My Yatra: Bus Ride to Haridawar

June 15 11:00 pm, Delhi, India
After many weeks of talking about taking a trip, Deepak and I finally made it happen though there were times we felt like it wasn’t going to happen with all the working going on in the Peope Portal. But finally, on Friday night, after a quick working dinner we rushed out of the Sapient Office hoped into a taxi and made it to the Bus Station (ISBT) in Delhi around 11pm. The bus station was old, dirty, dark and rather smelly, located in Old Delhi. We walked through what seemed like abandoned paths to finally arrive at a Tour Guide Station to buy our Bus Tickets.buyingbusticket.JPG

Deepak bought the tickets and we were lead, tho more like rushed to the bus. We seemed to walk through what seemed like a maze of streets and around corners in the dark night. Finally we arrived at the bus. My walk to the bus that night is summed up by this photo.


I asked Deepak to go for the Bus with AC (a Luxury Bus) but on boarding I realized the standard of luxury was a bit different. Deepak also grumbled about being ripped off by the ticket guy, and remarked that he had to regain his “Indian” and watch out for the husselers. Sorry no picture of the swindler… but here’s one of the bus he overcharged us for.

Settling into the old seat, I realized I was in for a rough ride. My prediction was confirmed when the rain that leaked through the roof in the middle of the night started dripping on top of me. Deepak was amused at my foreign discomfort but hey I know he wasn’t sleeping on clouds either! Sleeping was even more of a challenge I realized. Even after the roof leaked problem was solved, the non-stop hooking, rattling of passing trucks and the loud rumble of the engine would persist throughout the night. It was quite an experience and finally was over with our arrival in the Holy Hindu city of Haridawar.


My Yatra: Ganga Dip and Pooja

June 16th 7:00 am, Haridawar, India
Arriving tired and groggy from the long 7 hour bus ride, we walked through the packed ancient streets of Haridawar. Haridwar, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, represents the point where the Ganga reaches the plains. Haridwar is an ancient pilgrimage site, held in reverence for centuries. The Chinese pilgrim Hyuen Tsang who visited India in the first millennium CE, describes Haridwar as Mayura, on the eastern banks of the Ganges. Several temples and ashrams dot this town and a visit to Haridwar is like stepping into a totally different world. Here’s a few photos as we walked through the streets, see if you can spot any monkies along the way.


Hardiwar contains many Dhramshala’s a sort of free hostel for Hindus who are pilgrimaging to the holy Ganga. The Ramshala’s look really ancient as I think many are. Deepak vowed he would stay in one next time…


As we continued walking through the crowded streets, it eventually opened up to a sort of ancient times square. The area was packed as ever with Riskshaws, people, blarring hindi music and smells of incense. I wish I could take more pictures of the colorful people that we passed. I quickly came to a realization that I did not get in Delhi of sense strong religious passion and variety that was Hinduism. The picture below is this center area of Haridawar which leads to the Ganga. That’s Deepak in the yellow and white stripes.

We took a quick left across the square towards the Ganga River, the most holy river in India. As we walked closer the crowds became even denser and I could sense the energy that was up ahead at the Ghats (steps) on the Ganga.


The Ghats were more crowded than any American Red-Sox game and far more colorful and crazy than any group of sports fans. The Ganga flows through this area of Haridawar and is split into a few channels. The flow of the river is quite strong and there are some that are daring enough to swim it.




Of course no trip to the Ganga would be complete without a dip and a Pooja. So we took off our shoes and pushed our way through the crowded steps towards an opening in the river. Tired but excited to see what it was like, I took off my shirt and walked into the cold river. It was as cold but not nearly as the beaches in New England! The people around me starred, as I was the only non-indian dude there.


Deepak shortly joined in, though he was really shocked by the cold water. Here’s an action shot of his expression!



The reason for the dip is that every dip washes away all your sins. People who live close by will do dip daily and perform the Pooja, which a the hindu prayer ritual and a blessing to the Ganga river. Deepak advised me to do a Pooja to ensure a good marriage so seeing as when in Hardiawar, do as the hindus…



After completing the, the local Pundit (preist, blessed me and charged me 100 Rupees for the blessing of myself and Ashley. He asked Deepak to charge me for each of my family members as well but Deepak restrained him from over blessing. 🙂



Finally, refreshed and with Ganga water in my belly, yes- the holy Ganga water we had a India breakfast and was on our way to Rishikesh, about 30 Km from Hardiawar. Another Holy city on the Ganga. Here’s another of the God Shiva who overlooks the Ganga river and ghats in Haridawar. The statue is quite big almost 8-10 stories in height.


My Yatra: Rishikesh

June 16th 2:00pm, Rishikesh
Deepak and I hoped on a auto Rickshaw and made our way to the city of Rishikesh. The sacred river Ganga (anglicized to Ganges) flows through Rishikesh. In fact, it is here that the river leaves the Shivalik mountains Himalayas, and flows out into the plains of northern India. Several temples, ancient as well as new, can be found along the banks of the river in Rishikesh. The city attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year, from within India, as well as from other countries. Rishikesh, sometimes nicknamed “the world-capital of Yoga”, has several yoga centres that also attract tourists, including the Iyengar Yoga Center called Patanjala Yoga Center. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of salvation, or moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. It is also becoming a hot spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and abroad, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges.


The city of Rishikesh is a series of small to medium side roads which rolls up and down the banks of the Ganga River. Much more heavily commercialized than Haridawar, it was very common to see foreigners and large indian families who were vacationing more than performing a holy pilgramge. It was also immediately obvious that Yoga was a embedded into every hotel’s attraction. Here’s Deepak and I posing the next morning in front of the hotel. Many people don’t pause to consider people are taking photos as exemplified by these two women who seem like they were with us. LOL


As we were too tired for whitewater and also the season was not appropriate, Deepak wanted to show me two main attractions, the two swaying Jhula (bridge) one called Lakshman Jhula and the other Ram Jhula, named after the Hindu gods. The bridges are very narrow and are suspesion bridges. It was quite an experience to walk across the narrow swaying bridges with people shoulder to shoulder. Of course in typical Indian style, motorcycles and carts also darted through. Incredibly no one seemed to get bumped or complain. A state of harmonious chaos!


Walking across the banks, I noticed a Yoga Center right on the edge of one of the hills. I snapped this photo for Ashley as I bet she would LOVE to wake up in the morning and do some Yoga with a view like that! (Notice the glass house two third from the top right of the photo.


The opposite bank of the Ganga in Rishikesh from our hotel contained many more Ashrams (templates) as well as communities of locals. There were of course many very religious dressed people, each looking like the typical image of a shaman. I was able to snap a photo of a group of three below.


Across the river, Deepak and I took a boat ride on the Ganga. You would think it would be a relaxing and peaceful ride down the river however, it was a speed boat. Upon paying 60 rupees, the boat driver quickly jumped in with us, started the engine and as it in hot pursuit of something tore down the river, under the Jhula we crossed over, made a hard right and immediately went straight back to the river bank. The ride was about 5 minutes max. Deepak and I both had a nice chuckle on that one.


Across the Lakshman Jhula (coincidentally, Laksham, is the name of the concierge at the Sterling Guest House where I stay) we walked through the narrow roads stopping by to see the various river Ashrams. I have so many more photos than these but once I get my photo gallery up, I will have share them all there.


We left Rishikesh around noontime on Sunday. It was a great to get out of Gurgaon and breath some fresh mountain air and get some sun. The weather at Rishikesh was great, almost Bay Area quality. Here’s some random pictures that I took while we were at Rishikesh.


These guys loved my tattoo and and snapped a picture of their as well. While Tattoos are common they are not very big or extravagant in India. Many tattoo artists are street vendors. The most common Tattoo in India is the Aum. Many people will tattoo this in the back of their hand. Aum (also Om) is a mystical or sacred syllable in the Dharmic religions. It is placed at the beginning of most Hindu texts as a sacred exclamation to be uttered at the beginning and end of a reading of the Vedas or previously to any prayer or mantra. aum_symbol.jpgThe Mandukya Upanishad is entirely devoted to the explanation of the syllable. The syllable Aum is first described as all-encompassing mystical entity in the Upanishads. Today, in all Hindu art and all over India and Nepal, ‘Aum’ can be seen virtually everywhere, a standard sign[citation needed] for Hinduism and its philosophy and mythology.

The tattoos of the Aum are never very deep and most times very faded and poorly drawn. Skilled tattoo artists are high demand in India so those in US who are struggling with the competition should definitely make it out to Rishikesh or anywhere else in India and set up shop.

Here’s a photos of soom local boys sitting on the edge of the hilly bank. These kids all seem to wear cloths that never get washed and rarely do they even walk through the streets with shoes! Talk about Hawaiian feet Ash!


Seeing the deep roots of Yoga and meditation, I decided to go for a massage, the first one I’ve ever had in my life. For the cost of 600 Rs, or just under $15 I got an hour full body massage. The old man on the right was the Guru, who has done quite well for himself, even setting up a school in Guang Zho, China. The guy the right is his student and the local Yoga Instructor who gave me the massage. The experience was more painful, so I am still confused why people love it so much. Perhaps it’s an aqcuired taste or I just wasn’t stressed out enough by People Portal to feel the benfits! 😉

We left Rishikesh in early afternoon, this time in our own private cab. No leaks this time but of course the driving was crazy. People just don’t have any patience and will pass at the slightest slow down of the car ahead. The turtle paced auto Rickshaws of course contribute to this problem. There was at least several times where oncoming traffic would vlaze past us just inches away. Our driver was pretty skilled and each time swerved just in time. As Deepak says, “This is India Man!”

On the way back to Delhi, we stopped by a well known restaurant called the Cheetal Grand. Deepak tells me it is owned by the powerful local Mafia. The food was good and there was a very pretty if not small garden in the back. It was a nice break for the drive home and I snapped a few photos.


Back to India and the People Portal Team

Well after a great two weeks back home, I returned to India on May 22nd.  It’s been a long one and a half week since then, but even while in the US, the my hours were really strange, from 3 am to 5pm…  It was long but also really interesting as I realized how much I could get done if I had to do was not sleep, hehehe.  My biological clock is also no longer existant so I can pretty much sleep any hour I wish and still get the rest I need.
Upon arrival to India, the folks at the sterling guest house were very nice and greeted me warmly.  I got my old room back and posted a picture here below.


Since I haven’t talked much about the People Portal team, here are some postings of the last week and a half of them and the design sessions we went through all last week.

This is the org chart of our team.


This is them all staring intently at the white board and maybe pretending to listen…just kidding the team is great.


We started this week with a whole bunch of functional and technical design sessions.  This involved our developers  white board and annotating wireframes to document and determine the technical approach to build the designs produced by crazy Chad.  Here’s a screen shot of one of those wireframes after we got done with it.