Sunday, November 10, 2019

Can you correct my name please ?

At the end of last year - 2018, I joined a tech company that allowed me to reimburse all food bills as long as the bill had my name on it. For the first few days, I started gathering food bills from all around me. All my friends knew that food bill have to be in my name. 

I am still a loyal zomato user, however, for the first time, I tried using swiggy to order my daily lunches so I can claim the same from the company. Hence I went ahead and created an account on swiggy. The only mistake I made was an incorrect typing of my name. A simple misspelled letter. I thought a simple email to swiggy should rectify the misspelled name.

So on 3rd Jan 2019, I dropped an email to swiggy to rectify the spelling of my name. I received a reply on 4th Jan that due to tech issues, they are unable to fix my name. 

Greetings from Swiggy.

I am sorry for the inconvenience caused to you regarding this issue.

I would like to inform you that due to some technical issues we are not able to update the name. Hence, I would request you to please wait for sometimes that we might provide an option to change the name on your app itself.

Thanking you for your patience and understanding

I waited for a month, and followed up. And on the same day, I was told that the best minds are working to fix my the spelling of my name. I was impressed. 

Please accept our sincere apology for the inconvenience caused.

I'd like to inform you that we have highlighted this issue with the concerned team and our best minds are working on the issue to come up with a resolution as early as possible.
We are sorry that it is taking longer than expected time to help with the resolution for this query. Hence, we request you to allow us some more time that we might provide an option to change the name on your app itself.
We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Next I shot an email marking all the VP & above people in swiggy and explained my problem. 

However, still nothing happened. I was surprised that such senior folks ignored a customer. I have been startups & e-commerce & I know how important it is to communicate to the customer. Ignoring a customer is not something that I would do or even allow anyone from my team to do. 

After a long chain of emails, I was told that there is no visible timeframe for them to fix their technical glitch. 

​Thank you for reverting us.

We understand that you would want to update the profile name in your Swiggy account.

We would like to offer our deepest apologies for the trouble you had to experience with Swiggy. We understand how disappointing this must have been as this is not the service we want our valuable customer to experience. 

We regret to inform you that we are unable to update the profile name due to technical glitch. However, our concerned team is working on this issue and it will be resolved soon, but we do not have a time frame.

We appreciate your kind understand here.

I am writing my rant today almost after 11 months of the initial email. And surprisingly Swiggy does not have a solution yet. 

In hindsight, when I think what could have gone wrong? Was the database design so poor that the team was unable to fix it? Are the tables not properly normalised? Are they not using micro services? Is their micro service design flawed? Is there no ROI in profile updation feature? 

I have built a few products in my career & for me insert & update is a single micro service with an endpoint that supports multiple http verbs. 

This is a use case of why it is important to engineer the database & application in a loosely coupled fashion. And use design patterns which enables easy addition of new features & fixing of bugs.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Should I take a car loan ?

l got my first car at the age of 27. I "had" money. I got a car worth 7 lakh INR in 2007. I took a huge loan of 5 lakh INR (1 Lakh = 100,000). And paid an emi of around 10,800/- for the next 5 years. The interest itself costed me 150,000/- extra. Which means for the car which I got for 700,000, I paid 850,000. 

And a car is a depreciating asset. Which means, as the car grows old, its value decreases. And 7 years later, when I sold my car, I got mere 150,000 INR for the car. Which means I lost more than 700,000 INR in owning & maintaining the car.

Instead if I had invested those 200,000 that I paid as down payment in large cap mutual funds, I would have received at least 400,000 after 7 years. However, I do not feel sorry about the fact that I blew 700,000 INR on the car, instead I repent the fact that I paid 150,000 in interest for a depreciating asset.

The question is - do you want to spend that much on the car you love? Keeping in mind that the life of a car is around 3 years max. After which its maintenance & old age becomes visible. And no matter how expensive the car is, you cannot run if for more than 10 years. 

The answer is for you to decide. If I ask myself the same question, in hindsight, I may reply that instead of spending lavishly and getting an expensive car on EMI, I should have got a smaller car on downpayment. And created a SIP of the EMI fund which will help me getting an expensive car in future.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

My struggle with Dominos - again

I did not learn any lession from my earlier experience

Let us see how frustrating is it to get a duplicate invoice from Dominos. Question - is Dominos fudging its records to avoid Tax.
I ordered a lot of pizzas for my kids party. It was a bulk order placed on phone and the payment was by cash.
I called back the next day to get a duplicate invoice, which i can use for corporate reimbursements - my organization has this policy and I still had some budget pending. I was told that Dominos cannot generate a duplicate invoice on the next day. So, i raised a support ticket at with an email to .I was given a reference no 7897434. And i got a call where i was connected to the restaurant to get the invoice. The restaurant again denied giving a invoice. And my call was disconnected.

This was my first call.

My second call went like this:
Dominos - Would you like to place an order.
Me - I have a concern for which the ticket no is 7897434.
Dominos - Can i get your phone no ?
Dominos - Order no
Me - 33
Dominos - Sir, when was the order placed
Me - XX-XX-2018
Dominos - Sir, we can generate duplicate invoice for orders placed on that day only.
Me - But, i need the invoice.
Dominos - Sir, but we do not have it.
Me - Connect me to your manager
Dominos - Connects me to the restaurant. The manager Mr Anil from park plaza restaurant, indirapuram comes on the phone.
Anil - Sir, we can give you an invoice on an A4 sheet paper - come any time in afternoon & collect it from Mr. Gyan in the restaurant.
Me - Great.

Next day, I went to the restaurant to collect the invoice.
And i see Mr. Gyan - who again refuses to generate the invoice. I ask him to call Mr Anil, and Mr Gyan is reluctant to do so. Maybe he was thinking about his appraisal. BTW, I call up dominos at 1860-210-0000 and it was at this time the ordeal got rougher.

3rd call
Dominos - Would you like to place an order.
Me - I have a concern for which the ticket no is 7897434.
Dominos - Can i get your phone no ?
Dominos - Order no
Me - 33
Dominos - Sir, when was the order placed
Me - XX-XX-2018
Dominos - Let me put you on hold while I connect you to the restaurant
Me - I am standing at the restaurant.
Dominos - Sir, let me connect you to the restaurant. [It seems the guy has hearing or understanding problems]

While i wait for the "tune" and they connect me to the restaurant, my mind starts thinking...

Why do i have to keep repeating my complete history everytime i call. Dont they have a CRM? Where they know what is happening with their customer. What f***ed up organization runs their IT. I looked it up later and it seems they do not have a face for their technology team. I can see a Mr Anand Thakur. Maybe he should think about having a CRM
The phone behind me Rings. The lady at the phone picks up. While I am standing just behind her - she talks to me on the phone. When I tell her, that she is talking to me - she disconnects. And i am again redirected to Mr. Gyan to get my invoice. Mr Gyan again denies from generating the invoice. My brain is now on fire. A very simple task as to generating a duplicate invoice is such a hassle for Dominos. Why cant they generate duplicate invoice ?

4th call
I again call up their central help-desk no. Again play the 10 stupid questions game.

In the mean time i somehow convince the "Appraisal Man" - Mr Gyan to call up his Boss.
Reluctantly Mr Gyan calls up his manager Mr Anil - who is not available. He is enjoying his holiday without giving any instructions regarding his promise to a customer.That is how little these guys think about a customer.

Somehow the 10 questions get over and I ask for the supervisor. Now comes this super busy lady Ms Upmeet. She is also unable to connect to the Manager Mr Anil. It seems the manager Mr Anil, purposely gave me an afternoon slot for a visit to the restaurant. He would get his portion of sick pleasure to see a customer bang his head while he sleeps at home. Mr Upmeet connects to the restaurant and talks to someone about giving me the invoice and then abruptly disconnects.

5th call
Thanks to jio, we now have unlimited talk time at very cheap rates.
Mr Gyan is conveniently ignoring me.
As soon as the call is picked up - i ask for Ms Upmeet. But Ms Upmeet  [I will call her Ms Busy] has moved into a meeting.
I again play the 10 stupid questions game - [ Mr Anand Thakur - I will help you to get a CRM for free - i think ]
Just then the shift manager Mr Pankaj arrives. He somehow convinces Mr Gyan [ who is still ignoring me ]  to copy paste the order on an A4 sheet and give me a hand made invoice.
The game of 10 questions is now over and the call is again disconnected.

6th call
I again thank Jio and make my 6th call.
Mr pankaj [My saviour] has finally been able to create a hand made invoice with his sign and company stamp. I think this should work.
The call is again picked up by someone - and I ask for Ms Busy.
Me - I want to talk to Ms Busy
Dominos  - Sir, can i know your concern.
Me - This is my 6th call - I have played your game 6 times now. I cannot play anymore. I was talking to Ms Busy, and the call got disconnected.
Dominos - Sir, let me check with Ms Busy.
Me - okay
Dominos - Sir, Ms Busy has moved into a meeting and will not be able to attend the call.
I know Madam Umeet that you saw a frustrated customer and ran into a meeting to avoid talking to the customer.
Dominos,if you have such managers who are either unavailable or hiding from customers, your organization life span is very short.
Dominos - Sir, I will arrange a callback from Ms Busy.
Me - I know that I will not be getting the call. Ms Busy has fled the battle of words.
I thank Mr Pankaj for the handmade invoice and return.

All this for generating a duplicate invoice.
My afterthought is that If I order online, my invoice is emailed, smsed to me - since I am making the payment online. The question here is whether Dominos stops generating invoice for cash orders - that will help them avoid tax on cash transactios.
Food for thought for all of us who still make cash transactions.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Toastmaster P10 : Be happy

Do you ever wonder why we exist? What is the purpose of life? What would be my contribution to the big picture? Or in fact, what is the big picture? There are many contradictory views on this subject - mostly religious and some scientific.

Some people say that their goal in life is to be successful. But do they know the definition of success? Is it money, family, position or simply peace? If you ask them they would be unsure and their definition of success will keep on changing as they move ahead in life.

The question is how do you figure out what you want in life? There is a well known model known as the PERMA model founded by a psychologist Martin Seligman. This model states that there are 5 attributes that human beings require to find personal happiness. The first element of the model is positive feeling - which is felt when the basic needs of life are met - like food, drink and sleep. The second element is engagement - which is about being involved in activities you like with passion and commitment. The third element is relations - which is how closely are you related with people around you. The fourth element is meaning - which is defined as what you value in life and how you contribute to improve what you value. And the last element is achievement - which is a sense of success that you get out of challenging yourself repeatedly and improving yourself.

Whenever you feel lost or demotivated, step back and have a look at these 5 parameters in relation with your life. This will help you figure out what is missing and what you can improve upon. When i evaluated my PERMA model, i figured out that I should be engaged in travelling and challenge myself to visiting remote natural wonders.

I have my own perception regarding the purpose of life. For me, life is a journey. Like in any trip, there should be a lot of planning done for life. And it is important to figure out what your values in life are. It is like figuring out the places you want to see in a trip. Most of my trips do not have a specific destination. My most memorable trip was the trip to leh. If you search for images of leh, you will see that leh is actually a small town in the mountains. The landscape is mostly like a desert - barren with lack of vegetation.

When I was planning the trip to leh, my better half told me to go via air. But I planned it as a road trip. We travelled through roads with huge walls of ice on both sides. I am still curious as to how the roads were dug out of so much ice. We saw a huge plateau called moore plains which is 40 km long and wide flat plain with mountains on all sides at the altitude of 15400 feet. We got stuck at the highest motorable road in the world and spent the night with a bottle of old monk. We saw the huge pangong lake which is surrounded by mountains and has crystal clear water at the height of 14300 feet. On our way back, we spent a scary night in kargil and stayed in a beautiful houseboat at kashmir. It still is one of the best trips. We saw beauty, had adventure, experienced new food and culture, met interesting people and completed a must do trip.

The point to note here is that the trip did not have any destination. Though we say that we went to leh, but ideally we saw a lot many places in addition to leh. And I would like to say that out of all the places we saw, leh was the least interesting of all.

It is the journey and not the destination that matters. And this line is applied to all our lives. We have a journey of 80-100 years from the time we are born. There is nothing in the destination of life. In fact we all know the destination. So, evaluate your PERMA model and figure out what gives you happiness. It can be having more friends or photography or travelling or maybe even getting married. Take your time while you are on the journey of life. Stop at all interesting spots to click pics. Live each moment. Aim for your aspirations. Those are the challenges in the game of life, that keep the game interesting.

Strive to make memories that make you happy and peaceful. Remember, life is a journey and not a destination. And you are here to enjoy the journey. Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Toastmaster P9 : Hair today gone tomorrow

Opening (1M)

    Yes, I am going to talk about hair loss and the alternatives that we to-be-bald people have. Good morning fellow toastmasters and guests. Today I am going to derive the best hairstyle for most of us.

Body (4M)

    Let me tell you my story. How i came to have this hairstyle.

    Once upon a time, that was me with hair.

Not long ago, i realized that the number of hairs on my head is not as many as i would want it to be. As the number of days increased in my age, the number of hairs decreased on my head. And on a particular day, not long ago, i saw the deadly bald patch on the top of my head. In order to hide the patch, i grew my hair longer, but the patch would peek from under the long hair and it made me look older than I am.

I did a lot of research to regrow my hair. The most effective medicine that is available in the market is Minoxidil which has a success rate of around 60%. But it has some unwanted side effects. Another popular option is hair transplant. I have a friend who went through hair transplant, and according to him it is a pain to maintain. Each haircut costs him more than a 1000 Rs.

Why do we keep long hair? So that we can have some hair style. Do you know that style is defined as something distinctively unique to a person. Something that makes you stand out. A bald person obviously stands out from a crowd of people with hair. Being bald is a bold style to have.

So, after a lot of thinking, i went bald.

Do you think that this looks sexy ? Yes, it does. But believe me when i say, it is not practical. The first thing that i realized on becoming bald is that my scalp is exposed to sunlight, dust, heat and cold. Specially cold. Imagine sitting in a meeting, with normal AC. While everyone else is comfortable, I was feeling cold on the top of my head as i did not have any protection. That was the time when I concluded that hair is important. But I should be able to decide the density in a fashion such that my bald patch is hidden in plain sight.

Can you see my bald patch in this? And it is somewhat close to the bald sexy photo we saw earlier.

Conclusion (1M)
There are a lot of benefits of short hair. I can drive with my car windows down without resulting in this.

I also dont need excessive amount of shampoo and conditioner. In fact, even soap works well.

With short hair, i dont feel hot headed even in this weather. There is enough ventilation to cool down my head.

Even women look good in short hair. You can say bye-bye to bad hair days.

As it is said, everything that has a beginning has an end. 
Most of us begin as bald babies and so, we are bound to lose our hair as we age. 
And we should embrace the maturity that the look with short hair gives us.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Toastmaster P8 speech : Are we machines ?

Opening :

Do we believe we are human beings? Yes we do. Because we are able to identify and differentiate between different faces, voice tones and expressions. And most importantly we are have feelings and we are self aware. Let us see what a machine is capable of ?

Body :
We can see 2 numbers here. If you put these numbers in a machine - say a calculator or a computer, it will be able to identify the first number as 6 and the 2nd number as 9. For a machine these numbers are different and so, if you ask the machine whether 6 is equal to 9, it will give a false answer.

Did you notice something here ? Yes, the fonts of both numbers are different. But, irrespective of the font, a machine will be able to differentiate between the 2 numbers.

What do we have here? The left image is? And the right image is?

What will happen when i put these two images in a computer? Will it be able to idenfity the left image as a woman and the right image as a man? Probably No. That is because the computer does not have the inbuilt logic to differentiate between these faces. How do we as human beings identify the faces as different? Shape of the nose. Eyebrows. Lips. Forehead. Hair style. What if the machine can be taught to differentiate between these two images using these data points.

Lets take a step back. Have you heard of machine learning ? For those who do not know, machine learning is a concept where we provide sample data to train a machine. Once the machine is trained, it identifies data points to differentiate between input data.

This shows a segregation of gender based on height and weight.

So, if we train a machine by providing a large number of faces both of men and women, it will eventually have data points which we unconsciously process. And later if we feed it a face, it should be able to tell us whether it is the face of a man or a woman.

The question here is how does the human brain differentiate between the faces ?

Human brain is built up of neurons or brain cells. Each neuron is connected to upto 10,000 other neurons via synapses. When we are born, do we not know the difference between the face of man or woman? No. But, we come across these faces and we are told repeatedly which is the face of a man and which is the face of a woman. The neurons and synapses store these data points training our brain to differentiate between man and woman faces.

But, then you would ask, what about emotions and feelings? Are these also trained into our brain? Do you know how powerful our brain is ? As per some article on the internet, it would take approximately 83000 super computers to work for 40 minutes to simulate what human brain can simulate in 1 second. And imagine that if I am 30 years old, my brain has been training, learning and accumulating data points for 30 years.

Conclusion :

Does it mean that with a lot of processing power and a lot of training, computers should be able to simulate feelings and emotions like human beings. As per some articles on the internet, by 2045, the intelligence of computer will exceed the intelligence of a human being. Then maybe machines will have feelings and emotions. Are we still sure that we are not advanced  machines ?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Toastmaster P7 speech : How much is enough ?

    Jack daniels, black label, double black, royal stag, blenders pride, baccardi, bira, sula. Most of us have heard these brands. And some of us have memories associated with them. Some good and some bad. Some which we keep on trying to deny.

    Good morning toastmasters and fellow guests, today I am not going to talk about the bad effects of alcohol. I am not going to tell you that alcohol may destroy your liver. You all know the ill effects of alcohol. What I am going to talk about is how to control your drinks.


    As per wikipedia, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.03% to 0.06% is enough to get you happy. Whereas a blood alcohol content of 0.2% to 0.3% can lead to nausea and blackout. The permissible legal limit in india for driving is 0.03% which is around 1 drink for someone weighing 73 Kg. And it would take 10 drinks for him to black out.

    I have blacked out multiple times during office parties. I still thank my friends who dropped me home during those difficult times. And I have paid my dues by dropping them home during their difficult times. I still recall a very rare moment when I was drunk and so was my friend. Only difference was that I was standing and he was lying on the footpath. While I was trying to figure out ways to get him home, a sardarji came and said "It is better to not have friends like these". Mind works in miraculous ways when you are drunk. That got me thinking - how much is enough to keep me tipsy and happy and still get me home.
    Keeping wikipedia aside, it is important to know your limit. How many drinks can you take before you black out. As some of us know, limits change with age and location. Still, it is important to have a rough idea. Now divide that limit by half. This is how how much is enough for you at an office party. 2/3rd of that limit is enough for you when you are drinking at a friend's place. Because, you know that if you are not dropped home, you can crash at his place. But, if you are at home, you can drink way past that limit.

    Another important tip is to time your drinks. First few drinks are generally fast because you are in a hurry to get high. But later drinks should be spaced out at increasing intervals. If the mathematics turns to be too complex, a simple rule of thumb is to spend 30 minutes or more per drink.

    As per National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - moderate consumption of alcohol is good for health. Moderate consumption means single drink for women and upto 2 drinks for men per day is said to decrease the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

    The statistics that we looked at say that 1-2 drinks every day is enough to keep us happy and improve our health. How much do you think is enough is for you to decide. After all, it is your liver and your health. But most important is to avoid those memories which you cannot remember. Drink responsibly, don’t spill it and reach your home on your own two feet.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Toastmaster P6 Speech : Google Aunty

Opening : 1M  
    Most of us use google maps to help us to find directions to our destination.  
    [[Demo of google voice assistant : directions to home]]
    Google maps works. But have you ever been (assert) misrouted by google maps. Can you recall that experience ?

Body : 4M
    I have been misled few times. One incident, I remember vividly that reconfirmed one of the truths about travelling. We were three families going to landsdowne and we had hired a tempo traveller for the journey. My family, the family of a very polite sardarji and another family of a very close friend who is generally recognized by his frog eyes.

    The tempo traveller picked us up at around lunch time. I asked the driver "i hope you know the way". The driver gave me a blank look and said “No Sir”. We consult google aunty for the route. (robot voice) It will take 6 hours and 47 minutes to reach your destination.

    By sundown, the kids were out of patience. "Papa, uncle, when will we reach the mountains?". And sardarji was like "Beta, we are about to reach. Count to 100". And then we reached (assert) that fork in the road. This is a very important fork. The driver says "Sir, we should take the left road. It is the highway". But google aunty said "Use the right lane to slide right". And since we trusted google aunty, we took right. In some time, we were almost inside a village. My friend's eyes have become even more froggy. Google aunty says "In 100 meters take left". We took the left and in 1 kilometer, we are actually inside a village. It is very dark outside and the road kept getting narrower and narrower. Suddenly, we see a villager, and we stop near him. We ask him the way to landsdown and he looks at us with his sleepy eyes and says "Sir, i dont know". The driver wanted to take a u turn, but the road was so narrow that it was not possible.

    And then we were no more on proper road. There were potholes everywhere. And we were in a farm with tall grass on both sides. By this time our wives were giving us the "eye". All of us are peeking out of the windows, nervous and sweating. And suddenly there was a big bump and we are on the main highway. There was a police barricate with police men standing. They stop us. "Where are you going?" the inspector goes. We push forward our polite sardarji who says "Sir, we are going to landsdowns with family. And we got lost." The inspector gives us directions and we drive on.

Conclusion : 1M
    And then i realised that during the whole time, while we were lost, the kids were very quiet. No one was counting to 100. No one was nagging us. They were sitting relaxed. Staring outside. Enjoying the night, the stars, the farms, the village houses. They were the ones enjoying the drive. It made me realize that "It is the journey and not the destination that matters".

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Toastmaster P5 speech : Fraudalert

Opening : 1M

    Have you ever had your wallet stolen ? Where ?

    I had my wallet stolen was around 4-5 years back, when I was in the metro heading to the railway station. I still remember that I felt the hand slip into my pocket and take out my wallet in the crowded metro and when I looked around, there were a lot of people and I could not figure out who took my wallet.

    Fellow toastmasters, today, I will tell you how to save yourself from fraud.

Body : 4M

    That day, when my wallet was stolen, I had everything in my wallet - id, all my money, credit and debit cards and even my metro card. And that made me realize that you should never keep all your eggs in the same basket. It is better to have multiple baskets. So, since that day, my wallet only has a small amount. Bank cards and id cards go into my backpack. I was so paranoid after that incident, that for some time, I had started keeping some money in my socks as well.

    Another type of fraud that is very rampant now is the paytm fraud. You get a call from an unknown number and the call would go like this.

    Caller : hello beta, this is sharmaji.

    You : (thinking) which sharma ji? Why is he calling from an unknown number?

    You : (Aloud) yes sharmaji, why are you calling from unknown number ?

    Caller : Beta, I am in mathura. My wallet and phone has been stolen, and i need money urgently. I am calling from the mobile of my hotel owner where I am staying. I have to make some payment here. Can you paytm me money on this number?

    Now, you are in doubt, whether you should paytm money or not? This can be a genuine case or can be a fraud. The best way to handle this is to call up the sharmaji that you know and verify.

    Have anyone of you ever fallen for credit card or debit card fraud by sharing your otp ? I was almost duped. Around an year back, I got a call from an unknown number asking me about an insurance policy for which i had recently paid the premium. I was told that there was some problem with the payment and it is not reflecting properly. And to verify the same, I would need to share the credit card no through which I had made the payment. So, I shared the credit card no. Next, they asked me to share the OTP. That got me thinking. Why would they need the OTP to verify. So, I told them that I have not received the OTP yet and asked them to call me back in 5 minutes. In those 5 minutes, I called up the insurance company and verified whether the call was from them or not. The learning is that never share your OTP or your PIN with anyone - no matter what.


Conclusion : 1M

    Recently, there has been a drive to link your adhaar card with almost everything - your bank account, your credit cards, mobile no. The question that you have to ask yourself is how secure is the adhaar system. Can someone who has your adhaar number extract all the details linked to it ? What happens when an unknown person has all your information ? I will leave you now with this thought. Thanks

Monday, March 19, 2018

Toastmaster P4 Speech : Ijen Crater

Opening : 1M

    Have you ever smelled burnt sulphur ? It has this sharp choking smell that hits your nose and scratches your throat and makes you want to stop breathing. Imagine breathing that smell for a long time. Dear toastmasters, I visited a volcanic sulphur mine at ijen crater during my trip to indonesia. It was a trek which I will never forget.

Body : 4M

    We got up at 12 in the night to start our drive to the base of the volcanic crater. It was a steep drive and I could feel my ears popping due to loss of air pressure. The temperature dropped drastically and it was very cold by 1pm, when we reached the base. We had a round of hot tea and started to climb the 4 km long route at 2 am. It was a very steep climb and we were soon out of breath. We were huffing and puffing like the wolf in the 3 pigs story. There were no lights and we could see only upto 2-3 steps before us.

    After climbing for almost 2 hours, suddenly I could smell the sharp acidic smell of sulphur. On looking around, i could see that I was at the peak and the path now led down into the mountain that we were climbing. The path was made of  steps cut into the mountain and was broken. And in spite of the darkness, I could see the sharp drop to my right. It was scary and smelly. My throat was raw and scratchy. I had a gas mask, but putting it on the face made me feel suffocated and clouded my spectacles.

    After climbing down, we reached the base of the crater. Where we saw the main attraction. We could see electric blue fire coming out of the mine at certain places. We were told that it happens due to sulphur gas catching fire at high temperatures. I tried a lot, but could not get a clear photo of the fire.

    We climbed back the scary path holding and helping each other. All this time, we could see miners going to and fro carrying heavy buckets full of sulphur. We trekked further on the rim of the crater and came to the sunrise point. As the sun came up, I saw the beauty of the crater. I was at the edge of the crater with the sun in front of me and the beautiful sulphur lake behind me. I stood staring at the lake, mesmerised by the view.  The lake is in the form of a huge circle 1 km wide. I could see the complete lake inside the crater. The lake is turquoise in colour. Some part of the lake was covered in yellow smoke of burning sulphur and another small part was covered in floating white fog. As the sun rose, the fog started clearing and we could see thick yellow smoke coming out of the mine.

Conclusion : 1M

    The lake is said to be very toxic. We also saw the path we took to visit the mine. It was then we realized why we were taken in the dark. The way was so twisted and dangerous, that we would not have dared to climbed down to the mine, if we had seen the complete picture. Overall the view was worth the effort. It is rightly said that the best view comes after the hardest climb.