Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Visita a la Isla de Bintan

I am not going to over-dramatize this post like I usually do when I tell a small incident as a full blown story. If I did that, Id be writing a screenplay for a movie titled something like "The Graduates Adventures in Bintan" (Cant think of any other badass title). Anyway, its been over 10 days since we went to Bintan, so before I forget its better that I write down. I wont write it as a storyline- like I usually do, but cover the trip in Bad, Good, Better, Best Categories- and yes- provide plenty of photos. So here goes:

P.S: All cast and crew are current graduate students, and as such are prone to easy going approach on holidays, and a lack of activity should thus not be looked into with too much detail or suspicion.

Visita a la Isla de Bintan

Producers: Sumedh Dhabu, Nikitha Radhakrishnan;

Director: Rajagopalan Badrinarayan;

Cameraman: Abhishek Ambede;

Music: Kaushik Sunder (Kausik Da), Ahole; 

Finance: Vikram Shenoy Handiru

Starring: Saurabh Kumar Singh

Supporting actors: Lavanya Raman, Sheetal Sinha, Nishanth V Menon

Narration and Screenplay: Chinmay A Datar (Yours truly).

Brief Timeline:

Day 1- Friday 31 Jan.
Ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Bintan Ferry Terminal.
Chilling at the resort, playing catch, volleyball and other things
Photography
Playing Mafia
Trash Talking

Day 2- Saturday 1 Feb
Sunrise
Snorkeling
Chilling out on the beach
Introspecting
Mafia, Cincinati Bablaboo
Catch up with sleep

Day 3- Sunday 2 Feb
Sunrise
Photography- crazy jump and mid air shots.
Chilling at resort
RD Burman playlist
Impromptu jamming session at the Ferry Terminal.
Ferry from Bintan Ferry Terminal to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

Ok, Now that the brief timeline is done and dusted, lets get down to business and classify the elements of the trip. All opinions are personal views of me and me alone. As usual, I haven't cared for what other cast and crew thought. Here goes:

The worst:


Ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Bintan Ferry Terminal.

Ok. Ill be blatantly honest about this- the ferry ride sucked big time. The Catamaran Indera Bupala although fast, after the journey of 1 hour felt like a Vomit flavoured Berty Botts Every Flavoured Beans. There were sea sick people everywhere. People throwing up right left and center. I was one of the lucky few who came out unscathed. 
This thing was probably filled with vomit 
The gang with an Indonesian Garuda

Local Veg food at the Resort

The Nasi Goreng was okayish, and the breakfast was good, but other than that it was horrible. The Chinese Brocolli with Garlic was some half cooked leaves served with roughly chopped garlic pieces in some liquid. Apparently mix veg soup in this resort consists of octopus tentacles and shrimps and prawns. Less said the better. Thank God we had Lavi with us, who was our saviour from this culinary hell.
If we had eaten at the restaurant this is what we would have got under the guise of veg food... ahh well.

Bathrooms at the resort

Okay, when you operate a resort which attracts foreign tourists, make sure that the toilet blocks have a working flush at the very least. And make sure you dont make it obvious that water from basin and bathroom is not directly dumped in the sea.(Im hoping thats not the case with the toilet block). Also, when you operate a resort, do make sure that you have a constant water supply to the rooms. There was no water in the mornings, and could have caused problems.

Somewhat Stinking Beach


The Beach at the resort was average. Come on, even Dive Agar beach is cleaner and better. It was stinking with all the waste oyster shells that were chucked there from the resort. Although a few meters away it was alright. Also there was too much seaweed for my liking- And seaweed washed ashore stinks.  And the sand near volleyball court was littered with shards of glass. Thankfully we did not have a "Basanti in kutton ke samne mat nachana episode over there"

Damn Seaweed...

The Rat

Now this is something you usually do not come across in the middle of the sea, but it was there- and it nibbled on a loaf of bread rendering it not fit for consumption by us. Darn that little pest! Just its presence certified its nuisance value and the tag of vermin. Oh btw, as alleged by Saurabh, Kausik da who was the only surela person in the group was fed up with our braying of songs, and decided to recruit the vermin as his ganda-bandh shaagird. The veracity of this claim however is highly disputed.

Nikita freaks out when she learns that Kaushik Da has a Ganda Bandh Chuha Shaagird- Look at Kau getting into the taan mode.

Okay, enough of the Bad points. But I guess these were all that I could muster up, and that too after lot of thinking. So lets look at the other side now. The Good, The Best, The Awesome and The Crazy things in the trip:

The Good:


The Resort:

Bintan Laguna Resort is very picturesque. It is entirely made from wood, and built on stilts atleast 10-12 feet high- and for good reason. The sea which recedes atleast 200 meters during low tide suddenly rises by those 10-12 feet during high tide. So much so that you can dip your feet from the front porch into the sea. Ahh and its very silent as well. And it stays cradled in the arms of nature, all exposed to the elements. Superb.

Now now... this was fancy!
We had one whole cottage!
The cottages


The Firang Babes   

Ok. No beach trip would be a satisfying experience till you see this right? Our resort itself had a few group of firangs but a few babes really caught the eye. OK, we were actually taking turns to look at them. Thanks to the big sunglasses no one could tell where we were staring so it definitely helps! Oh Btw, SumD stays oblivious to such stealthy means. His approach is blunt and direct- which is awesomely cool. There was one firang babe- in purple.. Man she was incredibly hot. Ohh btw, we also managed to catch hold of them when we had gone snorkeling. they were in their beachwear lying on the beach, sometimes in water, which prompted Dhabu to sing "Samundar Mein Nahake" on more than one occasion. Missing such opportunities of bird watching should be criminalized.

Random pic lifted from the net- just for enhanced effect- but ya it was similar.

Sumedh's reaction: Ghar se chale... Khaake kasam... chhodenge pichchha na hum... sir pe kafan baandhe hue.. aare aayaa deewaana yahaa.... This guy is a must in these situations.

Coconut(s)

The freshly plucked coconut brimming with sweet water was our primary hydrator. Those humongous coconuts made the ones we see in singapore seem to be puny, which led to a feeling of being swindled everytime I got coconuts over here. For maybe double it costs there. Ive never drunk so much coconut water in so less time, Indeed I was lucky not to get potassium imbalance! 

Such is life.. beach, sea and coconuts.. ahh heaven!

The exchange rate

10 SGD converted to a 100000 Indonesian Rupiyahs or so. So even for a short time, we actually had millions of Rupiyahs. Fancy the feeling of becoming a millionaire in any currency domain- Although the joy was short lived, as simple things cost as much as 25000 rupiyahs. But still the feeling of being a millionaire.

Los Millionaires


MTR Ready to eat

The Veg Pulao, Tomato Rice and Masala Rice along with Bread and Pringles and cheese slices were our saviours. If not for these, and Lavis astute and meticulous planning, we would have starved ourselves. Oh the joy Indian food brings when you cant eat anything else- even though the Indian food is packed, full of preservatives and probably dangerous to your waistline in the long run. 5 meals straight out of this!



Chill in the tropics



To be truthful, I had not imagined that a placed located bang on 1 degree north latitude will threaten me with cold, so I had packed only shorts. But I forgot basics of geoagraphy- land breeze and sea breeze, and they came to torment me in the evenings and night when the temperature suddenly plummeted because of the chill the wind got with it, combined with the high tide. However, it was a welcome change to go from the artificial climate control to natural


Feeling the cold


Kaushik Da's Bageshree

Kaushik Da did not sing that much on the trip. Atleast publically. but I got a one on one concert with him during sunrise. Surprizingly, the 5am raag chosen for riyaz was Bageshree, but hell with timings when this guy sings! Listening to KauDa's sargams in the early morning chill was an experience. Too bad he did not sing too much for this event to rank up higher.
Kaushik Da sings Bageshree at sunrise
Click to listen to a famous Bageshree
One of the finest bageshree I have heard...Pt. Mukul Shivaputra.

Playing Mafia

Nothing Sicilian. Its just a game. Mafia is always fun. Swindling and cheating and lying is something you can do openly here. Be it outright bluffing, convincing others you are not mafia, coming up with part time alibis, sacrificing some of your own team members for greater good, figuring out the game depending on who has been killed and how etc. Great fun. 2 days in a row became an overdose though, which resulted in lower ranking for the game. Im sure this game has been invented by a joint collaboration of Indian politicians and lawyers working in high courts.
Mafia


RD Burman Playlist

When you want to relax and listen to Hindi "Music" listen to RD Burman. Now that is the only thing which can be termed as "music" and not merely songs. The magic of RDs compositions and Kishores voice is so powerful that even now after 30-40 years after they were made, the songs are still sung. RD triumphs over all other composers from Bollywood including ARR. Nothing against ARR for he makes some good music too, but for me RD is miles ahead. The marker being- you listen to ARR songs, while RD songs you hum and sing when you are listening. They compel you to do so, which leaves him miles ahead. Anyway, with a playlist as shown below, it would be a miracle if this did not feature in the good things done.
C.Datar's DJ Kit


Screw Baba Sehgal... Baba CD is the DJ

Now that is a playlist to die for!

You cant party without these two.

Photography:

We had 4 awesome photographers- Raja, Abhishek, Nishanth and Saurabh, and all the photos Im sharing are clicked by one of them. The place was a photographers delight and many shots show that. The sunrise pics are especially amazing. I stayed away from clicking though. I wanted to absorb the moments. I had my own agendas for the trip and those did not need me to carry a camera everywhere. I enjoyed the trip even more without the burden of photography though! (It will be difficult to keep me away from cameras from next time though, they will feature prominently). Abhishek has clicked some superb mid air/jump shots and gif images of us doing crazy things on the beach.

Thalaiva Raja experimenting


Artistic photo of the resort

Desi Potter

The Great:


No telephone/ whatsapp

Its so good to be actually disconnected from over information and over communication the digital age has bought with itself. If we keep away from these things in our lives, they would be so much more interesting. I tell you, being a communications engineer that the SINR (signal to interference+noise ratio) on social networks is at despicable levels. The world is filled with noise generators- me being one of the biggest. But information sources are few and far between them(again me being one) Noise is ruling the internet, whatsapp, text world, which is actually very frustrating. And like any noise, this noise is additive, and keeps piling on. So it was a great thing for me to clear out all the accumulated noise in my brain. Disconnectivity is becoming such a paramount resource that soon it will be counted as a luxury!

Lavi- the Great!

I have already told, if not for Lavanya and her meticulous planning, we would have starved and in worst case died. So that makes her great anyway. Addition to that she plays awesome Mafia, listens to awesome RD Burman and ARR music, encourages our "bird watching" endeavors and is probably one of the coolest chicks I have ever met cements her place in the Greats list of the trip!
Lavi the Great!

Saurabh Sing

Saurabh does not Sing. He chucks songs in garbage cans with "interchanged" lyrics, unnatural tunes, misplaced words and hysterical takes on all time hits. Be it Hoswalon ko khabar kya, or Jindagi Maut na banjaye in the middle of ocean, this guy comes up with awesome tunes and spoofs. He should have been a standup comedian, and should pursue a PhD in stand up. What makes him make the cut into this list is the insane crap he comes out with, and his unpredictability in delivering this insanity. He is the person to have along with you on a group trip. While Im sure the trip would have been fun without him too, it would have been half the fun. Or maybe half of half of half the fun- whatever that is. you do the Math. His persistence and unintentional intention to break into the room of the neighbouring firang babes at 4 am to get his "camera" was just incredible(All in a state of being half asleep).


Impromptu Jamming session at the Bintan Ferry Terminal

Now this was actually one hell of an experience. There were all sorts of folk percussion instruments stacked up in one of the souvenir shops we went into. We got into the groove creating music with the shop owners and salespeople. And this went on for over an hour. Getting Indian beats out of Indonesian instruments felt awesome, and the gang ended up buying one each of the instrument. But the fusion of Indonesian tunes with Lavani inspired beats played on something which resembled a Kanjira will always be etched in my ears. Wish someone had recorded it though. PS- I found out I have got quite strong fingers to generate loud noise from any instrument. Read it in whatever way you want. :P

Singing Songs in the immigration clearance line

Now this was great! Usually people are very well behaved in front of immigration officers- lest they decide not to complete your formalities and send you packing back to where you came from. But by the time we disembarked from the cursed catamaran Indera Bupala, we were already in a party mood, and the spirit of Bollywood took over. Shameless people like me Nishanth and Sumedh are an asset in this case, for we will sing anywhere. Hindi Songs are like a Pandoras box- you open with one, and they keep coming out wrecking havoc. Out came Lucky Ali, Zubeen Garg, Strings, Jal, and behind all these there is always the lurking spirit of Kishore Kumar. He is there everywhere, behind every song, behind every musical thought. He is truly the evergreen Indian Song. This silsila of song started in the long immigration lines, embarrassing all goras and firangs who were definitely caught up in a sore place, and continued all the way to the resort- a good hours drive from the ferry terminal. The taxi driver though, seemed to be enjoying our not at all in tune melodies.

On arrival visa receipt @ Bintan. We had got similar, but cant find it. Lifted a random pic from net.
Kishore Da's spirit can posses you anywhere and often at very awkward places!

The Awesome:


Sunrise

Being from a place which is located in hills and very near to the western coast of India, and on top of that being an engineering student, I rarely see sunrise. Sunset in our area captures our imagination. Ive got a whole bunch of awesome sunset shots on beaches in Konkan and on the various forts in the Sahyadris. But sunrise is a rare moment for us. So it was a certainty I will witness it. And witness it I did- for two days in a row. The sun coming out from behind a small island and showering all its warmth and glory with all its fiery red form is a sight to behold. Raja, our director took some captivating shots.
The Marathi song “Tejo Nidhi Loha gol, Bhaskar he gagan raaj” from the drama “Katyar Kalajat Ghusali” was in full effect. Here is a link to lyrics for the same, and a version of it sung by Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande- a legendary singer with all the radiance of the sun.
तेजोनिधी लोह गोल, भास्कर हे गगनराज
हे दिनमणि व्योमराज, भास्कर हे गगनराज

दिव्य तुझ्या तेजाने, झगमगले भूवन आज,
हे दिनमणि व्योमराज भास्कर हे गगनराज.

कोटी कोटी किरण तुझे अनलशरा उधळिती
अमृतकण होऊन अणुरेणू उजळिती
तेजातच जनन मरण, तेजातच नवीन साज
हे दिनमणि व्योमराज, भास्कर हे गगनराज

ज्योतिर्मय मूर्ती तुझी, ग्रहमंडळ दिव्य सभा
दाहक परी संजीवक, करुणारून किरणप्रभा
होवो जीवन विकास, वासुधेची राख लाज
हे दिनमणि व्योमराज, भास्कर हे गगनराज

तेजोनिधी लोह गोल, भास्कर हे गगनराज
हे दिनमणि व्योमराज, भास्कर हे गगनराज!






Shendi in full flow!
1st song for the following section, the 2nd song for the preceding section. The legendary Vasantrao sings.

Stars:

Big city people have lost the concept of gazing the heavens to look for beauty. Singapore is probably the biggest culprit. There is so much light pollution here that a very big magnitude star such as Sirius is made to look like a joke. But you go to rustic places such as Bintan and the stars weave their magic. The heavens leave you spellbound. Millions and millions of stars in every direction. Stars forming shapes and thus constellations with fascinating stories having their roots in Greek, Roman and Indian mythologies. I haven't looked heavenwards with such fascination for a long time, and so after getting my bearings and directions sorted, I rediscovered my mojo for the stars. Ive never seen such beautiful sky in a long time. Orion, Taurus, Cassiopia, Canis Major, Southern cross, Scorpio, Centaur, and stars such as Capella, Sirius, Aldebaran, Antares, Canopus, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Procyon, and many many of my old friends showed themselves after a long long time. Ive always known them as Bramhahruday, Vyadh, Labdhak, Rohini, Chitra, Swati, Anuradha, Agasti etc. Ahww well, me and my fascination for these non living supergiants and their stories! It can go on and on and on.  I spent a good amount of time watching them weave their magic across the nightsky while explaining their groups, shapes and stories to Sumedh and Sheetal. It was a fantastic night sky. The milky way belt stretched right over our heads. The additional cold wind sweeping from the sea made this experience even more beautiful.  But then when everyone else was asleep, I woke up and went for another round of stargazing- this time the resort power supply was off, and there was not a speck of light to fade out any star. And the royal majesty of these far flung superstars of the universe was in full view, rewinding the time capsule and taking me back millions and millions of light years. Anyway, before I start getting too much technical with astronomy, here is a random sky shot with thousands of stars, with camera pointing towards a region between Orion and Taurus.

Just millions and millions of stars!

The Crazy:

Snorkeling

I admit I have never done crazier than this. For starters it takes a lot of convincing to throw yourself off a boat into the sea more than 100 meters from the shore. And even when you are convinced that you will not drown courtesy of a lifejacket, it takes a lot of guts to actually do it, especially when you haven't done swimming in a long long time. The accompanying paraphernalia actually makes swimming even harder. Who had swum with fins and a full facemask that covers your nose and mandates you to breathe through your mouth via a pipe which floats on the surface of the water. Sea water at that mind you! One wrong move here and there, and you end up gulping a mouthful. Its disgustingly salty. But anyway, after hesitating for sometime, I jumped in the water. It was a thrilling feeling of letting go of an unnecessary fear. That shayari from Zindagi.. “Pighale neelam sa..” took a completely new meaning at that moment. For a few of us who actually knew swimming, this was a totally new level of awesomeness. But then there were others like Nishanth and Sheetal who were probably entering water for the first time in their lives, and ofcourse the fact that they survived and lived to tell the tale means that this story means a lot more to them. 3 hours were spent in the sea, swimming, drifting, creating chaos, floating on water, drifting, watching firang babes etc etc. I guess proper snorkeling worth the amount spent was done only by Nikita- she was experienced in this enough to breathe properly with the equipment and Abhishek who spent most amount of time looking at the corals. Rest of us could not manage to look at the corals for more than a minute at a stretch- no difference between snorkeling and reading an IEEE paper then!  It was one hell of an experience though- and something Id like to do once again, this time properly though.

Overcoming the hurdles- the biggest winners of snorkeling
Pighle neelam sa behta ye sama,
neeli neeli si khamoshiyan,
na kahin hai zameen na kahin aasmaan,
sarsaraati hui tehniyaan pattiyaan,
keh raheen hai bas ek tum ho yahan,
bas main hoon,
meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein,
aisi gehraiyaan, aisi tanhaiyaan,
aur main… sirf main.
Apne hone par mujhko yakeen aa gaya.

Thats all I have to say. My other friends will have their own thoughts, but I don't publish them on my blog. You will have to contact them to know their experiences. Enjoy the tales from Bintan, enjoy the pics is all I got to say. It was a fantastic break from work, and really deserved to be written about.


The Gang...


Our Producers- this pic will do the other one is too scandalous


Thalaiva Raja Singham- Director of the show

And yes this- all this could not have been written if not for the notes written by these multicoloured pens!

Thats all folks!! 

Photos by Nishanth, Raja, Saurabh and Abhishek.

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