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Bhutan | Fun Facts

I really enjoyed traveling Bhutan, but there were several things that stood out, felt very out of place, or were just surprising and I thought this would make an interesting read.

Naming Things
The Bhutanese aren't very creative while naming things. Everything is Druk-something; they have the Druk Airport, Druk Beer, Druk Bank, Druk Hotel, and the list goes on. The other common name is Tashi. You'll find an equal number of Tashi-somethings there.

Escaping materialism but still expensive?
Being the Buddhist capital of the world, preaching to let go of the material world and all its enticements, ironically it's a very expensive nation to travel. The government sets the price to basic necessities - traveling from place A to B, the price of fruits and vegetables, etc, and it is far more expensive than you'd expect. For a foreigner it's even more so - a fixed rate of $200 USD applies to anyone visiting without an Indian passport.

Killing animals isn't okay, but eating…

Bhutan | Monasteries & Impermanence

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I visited a couple monasteries in Paro. The fun part was always getting to know more about these places from the monks living there. As an Indian, you are allowed to roam around where-ever you'd like; but for a foreigner, the Bhutanese government mandates every visitor to have a personal tour guide - this is probably done in an attempt to increase jobs. There are guides who know French, German and Spanish! If you're lucky, you could ask to tag along with one of these foreign visitors explaining things in English. You'll learn a lot more than just walking about on your own.
Inside one of the monasteries in Paro. I asked a tour guide how the monastery decides whom to admit, and how a monk spends his day. The procedure to get into a monastery is like you'd apply to any school - there is a short interview, and if there are vacancies, you get a free pass to daily meals, a room to stay in, and the companionship of other monks studying along with you. Throughout their life, …

Bhutan | Lango & Thimphu

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My plan for Bhutan was fairly simple from the time I planned the trip. I wanted to reach there, figure things out as I go, and spend a good 2 weeks - to just be. I wanted to spend some time in a remote village, and some time in a busy city. And I did exactly that. I did nothing more than read my books, sit outside in the sun, and walk for long hours on quiet roads, to justbe. 

I spent 7 days in Lango, a small village 7km ahead of Paro, at a homestay. Lango, just as the rest of Bhutan, is surrounded by mountains. There is only one road that passes through Lango - the one that takes you to Paro, and the entire village is built around this road. There aren't further smaller roads inside. There is a narrow river parallel to the road, a small stretch of which is adopted by a school to clean and protect from further pollution. It is probably one of the cleanest rivers I've seen in a populated locality. The frequency of cars passing by is probably one per a minute, and to my surpris…

Backpacking Varanasi

Banaras. A city confused between the history of its mythical past, present day religion and religious ceremonies, and the influence of modernization and the West. In under ten minutes you can go from feeling as if you’ve stepped into history, to suddenly a dejavu resemblance to yet-another-modern-Indian-city. From sitting in an electric rickshaw to spotting cycle rickshaws and normal autos, Olas and Ubers, pass by a Domino’s surrounded by several small vegetable stores, handicraft stores and pharmacies, see a Pantaloons or a large city mall, and in no time reach super crowded streets queued up by people in hundreds to visit yet another mandir. And if you walk a little further, you’d find yourself by the Ganga at a funeral ghat. All in 10 minutes.
The city is full of color, graffiti-ed with imagery of Shiva, life all around you is alive - busy streets and constant honking, people rushing about but stopping for a second to pray as they pass the dozens of temples on every street. If you b…

Backpacking Rishikesh

The Land of the Bholenath. You may be outside a temple, walking the busy streets across the Lakshman Jhula, or be sitting by the Ganga, you are bound to find a Sadhu, a hippie in the strangest of clothing, or a local in his everyday attire casually slipping a kash of ganja.
The story of how Rishikesh went from becoming an Above of Gods and a land of several myths and legends to the Yoga capital of the nation and a place to let your hippie side out is particularly interesting. The Beatles came in search for answers to life’s larger questions in 1968, and ended up performing transcendental meditation - I’m certain they were merely stoned, and were given the freedom to sit and ponder by the holy Ganga - but it’s here they wrote their most famous album, the White Album. There was then a second wave of foreign artists coming in search for a story of their own, and this is where the locals realized these visits could become a major tourist attraction.
There are now a dozen privately owned hos…

Skiing in Auli

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Auli is India’s ski destination. It’s at an altitude of 3300 meters at the base, and touches 3800m at the peaks, it has the right ski infrastructure - ski lifts and chair cars, and even a ropeway certified by a Swiss cable car agency, it has the perfect ski slopes - slopes where India can host International winter games, half of them man-made, the other half natural slopes, and oak forests all around preventing greatly the possibility of avalanches. It really is a perfect ski destination.
EXCEPT, THERE IS NO SNOW!
We humans have messed this world up. It isn’t snowing during the months it should, and when it does the snow contains too much water for the snow to last till Summer begins, causing muddy slush everywhere you walk. During the 1970’s, Auli used to receive an average of 10 feet snow every year. Till 2010, it reduced to about 2-3 feet of snow on the ski slopes. During this period, the Uttarakhand government set up all the ski infrastructure and made international level slopes ho…

Month Long Backpacking | India & Bhutan

It’s been a year working in the hectic life of a startup, and now I need a break. Early October, the monotony of routine and work life started to hit me. I was working far too much for far too many hours a day, and could feel the weariness and lack of productivity set in.
I needed a month off - I was certain a month without thinking of thermal imaging, Android, stabilization and cameras would help me hit the reset button. I was extremely nervous when I went up to my manager. I had practiced asking this for weeks, played out the conversation in my head a hundred times, I knew exactly how I’d build the story and the tone I’d use for each sentence, and how I’d make it sound convincing enough that I really need time off. When I finally asked him I was surprised at how casually he said “4 weeks? Sure - you didn’t need the story, you just had to say you want 4 weeks off.”
And so here it begins! I’m taking a month off to travel the North India, and Bhutan. I’m really looking forward to skiin…

I'm not an Android Dev Anymore

tl;dr: I merely use Android as a platform to write software, and that’s where the subtle difference lies.
Yes, I write code that runs on Android, but this doesn’t mean I’m an Android developer.
I’m glad this realization has struck. My first hand at writing useful code was during my freshman year simply so I could ask my father for an Android phone; I had a Windows Lumia then and it sucked. I started out with simple games and to-do applications, and gradually wrote and contributed to over a dozen applications specifically developed to run on Android and to be published on the Android Playstore - this included making Android variants of websites using their REST APIs, creating replicas of already existing iOS apps. Developing Android-ized experiences of a larger set of software comprises of the work an Android developer does.
In the past year however, I’ve shifted to reading research papers and writing POC implementations, research models on Android, merely because I know the ins and outs …

Caged in the City

Sneezing. Coughing. Always tired. Always checking the time. Rushing. Cursing. Shouting. Moving. Tracking progress. Checking for updates. Complaining. Questioning. Always checking the time. Planning. Postponing. Forgetting. Remembering. Regretting. Remembering. Noting. Never completing. Checking for updates. Discussing. Promising. Leaving. Apologizing. Always checking the time. Everything now. One button gratification. Hacky way. Wrong way. Alas, quick way. Calculating balances. Forever doubting. Checking for updates. Missing food. Delaying sleep. Missing people. Never calling. Always too busy. Promising you’ll improve. Always a tomorrow. Checking for updates. Always checking the time. Cursing the routine. Repeating.
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This isn’t everyone’s story of their work life in the city, but so far it has been mine. I do not feel I’ve liveda year worth of life in the last 12 months - this doesn’t mean I haven’t had my ups - I’ve partied hard, spent good days with friends and close ones, went on mini vacations, have played…

Android | Backporting Graphics Code to 4.1.2

I've created a framework for displaying a streamed/stored video from any source to Android display at 60fps, given it has a GPU, supports OpenGLES2.0+, and is running on Android 4.4.4+. This has been in use in several systems at Tonbo and all was great until we received a head mounted display - Recon Jet which runs on Android 4.1.2. The Android SDK equivalent version is 16. This is a post on how I backported the framework, the thought process involved in debugging why the Recon wouldn't play the stream. I'm certain this will make sense to only someone who's worked on Android graphics, GLES, and Gstreamer, but may interest someone who enjoys debugging in general.

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Receive the Recon. Run my application.

Heartbreak.

My streaming library isn't compatible here. The minimum SDK version my code runs on is SDK 19, but the Recon is at SDK 16. First thoughts, I will have to backport all my base graphics rendering calls from SDK 19 introduced android.opengl.EGL14 to the old…