Wall”.

I do wish China tops the medal tally, making them not just the sporting giants of Asia but the world too, which I believe they truly deserve.

- Kavitha Reddy

Monday, August 4, 2008

Being Vishal

Cut the crap, you guys are not here on a picnic” were his opening remarks the first time I met Vishal. He perfectly defines arrogance and can intimidate even the most confident person, yet simply loved by everyone he would have ever met.

Impeccable voice modulation, great narration skills or a speech in ‘shud’ Hindi can make you believe that he is a ‘voice over’ professional, but this Indian Military Academy (IMA) 97 pass out has more to his credit than what he really comes across most of the time.

Bike crazy Dehradun boy (not any more - he is too old for bikes) followed the family tradition and joined the Indian Army. IMA was just next door, all his miscreants on the camps just stayed within the camps at all times. Quite good at sports, he was part of the Boxing, Volleyball teams and did his company proud.

On passing out from IMA, he moved to the infantry attachment for 3 years with the 16 Grenadiers (Sholah), first at Pathankot and later went to complete his winter warfare courses (Basic & Advance) from High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS). He was on a normal posting at Drass and went on leave only to be called back, there was something big happening, his mom just kissed him good luck. It was firsthand experience of a war zone, en-route to Drass was the line-up of Bofors guns, which gave a 'teaser' of the events that were going to happen in the next few months, it was the Kargil war!!.

Many of us would have never believed that there would be a war in the 21st century between India and Pakistan. 16 Grenadiers were in the thick of the war, pushing back the infiltrators as they
scripted tales of courage.

As an Army outsider, I can never relate to war or ever imagine how selflessly the Indian Army fought to save our country on one of the most difficult terrains on earth. Vishal easily brushes it off saying they were trained and prepared to it, and they were doing just their duty – ‘save the country’. I guess that is the sprit of a true Indian solider.

What really touched me the most was what he said on NDTV (when Barkha Dutt covered the war), that, “during the war every one seem to be concerned about the soldiers, once the war is over the same concern has to be shown to those people who lost their loved ones fighting for the country”. Yes, we as a country have a very short public memory; there are many of those soldiers whom we have been forgotten forever.
Check NDTV interview in a bunker, in middle of the war

Post-war he completed the mountain warfare courses at HAWS, and later spent few years at HAWS as an instructor and running between ammunition courses, skiing, expedition and training. Not to mention that he is an excellent skier.

For someone who had such a long stint in the mountains and glaciers, a posting at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) was more of a natural progression; so Maj Vishal Thapa landed in NIM during the summer of 2006 as its Vice-Principal.

He runs his course in the true Army ishtyle, but I have not met a trainee so far who had nothing good to say about him or his way of functioning. He never compromises on the quality of training or on the delivery of results. He gives his best to every single course and drives everyone to do well; at the end of it the man has his heart in the right place!

If at all one gets to play Volleyball on his side of the team, then it's better to pull a chair and sit down as he will cover all the shots across the court. He spends his free time listening to music or beating someone hands down in a game of billiards, no one really takes ‘panga’ with him in a ball game.

At NIM he has quite a (female) fan following (fff), never realized the intensity till he gave his mobile number, standing on a podium (he refuses the podium part, so to be more accurate it was a 1.5 ft elevation). Point to be noted was the aftermath of his stupidity, for the next 45 days Shalini (his sweet wife) waited with an ice-axe each time he answered an fff call.

He did really survive a big bully like me, be it critics on his weather session or cocky questions on the GPS (which of course he took 3 days to figure it out), he took it all in the right spirit. The ‘Gang’ (Kranti, Bianca, Jigna, Deepika, Payal, Suchitra and Me) made his life miserable on the mountains in every possible way but he endured it all. We would never forget the support and encouragement he gave us at all times, that really pushed us to give our best throughout.

Aditi (his little daughter, affectionately called Adi) is probably the only one who can keep him ‘grounded’ or match his temper and Shalini is more than happy that Adi is his check-point :), for once the guy is under control.

Major Saab’ as I prefer to address him, is preparing for the Everest expedition in May 09. Wishing him good luck and hope he lights a cigarette on top of Everest in true “Vishal style”. Hope he does many more 8K’ers in years to come and be the “Real Mountain Boy”.

Many a times I feel that I live my dream through my friends in the Army. After all, that was the only dream, which stayed as a dream for ever.

- Kavitha Reddy

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Storm of Terror

Silence before storm! The last 10 days the city of Bangalore seemed beautiful than ever. Day starting with light showers followed by a warm sunrise, rains on and off cooling the city all indicated a great Bangalore weather.

When people were just about getting ready for a long monsoon season, the city got a rude shock, 9 bomb blasts across the most unsuspected places in the city on a Friday afternoon (25th July 08); it was Bangalore’s own Black Friday.

Sudha was waiting for a bus at the Madivala bus stop and never got into one, it was where the first blast occurred. She was one of those many employed at a garment factory, what would she had ever done to be the target of an audacious act of terror? I would probably never get an answer to that. 12 days ago I was at the same bus stop waiting for my friends to pick me up en-route for a trek; I bought a bottle of water from the shop that is now shattered. I may never go to that bus stand without thinking of Sudha nor will the shop mean the same anymore, but the sense of how close it was to my house or work place sends shivers down my spine.

When ever there was a bomb blast in any other city a silence griped me for days, but had never angered me so much. Intensity of the blasts where low and the disruption was not high either, but the fact that Bangalore is now marked by the terrorists will take a long time to sink in. It feels likes it was their display of strength and announcing that they have arrived to terrorize the city.

It may not be factually wrong to say that terrorism not just in India across the globe has killed more people and destroyed more assets than any other act by mankind including war.

9/11 did in a way prove that no country or city is immune to the madness of Islamic fundamentalists. Hope the center and states enforces anti-terrorist squads increasing intelligence, information flow and vigilance across cities seamlessly, without blame games and more importantly without politics over religion. In a country that boast's of its Information Technology strength getting information, speeding up communication or tracking suspicious activities cannot be a challenge.

We should be reminded that, even 9/11 happened due to lack of willingness to share information and lack of co-ordination between the police and the intelligence bureaus.

By the time I finished this note there were 6 bomb blasts in Ahemadabad.

- Kavitha Reddy

Friday, July 11, 2008

Singh is KING

3rd July would be celebrated in India as "Nuclear Independence day", the day Dr Manmohan Singh stood tall and strong against all his detractors and announced that he will go ahead with the “Nuclear deal”.

It is going down in history as a day India put its national interest ahead of any political agendas, a day when the soft spoken Prime minister who was always taunted as the puppet in the hands of Mrs Sonia Gandhi made it loud and clear that he will go ahead with the deal, and nothing can stop his commitment to the deal.

Many of Dr Singh’s party colleagues were not in favor of the deal, as any uncertainty on the stability of the government would mean early elections, and no party is ready to face the people yet again. The PM’s determination, greater vision and the belief that the time has come to do the right thing for India not just won him the praises from the media, backing of the scientists and the economists but even parties like SP announced its willingness to stand by the government if the Left party pulls out its support from the coalition.

So, what’s the deal on the N-deal?

The Nuclear deal is seen and accepted as the only long-term solution to our growing energy crisis . India is a country that is growing younger, which would mean that there is a high economic growth, an alternate energy source will fuel the economic growth that India is going to see in the next 10-30 years. One must also not ignore the fact that for a growing economy a cleaner energy would mean a lesser strain on the already warming earth.

The IAEA document is finally out in public, analyst agree that the agreement is in favor of India and it does not deter India’s weapon program in anyway. India had already declared 14 of its 22 reactor as “civilian”.

With the nuclear deal India will have access not just to the technology but also the supplier market through the NSG. Clean energy requirement to India is critical, and any inhibition that deal may curtail India's weapons program is just an imagination.

Some of the political parties pulled a fast one, stating that N-deal is anti-Muslim, where did this come from? If it’s good for India, it is good for any one who is an Indian.

As a superpower in the making India has to join hands with larger powers, its time we start thinking and believing that we are going to be a superpower. With the projected economic growth, the world may love us or hate us but they really cannot ignore us.

Dr Singh did a Nehru; going back to history Nehru’s vision of a modern India has been perfectly crafted. Two countries India & Pakistan which are of similar cultural and social background got their independence the same day or should we say, Pakistan decided to call midnight as end of the day and India called it the beginning of a new day. Today India is spoken in the same breathe as China or America and Pakistan is either compared with an Afghanistan or Bangladesh. I guess such is the power of great visionary, and Dr Singh will be remembered along with Nehru for years to come, truly christening him “Singh is King”.

India is looking at 22nd July 2008 as the day when we strengthen our belief as a country to go that extra mile to do what is GOOD for INDIA.

- Kavitha Reddy

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2/3 Coffee

‘2/3 coffee kodi, swalpa stronger irali’, starts a typical day at the college canteen. From cricket to hot bodies to politics to chemistry notes, all happens over those 2 cups of coffee shared between 3 people, probably ordered over 3 times, same quantity each time.

We had no malls to go to, nor enough pocket money to shop or go to watch movies. Fancy restaurants were out of reach rather restricted to dating couples, sipping a single bottle Thumbs-up for hours, overwhelming each other and praying for time to standstill.

Hangout places for the young & fearless were mostly college canteen, the place where we brewed our careers, shared those wildest dreams, fantasies and wrote friendship quotes on our jeans. Every thing for us could happen over a cup of coffee, including solution to Kashmir issue. 2/3 was just not coffee, it was joy of sharing with few more friends, and making each other feel we are all equal.

Times have changed, one now get a mug of coffee with hearts drawn :) but what has not changed is, when the 3rd friends joins, asking waiter to make it '2/3' has not. Thus stay’s 2/3 coffee culture, other than a Bangalorean no one really knows that coffee was just an excuse to be with friends.