Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dune by Frank Herbert

Winner of the HUGO and the NEBULA awards, 'Dune' rivals the Foundation series in the quality of writing and imagination. I love science fiction, so when a friend mentioned this book as possibly one of the best of the genre, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. The story is an semi-religious epic set in planet of Arrakis, supposedly a few millenia in the future. Most interesting are the proverbs scattered along the book. Sample this:

"Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere"

"Greatness is a transitory experience…. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind."

"What do you despise? By this you are truly known"

"Deep in human unconsciousness is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic"

I wonder where the line between science fiction and fantasy lies. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And almost all of religious writing/prophesy involves conjuring up some form of fantasy & some reference to super-heroism. Dune lies on a blurring edge spanning science fiction, fantasy and religion.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Yetis of Yelagiri

Sunrise on Yelagiri Lake
The Yelagiri hills is a range of mountains approximately 250 kms from Chennai on the Chennai-Bangalore route. Taking advantage of the three-day weekend and to have some respite from the blistering heat in Chennai, we decided to try out the hill station.

We caught a bus to Tirupattur at the Koyambedu bus stand. This is the first time I've been to Koyambedu - its certainly the best bus stand in capacity I've seen, but is poorly administered with helpdesk personnel missing and no one to guide around. The bus we caught had a pathetic top speed of 30 kms/hr and took an exhausting 7 hrs to cross the 250 kilometers to Tirupattur (via Vellore, Walaja, Vaniyambadi, Jolarpet and Tirupattur).

Tirupattur is a crowded, dusty town with a really dirty bus stand. The ride up the Yelagiri hills took a leisurely 2 hours. The route has 14 hair-pin bends and the night-time view of the surrounding towns during the climb is breathtakingly beautiful.

Yelagiri is a small hamlet with a single main road and a few scattered houses. However, holiday resorts abound and maybe even outnumber the resident houses. There is a small lake in which boating is allowed. A few kilometers from the town center is a trekking location called swamimalai (No, do not mistake it for its more famous namesake).

Path to SwamimalaiIt takes about an hour and a half to climb to the top of swamimalai through the dense jungle cover, but its worth the effort - the view from the top is exhilarating. (As for the yetis - let us know if you find one)

Apart from the lake and the trek, there's very little to do in Yelagiri. It seems to have become a favorite weekend resort for people from Bangalore, given its proximity - almost all rooms are booked on weekends - people land up in cars with family/friends. The weather is pretty chill even in mid summer and is a good place to beat the heat.

Recommendations for people wishing to follow our trail: Take the train to/fro Jolarpettai from Chennai/Bangalore or drive - NEVER take the bus, the journey is very tiring. Its actually better if you land there in a vehicle, since public transport is not that frequent and is also pathetically slow. Call up hotels and book in advance if you plan to land there on a weekend - most good resorts are fully booked on weekends and the remainder fleece you taking advantage of the situation. In sum, a good weekend getaway for people from Bangalore, a stretch for people from Chennai - worth visiting once.