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Chamba in Winter – Day 3 – Part 2


 

Day 3 – Part 2 

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For an account of the previous days, click below for…

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3 – Part 1

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Here I am with the continuation of Day 3 of my Chamba trip 🙂

I am on my way back to Chamba now from Bharmour, having loved every minute of it. It takes me pretty much the same time getting back to the hotel and my room. I hastily order dal and chapatis with onions and enjoy a lovely meal on the terrace looking out over the river and the mountains with blue skies above. By about 3 pm I am ready to move.

The route takes me across the river to the other side where we take the road going left up into the thickly forested hills. Turns out the driver is from a village about an hour’s drive up the hill and he has quite a few interesting snippets about the region. The thick pine forest comes under the Forest Department while the villager who have been living there from long back, are allowed to stay there and farm and hunt pretty much anything EXCEPT the Himalayan bear. People are afraid of the giant beast as usual encounters with village folk out collecting firewood, have usually led to deaths or serious injury. With the forest department doling out serious punishment for injuring a bear, the villagers have no choice except to go foraging in large groups, which isnt always possible for them. The usual story of Man Vs Wild, with two sides of each story, however it is pleasing that the Forest Dept is actually taking its role as the protector of wildlife quite seriously.

Life for the villagers is pretty difficult in these parts in general, and it becomes more so come winter. Last year apparently there had been somuch snowfall that the entire village had been snowed out under 6-7 feet of snow and it had taken them days to finally be able to venture out of the house! (the doors and windows having been jammed shut by snow) No electricity either as the snow had brought down electric poles within a few hours! They only received electricity after about a month once the government finally managed to re-erect all the towers and lines.

Anyway, back to my account … by now, we had crested the rise and were at the top of the treeline. As you head towards Khajjiar, the road opens up and you get spectacular vistas of the Pir Panjal range to the right. However, it being evening already, most of the peaks had been covered by clouds and I could not get a glimpse of their true majesty…just eluded me by a bit, but well, enough reason for me to come back again! 🙂

The road opens up to the panorama of the Pir Panjal range

About 2-3 kilometres from Khajjiar, there is a famous Devi temple with an awe inspiring bronze statue of Lord Shiva that is 81 feet high, with the spectacular Pir Panjals behind. For travellers to the region, this temple is a must visit not only for its scenic locale but also for the shrine within. Small yet beautiful.

The Devi mandir with Shiva lording the fantastic Pir Panjals

The statue is 81 feet tall, dwarfing me! 🙂

A close up of the range in flames as the sun has its last hurrah at dusk

After spending some time here, I moved up the road to Khajjiar. By now both sides of the road were covered with 2-3 feet snow drifts and the road had recently been cleared. In higher reaches, the snow was even deeper, most likely 4 feet. The dark pines formed a snow topped canopy all around us as we moved into Khajjiar town. The centre piece of the town is a lake surrounded by beautiful green meadows in summer where tourists can indulge in zorbing, para gliding and horse riding. However, winter was a completely different story!

The lake was completely frozen over and the meadow was covered with a thick carpet of snow as far as the eye could see. It was pretty chilly as the wind whipped across through the dark pines along the sides. The lake boasted a pavilion in the middle with a path leading to it, but the heavy snow had ensured it had cracked off and lay dangerously skewed into the freezing icy waters of the lake. I walked all along the periphery of the lake, crunching through the snow and enjoying the crisp, mountain air. Along the south east side of the lake is an ancient temple which is also beautifully carved and is worth a visit. There are a few hotels and resorts around the lake, which is pretty much all of Khajjiar! 🙂

First Glimpse of Khajjiar Lake

More Khajjiar goodies

The Pavilion in the lake has collapsed thanks to the snow!

Almost completely frozen over…with at least 1-2 feet of snow on top!

Me with the beautiful pines at the back

I walked further up the road which brought me to the town. The road climbs up slightly and then leads on to Dalhousie, however the heavy snowfall ensured that the hard working JCBs would not have an easy time clearing it and still needed at least a couple of days before it was open to traffic. I could see the JCB chugging alonmg, blowing dark plumes of smoke into the evening sky, struggling manfully against the snow. That was my last glimpse of Khajjiar as I turned back and drove down back to my hotel.

It had been a wonderful day and I capped it off with a nice stiff drink while gazing at the night sky and marvelling at the wonder that is Himachal.

Thanks for reading…Day 4 coming up soon 🙂

Rosabal – The Tomb Of Christ?


 

Here is another unusual site in India, something that is not very well known (or expected) and definitely controversial!

Some say Jesus is buried in Srinagar, Kashmir. The current site/tomb in a place called “Rosabal” and is protected by civilian volunteers who try to hustle you away if you try to click pictures of it. (to avoid needless controversy and trouble) There is nothing ostentatious, and the tomb is very simple but with an interesting feature in a corner on the ground floor. A set of footprints in stone purportedly being those of Jesus.

The Simple Tomb of Jesus? in Srinagar, Kashmir

The interior of the Roza Bal, showing the ornate wooden sepulchre which once covered the tomb. Image: Fortean Picture Library / Dr Elmar R Grubar

To add grist to the mill, watch this brilliant (and possibly controversial)  documentary by BBC that seeks to unravel what happened two thousand years ago. I must admit I am keen to see what they uncover, but sadly my non religious demeanor would not go down too well ! 🙂 So I shall stay and watch from afar how this remarkable journey unfolds!

Ridiculous Movie Scenes – 1


 

A friend of mine posted this video on his Facebook feed which I just had to post on my blog so that it stays with me for posterity 🙂 It gave me the idea of looking for, and posting a series of ridiculous scenes from movies across the world that are beyond words.

This classic is from a Turkish movie and shows a dude with a ridiculous moustache being shot by a blonde…and shot again…and again… it will leave you in splits 😀

… on and please watch it with the sound turned on, you don’t want to miss the … errrmmm… “primal” scream :)’

Photo Of The Day Sep 26th 2012


 

This photo is one of several I clicked while visiting an unbelievable archaeological site in Orissa (East India). Orissa, in ancient times was a very rich kingdom, being the base of Emperor Ashoka. It was also a thriving seat of Buddhism and the workmanship of the era was exquisite and spellbinding. This is just one picture of the excavation site of Ratnagiri about a 100 kilometres away from Bhubaneshwar. The site is built on a mound and is so truly amazing in its richness that literally every rock hides an ancient work of art!

Ratnagiri – A Mysterious Unexplored Gem

Excavations are going on continuously but they may barely have scratched about 10% of what treasures lie within. Sad that the security is so pathetic that vandals have looted whatever they could carry with impunity. Yet the site has thousands of artifacts unearthed, and yet, the evident disinterest in archaeology continues to hurt the history of our nation.

I would recommend this as a must see when you are in Orissa, for a true taste of the greatness of the era…before its all torn apart.

Lukla Airport, Mt Everest – One of the Most Dangerous in the world


 

Most people know that climbing Mount Everest is extremely challenging, even fewer know how truly dangerous it is. However, what is even worse is that the danger begins far from the Base Camp…the airport at Lukla is one of the most dangerous in the world as the video below will show.

With so much traffic and so many visitors it should be in the best interests of the government to improve the infrastructure, but sadly this looks like a pipe dream.

Breaking News : Are We All Martian?


Ok well that was tongue in cheek but it throws up interesting possibilities. Me, being the eternal thinker (of absurdities) begins to wonder what may have been…

The Curiosity Rover has just confirmed the past existence of vigorous, fast flowing streams of water on the now barren red planet. Perhaps Mars was once a thriving colony of beings, not too dissimilar from us? I do not think there is any doubt that life did exist on Mars, but for how long? Was it able to adapt in time to prepare for its annihilation?

Dried water channels and rounded pebbles beamed from Mars by Curiosity

Did the beings managed to adapt? some maybe fleeing to earth in spaceships (yea far fetched but amazingly romantic notion) or some digging down deep where they still move around under the surface, unobserved?

I do not think the question is “did life (as we know it) exist on Mars?” Thats probably been solved by this stunning discovery. The real question is “did life get enough time to evolve into sentient beings?” and the scarier question is “are we looking at our own future here? the way we are going!”

I would not be too surprised if the next discovery would be a fossil or a small exoskeleton or even a microbe! In fact, I’m sure that discovery is not as far fetched as it sounds! 🙂

Keep dreaming and commenting! and make sur eyou are subscribed to the Curiosity twitter and the NASA JPL page to get the news as it breaks! 🙂

Photo Of The Day Sep 25th 2012


Yes Im lagging in my photo of the day uploads but of late its been a busy time, with me just playing catch up with everything! 🙂

The photo for Sep 25th is that of an amazing monastery (Taktsang – Tiger’s Claw) perched high up on the rocky crags around of Paro, Bhutan. Its almost a kilometre walk up a steep hill to reach the monastery which hugs the granite walls across a deep chasm with a waterfall gushing down past the steps to the plains far below. The setting is straight out of an Indiana Jones movie, and while this photo gives you an idea, true justice can only be done to it by having a complete set of photo graphs to know how awesome it is. I have said previously that I would be writing a travelogue for my trip to Bhutan and it shall be coming up once I finish my Chamba trip report!

Taktsang Monastery perched high above on the granite bluffs of Paro, Bhutan

A Guide To Games Development – The First Foray


Hi again,

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I am hoping you reached this page after having read the introduction…if you have not, then please click here and read it to get an idea of what this guide entails.

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Its a long story below, if you do not wish to read it, skip down for the final section 😀

No its not me, but close enough! 🙂

The story starts a long time ago, when I was a plump little kid. My world was one where I would play a bit of cricket at times, but most of my day was a mix of being populated by schoolbooks or by superheroes (Superman, Batman…) or some fantastic escapades by a bunch of kids along remote windswept coasts and eerie towers – battling pirates and smugglers! (Enid Blyton and her bunch of kid detectives, the Three Investigators etc) As I grew older, (by a couple of years!!) I started reading the Hardy Boys series of books. This was a bit more cutting edge and more realistic and I would envy them for their adventures, and curse my school for having nothing of the ilk! Add another year or two and the Hardy Boys seemed to get older too with the release of a new series called “The Casefiles”. This had some glossy covers (which had me drooling…yea I know it sounds typically nerdy and sick, but hey books seem to have got ingrained into my psyche real bad)

The first issue of the CaseFiles

More interestingly, the boys had now got a van with something known as a modem installed in the back of it, attached to a computer, where they would sit around and hack into anything they wanted! That was intriguing AND exciting, cos in the time of analog telephones in India with internet being unheard of, I just could not fathom how it would be done. (yea magic to me!  and one I was determined to try and learn)

A few more years and I got my first computer after a lot of begging and wheedling 🙂 Computers were extremely expensive and this was a reward to me for my consistently good grades. I joined an institute while in school to learn  BASIC language and that is where I saw my first few monochromatic games. (I had seen a few games earlier on the ZX Spectrum but those PCs had been prohibitively expensive back in the days) Among the first few games I ever played was Paratroop and Styx and I really loved them and wondered how I could make my own games (and of course hack someone!) 😀

Cut to sometime later, and we finally had internet in India!!! I was one of the first to beg and sell my soul to get a modem with a terrible 14.4 kbps connection cos I thought… modem = yep, that means … hacking! 😀 Well in a sense, it was true, cos me not having any money to buy expensive internet access, had to “borrow” accounts  without authorisation to surf the net 🙂 SO yea, I did “hack” something!

So now I had internet and I had the opportunity to fulfill my dream – the big question was how?! search engines were not very optimised back then and whatever search result I got was written in such fancy programming lingo that I could make no sense of it! So I did the most logical thing possible, I decided to try and begin with web designing and do my own page up on Geocities. (especially cos it was free and seemed easy enough to understand)

After a pretty pyschedelic page, I wondered what I should do next. A friend from Canada (yea, a chat friend :D) asked my help on a web design project. They were supposed to make a website with Java applets which was obviously Greek to her. I obviously agreed to help without quite knowing what I was up against, and then began my single minded research into what applets were. I learnt how to use them and within 2 days had an amazing rippling effect done to a photograph, which was sufficient to get good grades and give me brownie points 😀 It was this singular moment that led me to believe that I could actually do what I wanted to! that I need not be specifically educated from an institute. I had learned to do things I could only imagine about a year ago, all through some wonderful people on the internet with their helpful hints and tips.

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What was the point of the long winded rhetoric above? (well I hope some of it entertained those who bothered to read!) The real point though is – unless YOU REALLY want to learn, NOTHING will help you. You may do a million courses, hire the best teachers, but without the desire inside, you will NOT “learn”.

  1. So for all those making their first foray into gaming, I only have the following lines of advice.
  2. Be passionate about games, so much so that you read everything there is to know about it.
  3. Read gaming news, know about the industry, know all cheat codes.
  4. Join gaming forums and read EVERYTHING, even if you do not understand much.
  5. Play as many games as you can on any platform you find.
  6. Once you know you want to get into gaming, quit worrying about it being too difficult to understand/learn. Idiots like me can be in the industry, there is no reason why the millions of smarter people (like you) cannot!  
  7. EVERYTHING you need to learn to get into gaming is available out there – on the internet. The gamer community is super helpful, more so than any other community. There is no need to join expensive courses that end up wasting your time. 
  8. You DO NOT need to a science graduate to be a programmer. (I graduated as an architect!) You only need sound logic and ability to focus. 
  9. Likewise you do not need to be a “qualified” artist to make great artwork. All you need is creativity.
  10. Be proud of being a gamer, and set high standards for yourself. Being a gamer is not a job, its about passion. It is only the passion that will take you through the all-nighters with black coffee as you make your games. You damn well earned your pride at the end of it! 🙂 

If you agree with the above, go on to the 2nd part (when I write it tomorrow.) For now, take care and have a great day!

As always PLEASE comment and let me know your thoughts! 

A Guide To Games Development – Introduction


hi guys,

Yes its a fancy title for someone who himself is learning and evolving everyday in the games industry, but that is true of every tech related field. The important thing is to share what you know, whatever little you know, since I have learned along the years with the information shared selflessly by some awesome guys, for newbies like me. This “guide” is in no way comprehensive and only deals with my practical experiences.

My hope with this “guide” is to help anyone getting into games, to be able to know exactly what he should expect in terms of a career, the learning curve and also the hard work that he would need to put in. 

Another important aspect of this guide is aimed towards my fellow Indian programmers – we have a lack of institutes that provide quality education in programming, and the few that we have do not really prepare you for what the games industry actually needs. This leads to a virtual “trial by fire”  for fresh graduates, who have to actually learn on the job, and who find that reality is far removed from what was “taught” in class! This guide will hope to speed up your induction into gaming and hopefully help the games industry here in India to finally be able to churn out a worldwide best selling game, all on our own 🙂

Please keep in mind that since this is a comprehensive attempt from my end, I will have to go about it in parts. Please bear with me and do keep checking back as I keep adding parts to the guide (hopefully everyday or at least alternate days)

If you like this guide, please share it among your friends and link back to me, and most importantly, PLEASE comment and let me know if it helped you. In fact, it would be even better if you could let me know what this guide is missing, so I could add the information as I go ahead. Please also correct me where I am wrong, and add anything you find helpful. I hope it will be a collaborative effort with reader feedback making it truly comprehensive. Without further ado, let us begin…

This is how I will (tentatively) be constructing the guide, so you will know what to expect in the various parts. As I add parts, I shall update the text below with the url links, so this can serve as the index.

Yep, thats what i wanted to be too!

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  1. The First Foray
  2. Games Industry Over The Years
  3. How To Get Started – 1 (Deciding what you want to do within the various games industry specialisations)
  4. I Want To Be An Artist (all I know to help you get started with being an artist in the games industry)
  5. I Want To Be A Games Designer (all I know to help you get started with being a designer in the games industry)
  6. I Want To Be A Games Programmer (all I know to help you get started with being a programmer in the games industry)
  7. I Want To Make My Own Game! (nowadays this is pretty simple to achieve, read all about it here)
  8. Final Words (what you need to keep in mind afetr you have entered the industry)

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That;s it for now, the First Foray is coming up next!

thank you for reading and I hope you go ahead and read the remaining parts as well. Most Importantly, I hope it helps you in some way of achieving what you wish to do!

A Surreal Park – Indian Artists, Architects – 1


The surreal rock garden

In my search for trying to find Indian equivalents to western architects, I started off with Antoni Gaudi in my post a couple of days ago. I looked around for an Indian architect who may have done work that is in the spirit of Gaudi, but the first name to pop up at me through the recesses of my memory, is not that of an architect. It is the brilliant, insanely talented Nek Chand, a man who has had no formal training of any kind, yet all he had was a vision of recycling waste and creating a fantasyland. (Read all about him by clicking on his name)

Based in Chandigarh, his garden is now a public park and is a must see if you are ever in the parts. Truly surreal and true to the spirit of Gaudi, it is a celebration of art.

This video above brilliantly picks up on his amazing creativity and vision. In the continuation of this series, I will be profiling another brilliant private effort – this time in the west of India.

Thanks for reading, and please do comment if you like or dislike anything I write. It would mean a lot! 

Travelling and games for me please :) Check our games https://twitter.com/blackcobragame

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