1997 Kodaikannal Trip

Back in 1997, age 21, I had joined NIIT for a two year course (Diploma in Computer Science). I really enjoyed my time spent there and I had a bunch of friends who made life enjoyable during those years. The course was separated into 4 semesters and I would change batches after my first semester, 6 months after I joined due to a medical reason for which I needed a little over a month’s time to recover from. The first group of people I spent my 1st semester with were really fun to be around and although I didn’t know it when I changed batches, I would make friends with an even more appropriate & fun loving group of people but I still remember the members of the first batch with fondness. We were 9 guys and 3 girls in the batch. Just as the semester was ending we decided that we wanted to go on a trip. NIIT would arrange a vehicle for us and book a place for us to stay during our trip. Joining us was the young female faculty member who taught our batch and a clerk / office peon. As per policy they had to send him because the faculty member was a lady.

So we decided to go to Kodaikannal (a hill station) in Tamil Nadu for a 2 day stay. We were to leave on a Thursday evening and reach Kodaikannal early Friday morning and return back home on Saturday morning, reaching Cochin in the night. By 4pm we had all gathered at Ravipuram and waited for the 16 seater tempo traveler to reach the institute. We had a couple of bottles of brandy &┬á two huge bottle of coke being chilled in a freezer belonging to a shop right next to the institute. Before we left Ravipuram, one of the guys whose name was Sreehari (I think) said that he wanted to try some brandy as he had never had any till them and was quite excited. He had a little in the cap of the bottle – and he didn’t speak to us for the rest of the duration! I have never seen anyone have this extreme a reaction to a bit of alcohol! Not one word did he speak till the next Monday! Anyways, we left Ravipuram at 6pm and the guys minus 2 (Sree Hari and my buddy Prince, who didn’t like alcohol) started drinking at the back of the van. We left the 4 ladies in the front and mixed the brandy & coke in huge glasses and were quite smashed by the time we reached Thrissur (almost 2 hours later) where we stopped for dinner.

At the hotel, 4 of us made a beeline for the bar and had a couple of pints of beer each and then joined the rest for dinner. We were having a gala time but by 10pm most of us were sleeping in the van, effects of the drinks. A romance blossomed between a guy & a girl that last the duration of the weekend :) I managed to sleep for a couple of hours but was mostly content to go up front and sit with Prince and chat or look out the window. Prince was the designated treasurer of the group and he sat in the passenger seat up front with the driver on our way to Kodaikannal and back. We reached our rented rooms in a cottage ( 2 rooms for the guys and 1 for the girls) at around 7 am and went in for cold showers and shaves and brushing of teeth. We had breakfast at the cottage and then set out for sightseeing and rides (boat rides, horse rides). We stopped for lunch and tea and by 6pm we also bought a couple of more bottles of brandy and some beer.

At night at the cottage, we had secured some firewood for a nice campfire kinda atmosphere. Food was provided by the cottage cooks – porotta & some veggie stew – and the guys drank and sang and we had some games. By 10pm the girls were tired but 4 of us guys stayed back and joined a group of 3 men from Kottayam who shared our campfire and in return they gave us some of their food which was fried chicken and beef if I remember correctly. By 12 even we were too pooped out to party anymore and we retired to our rooms and the next morning it felt like there was a Slayer concert playing in my head – moshpit and the works!! We went for some more sight seeing and then made the way back to Cochin with beer drinking in the van. On the way a bunch of us did puke – not due to the drinking but due to the effect of driving down the slopes & turns of the road. I reached home at around 11pm, changed my clothes and took a long shower and then slept for a long time, maybe 9 or 10 hours. On Monday we all reached NIIT with big smiles on our faces.

I took a lot of photos but remember this was 1997 and I didn’t have anything scanned at that time. I would get them scanned a couple of years later but I lost most of them and only found a couple. The pic below is of some of us sitting near the campfire. Great memories.

The Killing – Season 1

For the first time that I can think of, there is a police drama series about just one case, one murder. I’m not 100% sure that there are other such tv series, maybe a mini-series, but it doesn’t look like anything else I have seen. Based on the┬áDanish┬átelevision series with the same English title, but known as┬áForbrydelsen (The Crime) in Danish, The Killing was developed by┬áVeena Sud┬áand produced by┬áFox Television Studios┬áand Fuse Entertainment. The series’ first season, consisting of 13 hour-long episodes, premiered on the cable channel┬áAMC (the same network that showcases The Walking Dead) on April 3, 2011, with a two-hour premiere.

The show is about the murder & subsequent investigation of the death of 17 year old Seattle high school girl, Rosie Larsen. Weary Homicide Detective Sarah Linden gets called on her last day in Seattle to investigate a possible crime scene in the woods. A car is found in the lake and Rosie’s dead body is found in the boot. She is asked by her LT to show new comer Stephen Holder, who just transferred from Narcotics, the ropes and try to solve most of the case before she leaves to California with her 13 year old son Jack and marry her boyfriend Nick. However she gets drawn into the case due to the political angel – the car was used as a campaign car for popular city councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), who is battling the incumbent mayor Lesly Adams.

Due to pressure from her LT & her own obsession with the case, Linden keeps postponing her travel to California much to the chagrin of her fiance Nick (Callum Keith Rennie) and her son Jack who starts acting up. Her annoying & shady new partner Holder is also a different kettle of fish than she is used to. The family of Rosie is deeply affected with the mother Mitch (Michelle Forbes) getting deeply depressed and the father Stan Larsen who is a former hitman for the mob. The two young sons cope in different ways – while the middle son becomes quieter and more helpful around the house, the youngest becomes more demanding & cranky. Helping the family during their direst times is Mitch’s younger sister Terry, Rosie’s aunt. The list of suspects start flowing in. First are the two boys, classmates of Rosie, who had sex with her just before she was killed. A video recording of the two taking turns with Rosie surfaces. Also there is the young, popular teacher Bennett Ahmed, who was Rosie’s confidant and it is suspected that he was having an affair with Rosie when Linden finds his letters to the girl in her room. Plus his wife used to be one of his students in a different city & school.

While Linden & Holder investigate Ahmed they find out that he & another man were trying to help an oppressed young Muslim girl escape to Canada, in order to avoid being married off against her will. The suspicions of the cops on Ahmed reaches the ears of Belco who informs his boss & friend Stan Larsen. At Rosie’s funeral Stan offers a ride to Ahmed and confronts him; Ahmed denies his involvement in the murder. Later however, when his wife pushes him, Stan & Belco kidnap Ahmed, drive him to a quite place and beat him unconscious & near death. Mitch however finds out from the cops that Ahmed has a solid alibi and could not have killed Rosie and informs Stan, who feels guilty & turns himself in. He is later bailed out by Terry. The focus now shifts to Richmond who it turns out knew Rosie and photos of him meeting her are sent to his campaign manager & lover Gwen Eaton (Kristin Lehman). Feeling betrayed & confused she tells Linden that his alibi for the night of Rosie’s murder, being that he was in bed with Gwen, was all true as he has left in the night and returned a couple of hours later.

Through her computer, Linden & Holder find that Rosie has visited an escort site tied to a casino and that Terry has worked as an escort. Using the camera footage at the ATMS outside the casino, they find that a dolled out Rosie had been to the casino on the night of her murder and that she has possibly been moonlighting as an escort. When Holder finds photos of Richmond driving the same car and taken by a traffic stop camera with a time stamp that puts him near the casino around the time of Rosie’s death, a warrant is issued for her death. Linden leaves with her son to the airport to go to California while Richmond is arrested while at a campaign rally in front of his supporters. However, Belco, who is mentally unstable & immature, approaches the councilman as he is being led away and shoots him. As Linden’s plane is about to leave, she gets a call from the local government office informing her that the traffic signal cameras in the area near to the casino were not working – meaning either Holder forged the photos or he got them from someone who forged them. As the season ends, we see Holder meeting with his former boss at Narcotics and telling him that Richmond has been arrested.

What is the big conspiracy behind the murder? Is it a political thing or is there more to it? Is there a mob involvement, due to Stan’s past? Each of the 13 episodes in season 1 represents a day of the investigation, i.e. episode 13 takes place on the 13 day of the investigation. Some solid acting by Mireillie Enos as Sarah Linden & Billy Campbell as Richmond helps solidifying the series. Also starring are Liam James, Joel Kinnaman, Brent Sexton, Eric Ladin and Annie Corley. Brandon Jay McLaren, Garry Chalk, Patrick Gilmore & Tom Butler have recurring roles along with Rennie. Great series set in Seattle and shot in Vancouver during torrential rainfall to add to the dark, grey imagery of the theme.

Have You Ever Written Music Or Song Lyrics?

I don’t know how to read or write music. I went for almost half a year of guitar lessons when I was 12, 3 days a week, but because I had such a bad teacher who shouted at all the boys in the class (but was oh so gentle with the ladies) I lost interest and begged my folks not to send me back. They agreed and I stopped going and I can’t play a chord to save my own life. I regret not going to another class as I would love to serenade the sexy women by playing some sensual rumba flamenco or rock the arena with some searing electric guitar soloing!

But alas the idiotic choices of the young pre-teen (asshole). Anyway, I never went to take lessons again. When I was 14 I took a turn at trying to write lyrics set to music of already released popular rock songs. So it was easier for me to make up the song as I went along. And then just words for verses and chorus without a music or prior song’s tune in mind. My earlier concern was just getting the last words of the 2nd & 4th lines of the verses to rhyme – no matter what. The first full song I wrote was called ‘Kaleidoscope’ and the second was called ‘The Broken Chair’ – both were songs about a soul in turmoil. I started writing love songs when I was 15 and wrote a few till I was 21. I lost the diary that I wrote the lyrics in and lost interest in writing more.

When I was 22 I met up with the guitarist & drummer of a local band who have since then done quite well for themselves and are now in the industry. We met at a function and I remember that I mentioned that I used to write lyrics as a teenager and they both asked me to keep at it and possible meet up to collaborate. I never pursued it further but I wish I did. I’d prefer being able to actually sit down and write a whole novel and see if I could get it published. That would be a dream of mine.