Melbourne: The world's most liveable city

Isn't it funny that whichever city you live in becomes the most liveable city in the world, for you? To settle this dispute few level-headed people decided to conduct a poll to see which is the world's most liveable city. Not surprisingly, Melbourne took the crown. This means, every single soul who doesn't hold the title of Melbournian wants to visit it. But the questions is, how exactly do you go about the city? There's a difference between the 'city with the most tourist footfalls' and 'the most liveable city.' Visiting the former is simple, you only need to do the usual touristy stuff and a 2 nights, 3 days, 9 meals, 20 photos visit would suffice; but for the former, you need to stay long enough to feel the essence of the city in your soul. 
The only way to know Melbourne - the world's most liveable city, one needs to know what makes the city that it is. And by that, I don't mean the you need to know that stats like population, timezone, languages spoken & the name of mayor. Definitely not. These details you can get from Wikipedia. I mean to say, to know Melbourne, you have to live there and fill your senses with the flavor of Melbourne. This feeling can't be captured with a bunch of photographs or explained to you by a tour guide, this is something that can be acquired only when your open and submit yourself to the city.
In order to open your heart and mind to the city, you need to take these 4 scientifically designed trails. It's not like I just sat down and just made this up; these trails have been calibrated thanks to years of research and hard-work of self-appointed geniuses who've worked at NASA . Not sure about you, but I have full faith in NASA (National Alibaug Sindhi Association) & I'm going to take these 4 trails without an iota of doubt.

1. The Melbourne Identity: This trail will take you through the toughest touristy terrain.  This trail is about the 'identity' of the city that's shown in brochures and Facebook albums. Here you will experience and see what your 'average tourist' takes back home. The major tourist spots would include the usual suspects - museums, zoo, heritage walk, few skyscrapers & landmarks, the shopping district and a couple of iconic hotels/restaurants. Most tourists go back home after checking out this scenic identity. But Melbourne is not your average tourist city. In fact, this is where you see the real distinction between a tourist and a traveler. A tourist will stop at the Melbourne Identity; but a traveler will go beyond, complete the 36 4 chambers of Melbourne and attain nirvana. 
2. The Melbourne Supremacy: While Melbourne Identity was only about seeing stuff, Melbourne Supremacy is about doing/experiencing it. Here you will take back experiences, and not just photographs for your Facebook album. I want to swim with the dolphins, learn to surf the waves, feed the nature's original teddy bears - koalasstroll on the beach with the penguins a trip to the vineyards and exploring a gold mine. I want to do all this and much more.
3. The Melbourne Ultimatum: This trail is about YOU. It's not about what the tour guide says or what the sightseeing book recommends, it's about what YOU wish to do. I'm a sports junkie, and I want to enjoy Melbourne as a sportsman. I want to be right in the middle of the action. I want to hire a car and trace the F1 circuit map at the Albert Park. Agreed, I have to abide by the traffic laws, but knowing that fact that I'm driving on the same tarmac and turning around the same corners that F1 drivers zip past on their mutli-million dollar machines, will give me a different high. One thing that strongly links India and Australia is Cricket. So, how about a game of cricket at the famous MCG? No, I don't want Brett Lee to bowl at me, but I'd love to be a part of a local club side in a friendly game. Can I get to practice a set or two at the Melbourne Park? Maybe someone can help me improve my backhand. And when you're in Melbourne, how can you miss the beach? If I can manage to gather 3 mates, we can participate in a 4-a-side Beach Volleyball matches at VIC Beach. This is my choice, yours could vary. Whether you like culture & arts, heritage, nature & wildlife, sports, farms & vineyards or party zone, Melbourne won't disappoint to cater to your special needs. In fact, Melbourne offers something for everyone. 
4. The Melbourne Legacy: Melbourne Ultimatum was all about ME, Melbourne Legacy is all about the Melbournians. I want to travel the way Melbournians travel, eat the food that they cook, have coffee at the cafes they visit and party the way they party. And don't forget thy watering holes. I want to travel by the trams and get lost in the bylanes without a GPS. I want to mingle with the locals and find my way back. 
For more information on what else to do Melbourne, visit this link:
I've decided to go to Melbourne, so should you. Believe me, it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW! 
P.S. This blog's been written for Indiblogger contest, details of which can be found here.

Nokia Apptasting IndiBlogger Meet: A Punny Evening

Many nights ago, I received an email regarding the Nokia Apptasting IndiBlogger Meet. Not being the type who'd miss out on free food a bloggers' meet, I instantly registered for it. Also, it being the first Mumbai meet where "drinks" would be served, you really can't say no, right? If I didn't know better, I'd think that was trying to create anarchy; a drunk person with a blog at his disposal - can you possibly get a more potent combination? Turns out, Indiblogger & Nokia were just being gracious hosts, and were serving drinks so that everyone can have a good time. Also, there are unconfirmed reports that one Mr. Wild Phoenix who trolled the Indiblogger team for organizing the Mumbai meet on 15th August, issued a "Fatwa" against Indiblogger team, warning them not to organize any more meets on dry days. Finally the meetup was scheduled on 19th August, and to make sure the hungry people coming from as far as Thane, Ethopia & Sierra Leone (It's a country, you idiot; not Sunny Leone's sister) can get a ride back home early, the timing was adjusted such that the event would end by 10.30pm.

The day before the meet, I got a call from Vineet who wanted to confirm my attendance. Being a good friend that I am, I volunteered to reach early and help them empty the bottles with the event. When I reached the venue - Taj Lands End, it was familiar sight. Nostalgia, I was welcomed with the same "freeloader" look from the guards, that I received at the Hotel Sea Princess on 15th August, 2010. That's because, the only person who is less looked down upon than a guy who gets down from an autorickshaw and makes his way to the entrance of a 5 star is a guy who's sitting at home on a Tuesday afternoon writing a blog about an event he attended on Sunday. Erm... nevermind. You see, when you WALK in to 5-star hotel wearing jeans & tee with a backpack, and tell them you're there for a bloggers' event; the doorman doesn't let you inside the hotel fearing you'd steal flower vase from the lobby. Instead, he'll direct towards the banquet through an outside entrance. As a social experiment, go to the same hotel in a car, wearing a blazer; a gorgeous lady with the sweetest smile will welcome you, and you'll be given a seat next to a 1700 year old vase from the Ching Dynasty. Bloody clothists.

After the wardrobe discrimination, I reached the Ballroom entrance and found myself in company of Indiblogger staff. After exchanging pleasantries, we made our way in the Ballroom which was lit up in Nokia Blue. As more and more people started coming in, the conversation more-or-less revolved around one topic - "Apptasting." While the foodies thought they're in for a treat with hoards of appetizers, the tech+grammar nazis were frowning at what they thought was a typo. Some people just don't get the f(p)un part. (You saw what I did there? Did you? No? Okay.)

Soon the evening kickstarted with chants of "Hurr Hurr Hurr", which sounded more like the mating call of ring-tailed Lemur found in Madagascar. Indiblogger's Anoop (who was a bit tipsy) took the center-stage along with the Indiblogger team and gave a brilliant tribute to the city of Mumbai. After hi5's and warm hugs, everyone got seated and embraced for an evening of fun & frolic. Masterchef & Gadget Guru are two adjectives that have been used a zillion times for these learned men but there's really no better way to describe the 'Masterchef' Vikas Khanna & the 'Gadget Guru' Rajiv Makhni. One makes makhni, while the other one is himself Makhni (okay, I stole that line from Vikas). Guys who couldn't get a seat next to a girl were regretting, but once Vikas & Rajiv took the stage, those who actually managed seats next to a girl(s), were regretting even more since all the ladies couldn't get enough of giggling and drooling at the hosts. Can't blame them given the fact that one was voted the hottest chef in New York and the other, hottest anchor on Indian television.

It being a Nokia event, the duo showcased the new apps and technology developed by Nokia in recent times. Being a Nokia (Windows Phone) user, I've always been interested in the new apps being developed in Nokia's labs. Must say, with the technical expertise of Microsoft and Nokia, some the new apps that are being developed are simply spectacular.

This event was attended by 3 types of people - 1. Tech freaks 2. Foodies 3. Free-booze lovers. Knowing this, Nokia had developed apps that would interested all three cults.

One of the apps showcased was Nokia City Lens. I'm familiar with this app ever since Rajiv featured it in his show few weeks back. Since then I've been waiting for it, and from the Nokia sources I've learnt that it'll be available from 28th of this month. Finally. Using this app, you can simply point the phone in any direction and can get a list of places nearby in that direction. You can even get the address and phone number of the place. Sounds great. Now I can get the phone number of that hot chick living down the lane by simply pointing my phone towards her apartment. Heck, why stop at her, I can even get Katrina & Deepika's phone number. In which case, I'll give this app 5 stars.

As far as foodies are concerned, there's a Food and Wine Pairing app which will help them pair their food with wine. IMO this app will be particularly useful for people like me who swear by their beer & whiskey but doesn't know a thing about wine except for their color. It's apps like these that lets you sit next to a 1700 year old Chinese vase. 


When Vikas & Rajiv asked the audience about their dream apps, people went berserk with their thought process and came up with apps ranging from a politically correct app that can enable one to vote to an app that can find the perfect man; and everything in between. Yours truly suggested an app that can determine how drunk you are. Thankfully, Nokia already has an app for it called Alcohol in Blood

Obviously, I was the lab rat to test the app and since Rajiv thought I was too drunk to drive home, I was given a consolation gift - a Portable USB Charger by Nokia. 

And when you get a prize, you always have that one friend who will ask you something totally dumb and irrelevant. Looking at this charger, an Indiblogger friend (name withheld on request) asked that if he connected that USB at the top with micro-USB at the bottom, will it charge itself? No points for guessing that he's single and desperate to mingle.

I hope others who won prizes didn't went through such torturous questions. Oh yes, I said prizes. There were many, many prizes. '30 seconds of fame' - one of the quintessential sessions of every indiblogger meet was given a new twist this time around. Randomly, bloggers were called up on the stage and were required to choose a side - foodie (Vikas) or techie (Rajiv), and tell everyone why they're foodie or techie. Wittiest ones won prizes. This session was allotted 45 mins and when Indiblogger team learnt that when you give 30 seconds to 250 people, in some cultures, that takes more than 2 hours, they decided that only a handful of lucky people (randomly selected by computer, or so we think) will get a chance to showcase their witty side. One question that Vikas & Rajiv asked every blogger who came to the stage was, "What do you think connects Food & Technology?" I'm surprised no one could come up with the right answer. It's simple.
What connects Food & Technology? - Instagram.

Another contest included chopping onions in a particular fashion as displayed by Vikas. While a female won it hands down, few guy participants made the onion look like Hiroshima. As they say, 'the hand that chops the onion, wins the prize.' It's difficult not having a quiz competition when you have the quiz masters in house. Rajiv & Vikas hosted a hilarious quiz consisting of 4 teams. This was the first quiz witnessed by me (and probably, everyone) where you'd get extra points for dancing and where a True or False question, if answered incorrectly, can be passed on to the other team. At the end of tons of falling-off-the-chair laughter and a blind fold guess-the-ingredients test, an all-girls team won this tech+food quiz. They won Nokia Lumia handsets. Not bad for guesswork.

This meet also marked 5th year Anniversary (I wonder why it's not called 5th Birthday?) of Indiblogger. Everyone celebrated this occasion with a huge cake (Indibaby thought this was a football pitch made of chocolate) and a group photo.

After the cake, it was time for a stampede to get photographed with Rajiv & Vikas. And then dinner, which was delicious. Had a fun post-event interaction with both - Vikas & Rajiv; it was great to see how down-to-earth and humble both these guys are, despite their stature. 

In short, it was an evening well spent courtesy Indiblogger, Nokia, Rajiv Makhni & Vikas Khanna; despite the fact that I wasn't allowed to go near the 1700 year old vase.

Reclaimed My Soul

This post, it's been a long-time coming: 1 year, 2 months and 10 days to be precise. 1 years, 2 months and 10 days ago,  India faced Bangladesh in the first match of the tournament that went on to become the best tournament in the history of Indian Cricket. And on the same day, I returned from my honeymoon, i.e. honeymoon with my bike - Blackbird. We set off for the honeymoon on 15th Feb, exactly 1 day after the Valentine's Day.

When you're on the honeymoon with a girl, it's about the destination; but when it's your bike, it's about the journey. The highway is your bedroom and the sweet sound of the engine is the sound of love. Well, our bedroom was 500kms+ long NH8s stretching from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is not exactly a honeymoon-ey destination if you're with your wife but my word, the tarmac on NH8 is as orgasmic as it can get. Now, some of you smarty pants would ask, "But why you went to Ahmedabad? You could've take the Konkan belt and gone to Goa or explored the Sahyadris." Well, the reason I went to Ahmedabad is because that's where my childhood friend was getting married, and I could've taken flight, train or bus, but I didn't. Had I done that, I wouldn't be able to write this post, right? 

Besides, the journey that I took, it stood for everything that I am and everything that I believe in. That journey didn't just got me to Ahmedabad, it got me back my soul. I took that journey just days after leaving a boring desk job which most others thought was a "lucrative job" with "exciting prospects." No prizes for guessing why I prostituted my soul and took up that job in the first place: To earn enough money to buy myself the bike. Yes. 

In simple words: Sold my soul >> Took up the job >> Earned money for bike >> Bought the bike >> Kicked the job on it's ass >> Went out on the NH8 >> Got my soul back. 

And for those of you who're thinking, "you're lucky, your parents give you the freedom," let me bust it for you, that it took days of pestering, arguing and convincing to get OKAY from them (Dear foreign readers, in Indian family system,  we do take our parents' permissions before embarking on a journey that may end your life). That OKAY came at the 11th hour, literally; it was 11pm when I got the green signal for the trip that I would eventually embark on 7 hrs later. After 11pm I packed my bags, got 5 hours of sleep and set forth on my way without knowing if I will make it in one-piece. Because everything got finalized at the last minute, I never bothered getting my bike serviced, oil changed or pack any spares; it was just me, a full tank of fuel and the open road. 

At this point of time, I would like to show a middle finger to all the "kuch toofani karte hai" & "darr ke aage" commercials, who pretend to be too macho doing CGI stunts. Guys, try taking the open road. The one which you've never traversed before. Without any preparations what-so-ever. And do it for 500 kms. On the bike. All alone.

Getting the the go-ahead is the easy part, the difficult part is the road itself. Nothing can ever prepare you for a 500 kms solo bike trip. Absolutely nothing. As much as it's fun, it has it's fair-share of pain as well. Especially when it's your first one. The sweet pain, as the virgins would say it. But nothing can compare to the feeling you get when you come out on the top (pun unintended). 

The Open Road & YOU
Mumbai - Ahmedabad: Tied my bag behind me on the pillow seat, tanked up the bike, checked the tire pressure and I set off. As far as Mumbai is concerned, February is not exactly "wintery" but trying riding to Manor (about 80 kms. from Mumbai) at 7am and you will feel the chill in your bones as your traverse through the sea of dense fog with 100 meters visibility. It took me less than 100 kms. to realize that it's not going to be a rosy ride. 95 kms. from the Mumbai, got the tire punctured. Thankfully there were a series of garages alongside that mended it. 

Tip: If you have tubeless tires, don't waste money paying the mechanic for the puncture. On the highway they rip you off charging as much as Rs. 140-180. My local mechanic told me, that you can get a small strip of the puncture material for 300-400 and you can use it 8-10 times, get that and mend it yourself.

Five kms. down the road, heard a big "phussshshhhshhh" & flat went the rear tire, on the spot. Bike speed: 95 kmph. Apparently, the mechanic thingy had done a shoddy job. Thankfully, right in front was petrol pump with a mechanic under it's shade. The puncture had become too big for the tire to go on with another patch. Either I had to get a new tubeless tire, nearest place to get it was 100 kms. away at a Yamaha showroom in Mumbai OR to convert my tubeless to a tube-tire thingy using the old tire (with half a dozen punctured patches) that he had. Oh, did I tell you he had never worked on a Yamaha FZ before and hence it was a trial-and-error for him to get the real wheel detached? I finally got down and got my hands dirty (literally!) and helped him remove the real wheel and get it affixed as well. But not before he would keep me awaiting for 1 & half hour while he would fix up the truck tire. Given the fact that he was the only mechanic in a radius of five kms., I had little choice but to sit there and look at the cars zipping by. I was 6 hours in to the journey and I had covered a total distance of 100 kms., had 2 punctures, bike's real wheel was no longer tubeless and it now contained an old tube from Hero Honda Karizma which had been punctured about 457 times before. I spent next 6 hours covering the remaining 400 kms. 405 to be precise. In that, I took exactly 3 pre-planned stops. One stop every 100 kms. 

Tip: While taking long distance journeys, stop your bike once every 100 kms. or every 1 hours, turn off the engine and let it cool off for 5-7 mins. Meanwhile, get off the bike and get some blood circulation going in your feet and also stretch yourself before your back crescents permanently. Keep someone (parents/friend/spouse) informed about your trip and call them every time you take this mini-break and update them about your latest position, so in case something goes wrong, they know where to look for you.

Since I wanted to reach before dark, couldn't afford to take a food-break. It was 500 kms. without a grain of food. Finally reached the destination at 6.30 pm, i.e. just after sunset.

Tip: Avoid night journeys on bike. If you can't take food break, keep yourself charged up with chocolates or energy bars. You can have a chocolate bar, once every hour when you take the break. Won't take up your time and it'll keep you energized. Drink water to keep your hydrated but not so much that you'll need to take frequent loo-breaks.

If you thought, this was the end of the hardships, let me tell you, this was just a warm up. The 500 kms. return journey was yet to come and Mr. Murphy had new plans for me.

Ahmedabad - Mumbai: The return trip started with an auspicious event called stomach ache. The stomach motivated the whole body to shiver since I started my journey even before the sun woke up. Also for the first time I got a first hand experience of how you can fall asleep while driving/riding. I still don't remember how I covered the distance between Ahmedabad and Baroda. At the A'bad-Baroda Expressway & NH8 intersection, stopped by a took out a tee from the bag and covered myself in double layering. 

Tip: Make sure you wear a thick jacket or a double layering or at least a thick tee during early morning else even if it's a pleasant day, during early mornings when you're riding at 80-100 kmph, you will catch cold and/or shiver and fall sick.

Spot the Sun.
That was the first of many unscheduled stops. Through the rest of the journey my stomach decided to take more breaks than my back. Had to stop a thrice for loo-breaks, twice for soda/lemon juice and once to buy medicines.

Tip: Always carry medicines and glucose powder.

Just when it seemed that my stomach is holding up and I'm on the home stretch, about 70 kms. from Mumbai, on the ghats, in the middle of nowhere,  a 3 inch nail decides to kiss my rear tire. I had to push my bike with an upset stomach and fever,  2.5 kms. uphill before I managed to find a mechanic. 

Tip: On NH8, you'll come across many sign boards of towing services and their numbers, in case you break down. Make sure you note them down. Also, keep the number of the NH8 Emergency Services handy.

Once I mended my bike, for the very last time, I jammed the headphones in my ears and set off towards the final destination. On the playlist was '21 Guns' & 'Time Of Your Life' on loop.

"When you're at the end of the road

And you lost all sense of control

And your thoughts have taken their toll

When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul"

"So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. 
I hope you had the time of your life. "

Finally, 1009 kms, 102 fever, 3 punctures, 3 loo-stops & 1 rear wheel later I was back, back to being a free soul!

"Wind in the air"? - Cliche.
"Open road"? - Vague
"Biking god"? - Irrational.
"World is at my feet"? - Sounds like a dictator.
"I feel like God"? - Subjective.


Honestly speaking, no adjective or phrase used in any of those bike commercials or brochures can possibly describe the feeling that you get at the end of your honeymoon with your bike. The sense of freedom, rebelliousness and superiority that you feel, cannot be described by mortal words.

Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Honestly, I don't really think so anyone will read this thesis that I've written in the name of the blog. Even if no one reads it, I'm glad I managed to tell this story which I was willing to share since a long time.

Keep riding!!!