Saturday, 15 April 2017

Postcards from Andaman : Baratang Caves

During my trip to Andaman in 2014, I (with my family) had a chance to go to the Baratang caves. We were staying in Port Blair, and from there, we took a cab before even dawn broke, to Jirkatang, about 40 kms away. It was kind of a checkpost where a lot of other cars and trucks and buses and the sort were already there, all parked to the side of the road in a long queue. Many others kept coming and they all kept parking one behind the other. 

At about 6 AM (or was it 7?), we set out like a convoy in the same formation, one behind the other, accompanied by armed forces to the front and back. The reason for this is that we had a 50 km drive ahead of us through the 'Jarwa reserved forest' in order to reach Baratang. This area is inhabited by the locals, who do not like interacting with the outside world. Photography and overtaking is strictly prohibited during the entire journey. Unlike smoking in public places, it is actually 'very strictly' prohibited.

After we crossed the forest, we had to take a 30 minute speedboat ride to the island where the limestone caves are. Following are some of the pictures I took during this visit.






A 30 minute speedboat ride to the island


In order to reach the island, we need to pass through dense, mangrove forests


After the ferry dropped us off at a jetty, we had to walk a further 1.7 kms to reach the caves


Cave entrance




The naturally formed limestone deposits form beautiful patterns


A narrow gap on top is the only source of light inside the caves


We were really tired after we got back at around 3-4 PM to Port Blair. This was a good experience, but it might not be everyone's cup of tea. The cave itself is good, but honestly, not extraordinary. I enjoyed the journey though, but some might argue that it is not worth the effort. My opinion? Go if you have a day to spare, and are alright to walk the extra mile (quite literally). It might be a little difficult for elders though, so do keep that in mind.

I only posted once last week, but I'll make sure I get back in the groove and post this Wednesday. Have a great day and a great weekend!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Humans, the agents of destruction : The story of the 6th mass extinction

(image courtesy : www.greenpeace.org)


Before I start with this post, I would like to mention right now that I will try to keep safe distance from the moral aspect as much as possible in this post. I am no one to comment on what is right, what should be done and what should have been. This post is about looking at everything from the impartial eyes of nature and its evolutionary process.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let us start with a term everyone is familiar with... 'Extinction'. In simple terms, it is a dying out or termination of a species with no remaining living members. The dinosaurs, the dodo, the woolly mammoth and the likes are prime examples of this phenomenon. Can you add a few more to the list? 10, or maybe 5? Unless you are a biology buff and are thorough with the topic, I'm sure you'll struggle to find too many more names. But guess what? Since life started on earth, roughly 40 billion species have become extinct, which is around 99% of all the species which ever existed.

Why does extinction take place really? The reasons are many. But consider this. The earth is 4.5 billion years old. It has undergone numerous changes in terms of geology, climate, atmospheric composition etc, and continues to do so to this day. In order to adapt to the changing environment, some of them evolve, most of them die, because that is how nature works. And because life is so much about co-existing, the extinction of one species might lead to drastic changes in the entire ecosystem. Sometimes, species are wiped out if some other species out-competes them. Mutations and natural selection are also reasons why extinctions might occur. These processes are fairly gradual, when we look at it in the time-frame of thousands or millions of years. But sometimes, certain events wipe out a major chunk of all the living species, much 'quicker' in the geological time frame, when more than 50% of all species go extinct. These events are called mass extinctions.

There have been 5 major mass extinctions that we know of.

ORDOVICIAN-SILURIAN : Occurred about 450 million years ago, when more than 60% of all living beings were extinct 
over a period of about 10 million years. This probably took place due to the formation of gigantic glaciers and dramatic worldwide fall in sea levels, which in turn might have been caused by a gamma ray burst, which again in turn might have been caused by a hypernova explosion (basically an explosion much larger than a supernova). The cause is actually all speculation at this moment, but the proof of the massive die-off lies in the various strata of rocks, which shows absence of fossils in the layers formed during those times.

THE LATE DEVONIAN : Around 365 million years ago, more than 70% of all species got extinct over a period of maybe 20-25 million years in a series of mass extinction events. It probably happened due to global cooling, which might have been caused by an asteroid strike, or a massive volcanic eruption. Simultaneously, the ocean levels fell and its oxygen levels depleted (or ocean anoxia). One of the theories also suggests that plants, which were taking a strong hold on land, absorbed so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, that it caused global cooling.

PERMIAN TRIASSIC (THE GREAT DYING) : This is the worst known mass extinction event, where about 95% of all species got extinct about 250 million years ago. The cause was most probably a series of volcanic eruptions in an area called the Siberian traps (its area roughly the size of western Europe), which lasted a million years. It directly resulted in an increase in global temperatures by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit. The release of gases in the sea floor lead to periods of too much oxygen in the oceans (hyperoxia), and later, too less oxygen (anoxia), and marine life suffered greatly due to this.

TRIASSIC-JURASSIC
: About 200 million years ago, the super-continent Pangaea started to break up, which lead to volcanic eruptions in many parts of the world. The sudden release of methane and carbon dioxide lead to a large scale global warming. Scientists know less about this event than the others, but it seems that ocean life was hit much harder than plants and land animals. This event hence, paved the way for the age of the dinosaurs, which would last around 135 million years.

CRETACEOUS-TERTIARY (K-T) : Probably due to a massive asteroid/comet strike 65 million years ago in the Yucatan peninsula off the coast of Mexico (as evident from the Chicxulub crater), about 75% of all species got extinct (including the dinosaurs), paving the way for the age of mammals and birds. A lesser known theory also suggests that a massive volcanic eruption in India could have been the cause too.


'THE CURRENT ONE' : The previous mass extinctions were either due to hypernovae, volcanic eruptions, change in tectonic plates, or asteroid collisions. This time it is us.
The impact that human beings have had on our planet is unprecedented. Ocean acidification, rise in global temperatures, and mass extinctions itself have happened before. But the current events are unique in many ways. Never before has a single species taken over such a significant percentage of the world's primary production. There has never been so much habitat destruction, and the introduction of non-native and invasive species the world over, as we see today. There also has never been any species which have had such an impact on evolution itself. Even though the term hasn't been officially coined yet, scientists think that because of the changes in the environment due to human intervention, a period, either from the onset of Industrial revolution in the 18th century, or from the 1950's, marks a beginning of a new epoch, and many call it the 'ANTHROPOCENE'.

If it all seems like an over-exaggerated fairy tale, such as 'Climate change' is (*sarcasm), let me give you a little reality check.

As I've mentioned before, extinction is a natural phenomenon. In normal conditions, there is usually a constant rate of extinction. For example, it is estimated that in case of mammals, 1 species get extinct every 700 years or so. Want to take a guess as to where we stand according to the current extinction rates? Would you say 5? Maybe 10? 100? 200? No, the current rate of extinctions are at 1000 mammal extinctions per 700 years! Sea life? Well, the acidification of oceans is at the highest in more than 800,000 years, and at this current trend, by the end of this century alone, more than one-third of the species will go extinct. Let's go a little further. Invertebrates, which make up about 97% of all living beings, have declined by 45% in the last 40 years alone. Amphibians, many of whom have survived multiple mass extinctions for the past 350 million years or so, seem to have been hit very badly too. At a normal rate, 1 species of amphibians go extinct in a 1000 years. Current rate? 45,000 extinctions in a thousand! Another fact is that the numbers which I have given above, are conservative estimates, as we are yet to find out more data. So in all probability, things are much worse.

The 5 major mass extinction events probably occurred over millions of years. The Anthropocene started just around 70-200 years ago, and already, the current extinction rates are higher than the K-T extinction. So the peak of the 'Anthropocene' might be closer than we expect.

Will the humans survive the extinction? Probably, but maybe barely. We might have made great progress in science and technology, but what we forget is that the key word here is 'co-existence'. While it seems that the changes in the environment are only affecting the plants and animals, it will come bite us back one day. For example, we are not directly affected by global warming yet, because we have AC's to keep us cool. But it has an effect on the animals and plants outside too, who do not have the luxury of AC's. Eventually, they will die if the increase in temperature is unbearable. So if the corns and the cucumbers die off, we will eventually be hit by famines and droughts, which might lead to an all-out war, as history has seen many times over. What then? Nature has its own ways to balance everything out. If not famines, then diseases might wipe half of us out. The rising ocean levels are no longer a myth; many parts of Bangladesh, Phillipines, USA, India, you name it, might be swallowed up by the sea within this century alone. There is also something called the 'Thermohaline circulation' (also know as 'ocean conveyor belt'), which has a huge impact on the global climate. I would love to explain that too, but I feel my post is already too long, so click here to read it up on Wikipedia. Basically, if the Thermohaline circulation stops, there will be mass extinctions in the seas, the climate will change drastically (how though, nobody can predict), and it will lead to a massive increase in anaerobic bacteria, which emits one of the most toxic of gases, hydrogen sulfide.

These are but just a few possibilities out of so many others. Frankly, I am very positive about a lot of things, but for the future of mankind, not so much. My intention behind writing this post is to make people aware about what our impact on the world is, because everyone knows we are a threat to our planet, our very home itself, but not many know to what degree. In my opinion, leaving aside good or bad, right or wrong, humans are indeed the agents of destruction. We are a very strange and mysterious entity, unlike anything ever seen on earth. Our instinct is not to live with nature, but to control it to favour our way of life. But, unlike asteroids and volcanic eruptions, we do have a conscience. Because things are still not out of hand at this moment, and if we want to put a stop to it, we still have time. Humans might be the problem for all this, but the only answer to all this is also, humans.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe"

- John Muir



References : 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2015/oct/20/the-four-horsemen-of-the-sixth-mass-extinction by Jeremy Hance

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Postcards from the hills : Bandajje falls trek

2016 had been a year of treks for me. This is not because I went to a hundred treks or something (I totaled 5 I think), but because I had never trekked before last year, and these 5 'climbs' made me love trekking so much. Hence, if I look back at my 2016, I think I can confidently say that trekking was one of the highlights of the year.

Out of all the treks though, this one is the most special. After all, this was my first ever! The trek took us about 4 and a half hours and it was one of the most tiring things I had ever done in my life.

We camped at night, although we forgot an essential accessory to set up one of the tents, and so some of us had to sleep in the open. And it rained a bit at night, which added to the cold. Click here to read about the entire experience in detail.

I have compiled a few photographs from that trek below. 





We stopped by a stream on the way in a place called Gundya.


We were chilling there for half an hour before we had lunch and made our way to the starting point


A few butterflies were also chilling by the stream

Our destination as seen from the starting point


Found a stream on the way up. Great place to take a breather, freshen up and drink some water

After 4 and a half hours of trudging through the forest, we come out into the open, all exhausted, and relish the view


We set up a campfire at night. It was pitch dark. We barbecued some pineapples and bananas, the only source of food we had for the night


Waking up in the mornings be like


The Western ghats at dawn


Sunrise. We left shortly afterwards and made our way down in about 3 hours.
The brunch after that was the best ever!


Let me know whether you like this post in the comments below. Take care everyone and have a great day! Next post coming up on Saturday.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Postcards from Delhi : Humayun's tomb

In the month of August, 2016, I was in Delhi, taking a break from office and meeting up some friends. It was quite hot during the day those days, and even though I wanted to step out of the house for a bit, I did not want to travel long distances either. I had to meet my friends in the evening, so the first part of the day was pretty much free for me. Even though the blazing sun and the annoying humidity was discouraging me to step out, I also wanted to visit the Humayun's tomb during my week-long stay in Delhi, because it was only 3-4 kilometers away from where I was staying. So at 2 O'clock in the afternoon, after lunch, I paid a visit to the tomb with my camera. Here are a few photographs from the visit.


The entrance gate


A view of the Humayun's tomb in black and white






I think Humayun's tomb is a beautiful monument, maybe even comparable to the Taj Mahal. I was in awe of the scale, grandiosity and architecture of the tomb. I spent about an hour there, admiring each and every corner of the monument.

Have you been to the Humayun's tomb? How was your experience? Feel free to comment.
Another post coming up on Wednesday. Have a great day and an awesome weekend!

Friday, 31 March 2017

WWE Wrestlemania 33 : Predictions (Part II)


After putting up the predictions of the kickoff show (click here to read), here are my predictions for the main show.


MAIN SHOW



Possibly the main event, Goldberg vs Brock Lesner
(image courtesy : cdn0.vox.cdn.com)


1.
WWE RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP


LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON (C) VS ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS VS SHEAMUS & CESARO (TRIPLE THREAT LADDER MATCH)

The main show opens up to the music of Enzo and Cass, they trash talk and get the crowd pumped up. Now this is going to be a pretty good match. Expect it to be a 20+ minute affair. 

PREDICTION : ENZO & CASS are crowned the tag team champs for the first time, giving them a Wrestlemania moment.

SCENARIO 2 : GALLOWS & ANDERSON pick up the win, and feud with the Hardy boyz in the next Raw episode
EDIT : On an afterthought, I like the chances of scenario 2 happening more now, and the Hardy Boyz might actually make an appearance right after the match only.


2. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP


DEAN AMBROSE (C) VS BARON CORBIN

I think this match must have been a street fight or something, and because it is not, I believe they will have another match in the next pay-per-view. The match itself will be pretty alright/good. 

PREDICTION : DEAN AMBROSE retains the IC title, but Corbin beats the hell out of him right after the match. This sets up their rematch in the next pay-per-view, which Corbin wins.

SCENARIO 2 : CORBIN defeats Dean, and that is the end-all to their rivalry. There is a slight chance of a disqualification victory for Corbin too, a brawl after the match, which sets up their second encounter. 


3. JOHN CENA & NIKKI BELLA VS THE MIZ & MARYSE


All factors point towards an in-ring proposal by John Cena after the match. This can be done irrespective of whether they win the match or lose it, but I think the WWE would want a happy end to the match.


PREDICTION : JOHN CENA & NIKKI BELLA win the match, the Miz and Maryse sneak attacks, John and team throw them out of the ring, and then John pops the question on his knees.

SCENARIO 2 : THE MIZ AND MARYSE win, Cena and Nikki are distraught, but they comfort each other and John pops the question on his knees.


4. NOTE : I just got to know that the WWE Smackdown Women's Championship match has been moved to the main show. How does it change the predictions? Well, now the chances are more that Sami Zayn actually wins the Battle Royal, but I'll still stick to my prediction of Strowman winning the thing. The main show will still probably be opened up by the ladder match, which means the Smackdown Women's title match will happen later (maybe match 4), which in turn means that Alexa Bliss should retain her title. If this is the first match on the show then chances of Naomi winning becomes really high, but I don't think that is going to happen. An outside chance of a surprise entrant too, but as it already is a six-pack challenge match, I don't know how they might accommodate someone else in the match. Maybe one of the woman get attacked by a 'mystery woman' and the attacker replaces her in the match. Kelly Kelly or Asuka might be a good surprise. Let us see though.


5. AJ STYLES VS SHANE MCMAHON

I know anything can happen, but AJ HAS to win this. He is a far superior wrestler and a Shane victory will be of no consequence at all. It might be a better match than people initially thought, and Shane might jump off a rollercoaster or something, but AJ HAS to win!

PREDICTION : AJ STYLES reverses a Shane McMahon high risk move and defeats him.

SCENARIO 2 : SHANE picks up the win by diving off the rollercoaster. Unlikely, but possible. Outside chance of Kurt Angle making an appearance in this match. Angle might be Raw GM, and AJ might be heading over to Raw soon, so they might sow some seeds of their rivalry here.


6. UNDERTAKER VS ROMAN REIGNS

Will be really interesting to see how WWE book this match
(image courtesy : blogs-images.forbes.com)


Many people hate that this match was even created, but I like the fact that the outcome is pretty unpredictable. If Reigns beats the Undertaker and becomes the man to retire him, he will be the most hated person in the entire roster. If a friendly handshake ensues after the match and Reigns walks out a face, people will boo the crap out of Wrestlemania 33. So I'm assuming they won't do that.

PREDICTION : The chances are less that this will happen but I say The UNDERTAKER will beat Reigns, and they will go for a handshake, but Reigns will turn heel and beat the crap out of the Undertaker.

SCENARIO 2 : REIGNS wins the match, disrespects the Undertaker and throws him out of the ring to show that it is his yard, turns heel.


7. WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP

CHRIS JERICHO (C) VS KEVIN OWENS



A match I am pretty excited about.. Jericho vs Owens
(image courtesy : cdn.fansided.com)


One of the best built up feuds in a long time, this match might be to absorb all the boos and 'CM Punk' chants spilling over from the last match. Jericho walks out to a huge pop, then Owens. They have a stare down in the ring, and go for an all out brawl to begin the match. The interference of Samoa Joe looks inevitable to me, so I say, he comes out to help Owens, Jericho fights all odds but eventually succumbs, and Owens and Joe beat the crap out of Jericho.

PREDICTION : KEVIN OWENS becomes the new US champion, and beat up Jerciho after the match with the help of Samoa Joe.

SCENARIO 2
: CHRIS JERICHO overcomes all odds and an interference by Joe, and beats Owens, but get decimated by Joe and Owens after the match.


8. WWE RAW WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP

BAYLEY (C) VS CHARLOTTE VS SASHA BANKS VS NIA JAX (FATAL 4-WAY ELIMINATION MATCH)

I don't see Charlotte or Nia Jax winning this, so I suppose it is going to be Sasha and Bayley being the final two competitors. Now this has a heel-turn written all over it, but I'm going to take a brave call here. Instead of the more anticipated Banks heel turn, Bayley turns heel. Why? Because her good-girl image isn't working with the crowd anymore. And she has every reason to turn on Sasha because she is irritated that she is looking weak because Sasha comes out to save her everytime. She needs to prove that she can do it on her own, so she cheats to win (or maybe not), and attacks Sasha after the match. At least I'll be more interested to see why did she do that on the following episode of Raw.

PREDICTION : BAYLEY retains the Raw Women's title, but turns heel on Sasha. Which might eventually lead to a Charlotte face turn, but probably not right now.

SCENARIO 2 : BAYLEY wins, Sasha celebrates with her, but turns heel next Monday, starting a new feud. Or Sasha cheats to win and starts a new feud.


9. TRIPLE H VS SETH ROLLINS (NON-SANCTIONED MATCH)

(image courtesy : img.bleacherreport.net)


The entire match is going to be focused on Rollins' knee, so expect lots of chair, crutch, pipe shots on it. This match again, warrants a Samoa Joe interference, and possibly Owens' too. But here is what I think will happen. Jericho comes out looking for some revenge, neutralises the attack, by virtue of which Rollins wins the match. Then an all out attack on Jericho and Rollins ensues. After what seems like an eternity, Finn Balor's music hits, and he runs down to confront Joe and Owens. So in the next night on Raw, Jericho and Balor (Rollins will probably be out for a few months due to injury) will start a new rivalry with the new faction of Triple H, Owens and Joe.

PREDICTION : ROLLINS beats TRIPLE H, after Jericho thwarts an attack by Joe and Owens. After the match, the trio beat up Jericho and Rollins, but Balor comes out to their aid.

SCENARIO 2 : TRIPLE H beats Rollins with the help of Joe, and possibly Owens.


10. WWE CHAMPIONSHIP

BRAY WYATT
(C) VS RANDY ORTON

(image courtesy : cdn3.whatculture.com)


The big debate is whether this match will be the main event of the show, or will it be Goldberg vs Lesner. Technically the winner of the Royal Rumble main events Wrestlemania, which in this case is Randy Orton. But I suspect it will be the second last match of the night.
Anyway, I really want Wyatt to win this one, but seems more likely that Orton will take this win. Expect a few face/heel turns, be it from these two, Luke Harper, or possibly a returning Erick Rowan. I hope this match provides something more in terms of storyline, some big revelation perhaps, which would take this rivalry beyond Mania.

PREDICTION : I'll be bold and say that Wyatt beats Orton. No, WWE won't end the show with two heel champions. So ORTON beats Wyatt with the help of Harper and Rowans, and Wyatt might have a face turn in the next episode of Smackdown.

SCENARIO 2 : WYATT beats Orton with the help of Rowan. Rowan makes a return when Luke Harper tries to attack Bray and beats up Harper, and gives the advantage to Bray.


11. WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP

GOLDBERG
(C) VS BROCK LESNAR

This is one of the few matches of which I'm sure who the victor is going to be. The match might be less than 10 minutes long.

PREDICTION : After like 5 minutes into the match, Goldberg spears and Jackhammers Lesnar. Lesnar kicks out. Goldberg goes for another spear, Lesnar counters, gives Goldy an F5. He kicks out. A second F5, kicks out again. A third, 1..2..3 over. LESNAR is the new Universal champion.

SCENARIO 2 : The result isn't going to be any different, but it may vary on how it might end. I don't want to think much more. What do you think?


So here are my predictions for the biggest night of the year, Wrestlemania 33. Agree, disagree, or would like to add something, feel free to comment below. Have a great day folks! Wish you a great Wrestlemania!

WWE Wrestlemania 33 : Predictions (Part I)

Alright, this is a first for me. I have never written anything about World Wrestling Entertainment, and never thought I ever would. I'm not even a big follower of the show, and have only been watching it for the last 3 months or so.

It all started way back in 2002 when I thought WWE was real. Being a 12 year old, it was all so fascinating. I would always get annoyed when a 'bad guy' would cheat and win, and became ecstatic when a 'good guy' would finally get his revenge. Edge vs Kurt Angle in a hair-vs-hair match is one first matches I remember watching, and it was really funny when Kurt Angle got his hair shaved off after he lost; don't think I would've been that happy if Edge had lost.

Board exams, then going to a TV-free place after my 12th, and the realisation that it was all fake, got me off wrestling completely by early 2007. A decade later, I randomly tuned into watch Royal Rumble 2017, and now I am hooked to the show again. Only this time, I know it is not real but just entertainment, and the storylines and booking decisions makes so much more sense to me.

So like a tennis pundit, I'll try my hands on predicting the outcome of WWE matches. For which event? Of course Wrestlemania 33, which is equivalent to say, 'Wimbledon' in the world of wrestling. For WWE fans in India, let me mention that the kickoff (pre) show will air on Ten 2 and Ten 1 HD, live at 2:30 AM on the 3rd of April. The main show will be aired from 4:30 AM.

So let me start off with my predictions for each match one by one, with a brief on how the matches will be booked, who wins, and if I'm wrong, what is the most likely 'scenario 2'.


KICKOFF SHOW



1. WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP


ALEXA BLISS (C) VS BECKY LYNCH VS NATALYA VS MICKIE JAMES VS CARMELLA (W/ JAMES ELLSWORTH) VS NAOMI  (SIX-PACK CHALLENGE)  





The current WWE Smackdown Women's champion, Alexa Bliss
(image courtesy : www.pwmania.com)


Probably it is Naomi who kicks off Wrestlemania in her hometown, coming out to a massive pop, followed by the other women. It is a six-pack challenge match, which I guess means that all the 6 women brawl it out till the first woman to get a pinfall or submission wins the match.

PREDICTION : ALEXA BLISS retains the '
WWE Smackdown Women's Championship' by pinning Natalya

SCENARIO 2 : NAOMI wins the title, as it is her hometown, and they usually prefer a face-win to kick off the show. But I feel if that was the case, they would have kept Naomi's comeback a surprise till Wrestlemania. As she had her moment on Smackdown last week, I think she won't win the title.

EDIT : I wrote this article before the WWE Smackdown Women's Championship match was moved to the main show. My prediction remains the same about the outcome, except now, things might get a little twist. Read about it in Part II of my prediction post.

2. WWE CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

NEVILLE VS AUSTIN ARIES

(image courtesy : whatculture.com)


This might be one of the best matches of the night, fast-paced, electric and high-flying. Both of them are good wrestlers, but Neville needs to win this encounter. Aries will probably get his hands on the title too, but he might have to wait till somewhere around Extreme rules or Summerslam. The match might end in a submission, as both of them picked up their respective victories in the go-home show by submission, but it might just make Aries look weaker if he loses by submission, so I'm going for a pinfall victory.

PREDICTION
: NEVILLE retains the 'WWE Cruiserweight Championship' by pinfall.

SCENARIO 2 : Let me make a bold call and say that it might end in a double countout, or crazier still, a double submission or something. Ok, a double submission is a bit too much, but WWE maybe would want to protect Austin Aries too, so no-result might be a good possibility.


3. ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

(image courtesy : dailywrestlingnews.com)


30 men are taking part in this match, though the only men of significance are Braun Strowman, The Big Show and Sami Zayn. It will be a shocker if Braun Strowman doesn't decimate everyone else and wins this one. Sami Zayn is slowly getting buried on Raw, playing a 'jobber' to Owens, Samoa Joe and the likes, and if the creatives have any sort of love for the guy, he should be the second last man standing in the ring. This also marks Big Show's farewell Wrestlemania, so expect him to play an important role. I feel he will have a one-on-one showdown with Strowman at some point in the match, and Strowman will eventually eliminate him or something.

PREDICTION : BRAUN STROWMAN wins by eliminating at least 8-9 guys

SCENARIO 2 : SAMI ZAYN wins by eliminating Strowman in the end.

EDIT : Now that the WWE Smackdown Women's championship match has been moved to the main show, I think the Battle Royal will begin the kickoff show. And now, the chances of Sami Zayn winning by scenario 2 is much more likely. Also, his music will probably kickoff the show.


Now the problem with my predictions so far is that I have picked heels (bad guys/girls) to win all three matches, which is a very unlikely scenario. Unless, they make it up by a flurry of face victories in the main show, which tallies with my set of predictions for the main show.
Click here to check out Part II

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Postcards from Sri Lanka : The ruins of Anuradhapura

During my office trip to Sri Lanka back in 2014, Anuradhapura was the first taste of a tourist destination for us. It was the 30th of November, and we reached Anuradhapura at around noon after an hour and half's drive from Dambula.

Anuradhapura was an ancient city, probably inhabited since the 10th century B.C., but it became a great city around the 3rd century B.C., when a branch of a Buddhist fig tree (Bodhi tree), or the 'tree of enlightenment' was introduced here. The city flourished around it for 1300 years, until an invasion in 993 A.D. led to its abandonment. The ruins lay hidden in thick jungles for centuries, till it was rediscovered in the 19th century.


During the span when Anuradhapura flourished, it saw a 'Golden Age of building', when some of the tallest buildings in the ancient world were built here. The Jetavanaramaya dagoba is still one of the tallest brick structures in the world. Apart from that, the Ruwanwelisaya stupa and the Abhayagiri dagoba are pretty big structures too, underlining the high level of architecture and engineering attained by the civilization, millennia from today. We also visited the Sri Maha Boodhi temple, where the part of the Bodhi tree still stands more than 2000 years after it was brought here. The place is flocked by pilgrims, most of them deep in meditation. 






Jetavanaramaya dagoba








Ruwanwelisaya stupa


Samadhi statue


Abhayagiri dagoba


A structure right next to the Abhayagiri dagoba  


To be honest, we did not quite enjoy Anuradhapura as much as it was hyped. I have been to the ruins of Mandu (Madhya Pradesh), Lothal (Gujarat), the former capital cities of Patan (Gujarat), Shivsagar (Assam), and the century-old structures of Delhi and Ahmedabad to name a few. Anuradhapura didn't seem much different either; ruins of an old city in a complex.

But after coming back home and reading up on it, Anuradhapura intrigues me more than ever before.
 Now that I know the story of what happened here so many years ago, I think I can relate to the place much better. I would not go just to look around at the ruins, but to stand and breathe in the same place, which was dwelled by learned men two millenia ago, gaining enlightenment under the sacred Bodhi tree. The ruins would not chunks of brick for me anymore, but it will have a story weaved in its patterns, of the life lived here so long ago.

How was your experience of Anuradhapura? If you haven't been there, would you like a trip to Anuradhapura? Feel free to comment below.

Hope you like the post. Have a great day. See you again on Saturday. Cheers!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Postcards from Assam : The Geese of Jorpukhuri, Guwahati

The last time I visited my hometown, Guwahati, was back in 2016, in the month of March. It was my brother's wedding and there were numerous ceremonies happening every other day. I was unfamiliar with almost all of them.

On the day of the wedding, all the available women from the groom's side would go to a nearby lake in the morning, to collect water. I accompanied them because I had to drive them to Jorpukhuri, the lake from where they would collect water. I had nothing else to do there, so once everyone went to some nearby temple (to pray, perhaps), I whipped out my camera, and started clicking the only interesting objects in the vicinity; a gaggle of geese.


The following photographs are of geese, and geese only; none of my usual uploads of hills and forests and nature. But I find geese elegant, yet amusing and cute. So I thought why not change it up a bit and post something happy this time? So here they are.



























Hope you enjoyed the post. 
Have a great day and an awesome weekend! 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Postcards from Sri Lanka : Sigiriya rock

Located 5-10 kilometers from Dambulla, Sigiriya, a UNESCO World heritage site, is the most visited site in Sri Lanka. I visited Sigiriya on the 1st of December, back in 2015. It was one of various places I had been to during my 8 day stay in Sri Lanka. Click here for a detailed account of my trip.

My colleagues and I (it was an office trip) reached Sigiriya around noon. Sri Lanka doesn't really have cold winters and the sun was glaring at us from the heavens. We still decided to go ahead with it though.




The former palace and fortress stands atop an imposing 200 meter rock. The Sigiriya complex has beautiful gardens, which are pretty old too. The steps start from the gardens, and continues right to the top. There are around 1200 of them (I tried to keep track initially, but lost count midway). The steps got steeper and narrower, the higher we went.





About halfway through the climb, we look out into the distance, and we could hardly believe that we had made our way this far up. The view was already magical.


View from somewhere midway up the rock
The dry linear patch is where the gardens are. That's where our climb started.


On the way to the top, there is a mirror wall (a highly reflective wall, where you can see a faint reflection of yourself), the famous frescoes on the stone walls, and a pair of lion's paws. It is a wonder how the people in ancient times made such a climb and created wonderful pieces of art at such heights.


Frescoes on the rocks


A set of lion's paws just before we reach the top


As seen above, the steps towards the latter end of the climb
 is more of narrow, metal staircases,
 as opposed to the initial wider, stone steps. 


The tiring 35 minute climb was worth it though. The view from the top was breath-taking! I enjoyed the view for about a full hour, but I got hungry and had to come down after that. 






Sigiriya, for me, is a must see if you ever go to Sri Lanka. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The climb isn't that taxing, but once you scale it, it makes you feel like you earned the right to enjoy the spectacular view from the top. I would definitely want to go there again.

Does this post tempt you to keep Sigiriya in your bucketlist? For the ones who have been here, how was your experience of Sigiriya? Do you have any interesting stories to share? Feel free to comment below.

I post photographs from my travels every Wednesday and Saturday. See you on the 25th then with some more travel motivation! Have a great day!