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OFFICE COOL – The Wildcraft office in Bangalore mirror

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Let the ideas flow – this is how the Bangalore Mirror published the story about the Wildcraft office space. The story highlights that for creative minds to work together, there is need for a high energy working environment for free flow of ideas. Read the full article below!

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Wildcraft office space – Image credits: Bangalore Mirror
When creative minds work together, a high energy space is the first thing on the agenda

Inspired by their love for the outdoors, and openness when it comes to work culture, the Wildcraft office was designed with one philosophy in mind -free flow of thoughts, and collaboration.“The space is designed to keep conversations and energies flowing. We have used vivid greens, large windows, focus spots for informal conversations, and glass-fronted meeting rooms. There are no dividing panels between work stations, and teams sit next to each other and work. We felt it was essential that the design of our work space reflected our work culture,“ says Surabhi Talwar, marketing communications head, Wildcraft.

A flat structure is key, and the organisation has stayed true to that.

The upper management has glass walled cabins, and therefore they’re all always part of the action. “The senior members’ offices spaces are limited in number. Even though they have their own space, the cabins are glass fronted giving them a more approachable feel. There are many break-out zones on each floor -sofas or cushioned chairs seating that accommodate about three to four people. The idea is to enable `chatter’. We believe in talking more than emailing, a culture difficult to find in today’s digital obsessed age,“ adds Talwar.

Creativity is defined differently across organisations, and at Wildcraft it’s defined as `a solution that can be turned into reality’. There are a few teams (designers mainly) who invent products, but the rest of them find creativity in their approach to everyday that s where a business solutions. And that’s cheerful work environment comes handy; it helps them to come up with out-of-the-box ideas. After all, efficiency is defined not only by how fast things move, but by how effectively they are done. Designed by Praxis, the office structure brings nature quite close to brick and mortar because at Wildcraft it’s important to remember that the outdoors is home to everyone who works there. Plus a touch of green always makes you feel more at peace.

Taking the concept of `inspiration from nature’ forward, the colours around the office earthy, focusing more on brown, red, green, and yellow. Textures have been added in the form of wooden cabinets and countertops, and splashes of colour come in the form of carpets in some of the rooms. Some of the key features in the office space are the break-out zones and meeting areas which are very popular among employees. The casual environment allows them to conduct business without the feeling of being enclosed in a large conference hall, and the break-out area is done up with pebbles and plants.

One of the most popular hangout spots at the office is the terrace, where the employees gather for lunch among other things. Apart from the rows of tables for people to sit and eat together, hanging lights set off against a row of greenery at one end of the terrace adds a lovely quaint touch to the whole space. It’s also where people get together to celebrate birthdays, and other special occasions. They also have a small garden patch, just in case someone needs a `thinking spot’.

This article appeared originally in Bangalore Mirror, Jun 14 2016.

The Art of the Start

Anu Vaidyanathan

‘Twas an unremarkable Thursday. As Thursdays went, I caught myself oscillating between nonchalance and self-loathing in pondering my run. I was mostly angry about not caring to start my run at a certain time. After what has been a slow-ish work week, I felt outwardly relaxed but inwardly scattered when it came to the carpe diem equation, which I could paste on my forehead, in reverse, to remind myself every time I looked into a mirror. Which could be more often, according to most. Considering that an unknown street vendor once jumped out of one of the many human matchbox-sized stalls in T-Nagar, on a busy Dussera shopping day, offering me a free comb I had come to realize that my bad hair days were not entirely idiomatic. Just as I grabbed my keys, I realized my iPod had no power. Not to be dragged down by a simple matter of Physics, I quickly ran into my home office to charge my blue space-device. Clearly, the Mac that was connected to power was a newer one and iTunes ended up erasing all my music, placing only three new podcasts in my library. Having a vivid imagination, catching myself swiveling to Katrina Kaif’s famous numbers in Dhoom-3 was part of my run routine, which made me dig up my old laptop, faithfully stored in a graveyard of electronics, and charge it, in the hope of charging the iPod, transferring all my songs back on there as well.

As I put on my shoes, thirty minutes later, I realized my orthotics were in my gym-bag, after a forgettable weekend trying to avoid the rain. As I dug out the swim gear, some very smelly half-eaten bars promptly stuck all over my orthotics and then some, I realized an hour would have passed before I left the house, at this rate. I realized that I had been overly optimistic once I saw my phone light up with a busy-and-important-client’s caller ID. Deadlines, while the sworn enemy of any good run also pay bills so, two hours later I found myself on the road, iPod charged, orthotics washed and seriously wondering if running on a Thursday was at all a good idea. I am too old for posters but too young for a bad memory – I rake out Uta Pippig from the corners of my brain, who famously said “Take The Magic Step is the first step of the journey, the first step out the door”, if every day be a journey then mine did start, albeit several hours later than the already delayed estimate. For the uninformed, Pippig is credited with being the first woman to win the Boston Marathon three times in a row, running out of very tough conditions in divided Germany. I think of a fitting rejoinder in an imaginary conversation with Ms. Pippig, the fated Kural 664 which translates loosely to “Easier said than done..”,  but I realized she probably wouldn’t understand Tamizh anyway.

I laced up my shoes and stepped out, dreading the outcome. In the first five minutes, I could think of a number of reasons to stop. In the next ten, I started to obsess over more looming deadlines and even more busy-and-important™ clients. In the following twenty, I realized how wonderful it was to breathe easy when running outside in the sunshine, albeit one which took a while to find, and then appreciate. In the following thirty, I completely stopped thinking, which was really the unstated goal of every run. After my run, I thought about the many starts I had been a part of. Some poetic, some not. Some adventurous, others disastrous. Some that led to unbelievable finishes, others that blew up well before the finish-line. Consistently however, starting felt good. What felt even better was knowing that finish or no finish, the art of the start permeated my consciousness at many different levels, on many different occasions. Starting my first three-kilometer run in the dead of a mid-western winter. Starting a bike ride with a group, as an adult. Starting a swim in an unheated pool in Bangalore winters. Starting a business. Starting a training block for a race. Starting a new writing adventure. Starting every single workout. Starting to realize that running is a poor-man’s sport. Being a member of the proletariat often translates to base habits, running being one of these habits that I have grown to love and cultivate as a part of my identity. Running does not require fancy memberships, crazy costumes (although these seem obligatory of late at major city marathons) or diabolic diets. In fact, I have often seen it as an antidote to an indulgent life-style and appetite.

Almost a decade ago, I pondered out loud what five reasons to start something might be – my muse came back promptly with the answer that you don’t need five reasons, just one – because you want to. Ever since, I have held on to the increasingly rare moments of clarity in my life, where starting something does not need to be predicated on much more than that.

This article was  first published in Hindustan Times’ LiveMint.

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Anu Vaidyanathan is a lost sole moonlighting as a Cartesian co-ordinate from the 12th Parallel. She is the first Asian to compete at Ultraman Canada, having a 10Km swim, 420km bike and an 84.4km run. Her website is at www.anuvaidyanathan.com. Her book Anywhere But Home is out in two months. The link to pre-order this exclusive Hardcover copy is here: https://goo.gl/GD6UbG The discount code is: WILDCRAFT for an exclusive 15% discount on the signed copy

My Sub-Zero Winter Adventure

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There are many ways to spend your winter vacation – bask in the sun on a warm windy beach, or sip on hot chocolate as youread your favourite novel. I chose to spend mine at a height of 12,500 feet in the mighty Himalayas. A group of 43 members from across India who had travelled hundreds of miles for one reason – adventure.
The cold weather welcomed us with headaches and fevers, but our enthusiasm was unscathed. At these temperatures, all one can think of is food and warmth. Fortunately for us, we got to enjoy tasty Aloo Parathas with Dahi at what I would refer to as a ‘high-altitude-Dhaba’ on our way to the base camp. After about four hours of shivering in the bus and staring at the valleys and mountains in awe, we reached Sankri – our base camp. We were welcomed with hot coffee and lunch. The next two dayswere meant only for acclimatisation- getting used to the high altitude, low temperatures and low oxygen levels. As I zipped my sleeping bag on the second night, I realized that my adventure had begun.

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We started our trek from Sankri with the backdrop of the beautiful Swargarohini peaks and within two hours we were carefully treading snow-covered trails lined withconiferous trees. Every now and then, we’d come across a wooden cabin in the middle of a field covered with thick snow, just like they show in movies. We were led by two cheerful local guides who owned two very cute dogs. In fact, their strength and endurance was remarkable. About three resting points later, (one of which was lunch with a snowman with a blue hat) we reached our second campsite. We arrived at Juda Talav as we saw the Sun setting, peeping through the gap between two snow-covered peaks. This place is said to have got its name from the story that long ago, two lakes joined to form one large lake. It was completely frozen, yet some dared to walk all the way till the centre of the frozen lake to satisfy their selfie needs.

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At every campsite, we would refuel with hot fluids – from tomato soup to tea, and sometimes even Bournvita! On any other day, neither soup nor tea is a big deal, but in a snow-covered campsite, about 9,500 feet above sea level, when you’re praying for your body heat to stay trapped under four layers of clothing, it is a blessing. For once, every action feels like a burden. Wish to take a walk, eh? Only after you put on two jackets, a muffler, a cap, a sweater, gloves, socks and a layer of plastic over the socks to prevent snow from wetting it. Still up for that walk?

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At one point, a friend and I got left behind and couldn’t see a soul! It seemed like the snow had swallowed everyone up. Hoping we weren’t lost, we quickened our pace. Our panic levels shot up and just when we were about to give up, a sudden sight of sky blue tents appeased us. We sighed in relief, realizing that we had reached Camp Luhaso, which was to be our abode for the second night. As I lifted my head, I realized that amid all the chaos, we were oblivious to what had been right in front of us. Far out in the distance, sitting like an uneven slice of vanilla cake on a plate made of coniferous trees, waiting to be summited, was the peak of Kedharkantha. We were delighted to see our destination for the first time, glistening with fresh white snow. We knew nothing could stop us from scaling that peak now. We forgot all about the pain and cold, sleepless nights that we had gone through. It was all going to pay off very soon.
The next few hours were spent in the tent, relaxing and packing up for the big day – the day of climbing the summit. Later, just as we were about to tuck in for a nap, we heard people joyfully screaming, “Snow! Snow!” Confused, as I stepped out of the tent, I realised what they meant. It was raining diamonds from the sky. I stood in awe just watching the snowflakes gently land on my Fleece Jacket. Neither the Sub-Zero temperature nor the chilling wind could stop us from playing in the snow. Our joy at being served dinner was unmatched that evening. Along with the usual roti and sabzi we got something special for dessert – Gulaab Jamun. So we’re standing on frozen grass about 10,000 feet above sea level in the Himalayas, surrounded with snow-capped peaks, overlooking a beautiful sunset and enjoying sumptuous, warm Gulaab Jamuns after a wholesome dinner. I think I may just have defined the meaning of happiness.

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On the third day of the trek, we were all set to summit the peak. We started the ascent well before 5:00 am. With sleepy eyes and bright torches, from a distance we must’ve looked like a group of organised fireflies scaling the Himalayas. It was a full moon day and even in the dark we could still see the snow glittering in the moonlight. The first rays of Sunlight hit us around 6:00 am. Everyone’s gaze was fixated on the peak or on the path ahead, which was getting slippery. Surrounding us were the marvellous, mighty, snow-covered mountains with peaks that shone like gold in the yellowish orange Sunlight. Even after hours of walking, mysteriously, the distance never seemed to diminish. The knee-deep snow and oxygen deficient air worked together to make us feel like we were drowning, making the last few hundred metres the toughest. As our bodies ached with exhaustion, we pushed ourselves harder, surging through the last part like survivors of a zombie apocalypse fighting the final wave of zombies.

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When I reached the peak, I was completely out of breath and unable to figure out whether it was because of the relentless incline of the climb or the breath-taking view that had just come into sight. We didn’t believe it when we heard people talking about a 360 degree panoramic view at the peak. Standing there, it was still hard to believe the same. In every direction I looked, I saw colossal mountains kissing the bright blue skies with their snow covered peaks with clouds moving about aimlessly. An orange flag flapping about in the chilly wind was the only thing I could hear – this was as silent as it could get. I put my camera away and sat down, my eyes still trying to digest the sight and my mind trying to comprehend the exquisite beauty of this Winter we experienced. The next few days would be spent in descent. We all bid each other goodbye but as I sat on the edge of that rock, facing the rest of the Himalayas, I thought, “If there is a God, this is probably his laptop screensaver.”

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-Nikshep Trinetra (aka The blue guy), the winner of our #WinterWandering contest has a great passion for the outdoors. Nikshep, experienced winter the Wildcraft way and shared with us his adventure to #CatchTheCold.

Beyond Jaisalmer

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Jaisalmer, the golden city of Rajasthan is known for its proximity to the Thar Desert. Many travellers throng this town for a view of the Jaisalmer Fort, to ride a camel or enjoy a sunset by the dunes. As we drove along the Jaisalmer–Bikaner highway, we expected our experience to be just that – beautiful, yet predictable. The highway was punctuated with small sand dunes, typical desert vegetation and occasionally, domesticated camels.

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In the distance, we glimpsed massive tents pitched on sand dunes. Curious, we made our way towards them to find out more. As it turned out, that was a camp site belonging to a family from Bikaner who open it up for travellers during the winter. “The route is frequented by bicycle tourers and off-road enthusiasts and we host them here. A lot of them carry their own equipment and we give them space to pitch their tents and enjoy their privacy,” said Mr. Dushyant Singh Tanwar, the man who would become our host for the next few days. We set up a camp fire and decided to pick Dushyant Singh’s brains to learn more about the area.

 

While our original plan to go to Jaisalmer would have taken us to beautiful sand dunes, this unexpected detour gave us the option of experiencing something truly unusual. “Have you ever seen 50 camels marching together in the desert? Would you like to experience the life of a Charwah?” (Charwah are men who herd hundreds of camels through the Thar Desert.) “We will leave at 4.00 am to reach the camels by first light. Goodnight!” Dushyant Singh greeted us and left for his tent.

At 4:00am, we were greeted by the winter chill and an open 4*4 Jeep to navigate through the Thar Desert. What followed was nothing short of an adventure in itself, with most of us trying to cover any exposed part of the body from the biting cold. The silence of the vast desert was only broken by the sound of the 4*4 put to good test. We realised how easy it would be to lose our way in this area without the guidance of our kind host.

An hour into the drive, we saw a settlement in the horizon – the village of the Charwahs. As the Sun’s first rays sliced through the darkness, we finally got a glimpse of where we were. None of us said anything for the next few minutes, taken in by the vastness and sheer beauty of the Thar Desert. Surrounded by countless sand dunes with not a human in sight for miles, we finally heard them – the sound of over fifty camels, grunting. Dushyant Singh stopped the Jeep and asked us to follow his lead by foot. We walked over a few small dunes and then caught the first glimpse of these gentle giants waking up to the morning sun.

As we got closer, every camel sized us up, cautious of our unfamiliar faces. The leader of the ‘Dera’ as they call it, walked up to us and greeted us with a big smile. What he did next, wiped the smiles off our faces. He walked up to us with a huge bowl filled with fresh camel milk from this morning. “In order to experience my life, this is the first step you have to take. When we walk these camels for hundreds of kilometres, we do not always have food or people around us to help. Camel milk becomes our only source of nutrition and hence this is a custom which you must obey,” he said handing the bowl to us. Fresh camel milk is not the tastiest breakfast you will ever have and it will probably not suit most people, as we soon found out. With the camel milk in our stomachs and the camels around us now a bit friendlier, we sat down with the Charwahs to understand their lives and daily routine. These men and women lead a life that may sound primitive to some, but is integral to keeping the traditions and cultures of Rajasthan alive and they take great pride in this.

We spent the next couple of days trying to understand their lives and getting to know more about the gentle giants of the Great Indian Desert. We learnt that winter in the desert can be as challenging as it is beautiful. Spending a cold evening huddled in the middle of fifty odd camels is an experience we won’t soon forget.

A Winter To Remember

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If you haven’t yet made a winter trip, fret not. There’s still a whole month and a number of wonderful places to visit. Here is a bunch of winter destinations that we believe are where a true winter can be experienced. So what are you waiting for? Get packing!

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The Road Less Travelled

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Kaas, also known as the Little Valley of Flowers, is a mesmerising place atop a plateau in Maharashtra. This plateau comes to life for 2 months every year, covered by a different colour every week post monsoons. Home to some very unique flora, this plateau is a 135km drive from Pune, but then, that is just one way of getting there.

“There is a shorter route to Kaas from here, but it will take you double the time. You will not find any road there. It is a mud path sprinkled with rocks, barely wide enough for a big car” said the man next to us as he sprinkled sugar on the boiling brew.

We urged him to elaborate. The route, he said, goes from Mahabaleshwar and then turns into a complete off road track with steep, rocky climbs. During the monsoons, landslides render this route useless, but as it turned out, this year the training received below average rainfall and we knew our path was set.

We left Panchgani before first light the next morning and made our way towards Mahabaleshwar and then further ahead. What no one prepared us for was the condition of the track and how challenging it would get.

Semi-tarred roads quickly turned into a mud track with rocks jutting out from everywhere. The way ahead was a mix of steep inclines, very sharp curves and some very challenging hairpin bends. Completely devoid of any human settlement, we suggest no one travel this route alone.
We didn’t know how far along we were. Or whether we should carry on forward or turn back.

Apart from highlighting our serious driving skills, this track also presented us with numerous points to stop and admire the sheer beauty and isolation. 3 hours and 45kms later, we had crossed a plateau, a beautiful valley, rocky inclines and challenging curves. All without seeing another soul along the way. Not even a cow.

And suddenly, we found ourselves on a beautifully tarred and smooth road with massive windmills all around us. None of us were expecting this welcome surprise. As the fog and mist started to clear, we watched the massive windmills in action, for as far as our eyes could see.

This road however, did not last for more than a few kilometres and we were back on the route we had come looking for, only rockier. With nobody around to even check if we were on the right track, we couldn’t do much other than continue ahead.

The track started getting flatter again, the colour outside changed from brown to green to red and then to pink. And that’s when we knew we had made it. Everything around us changed in a matter of minutes, rocks turned into fields of flowers, streams turned into lakes and the noise of the car climbing over rocks turned into clicks of shutters from our cameras

People who saw our vehicle coming from that direction asked us in awe how we made it through without getting stuck. A lot of them said that we were probably the first vehicle this season to attempt that route.

We took the regular highway on the way back and it was like going to any other touristy place in India. It made us realise what a good decision it had been, to take the lesser travelled road. The challenging drive and the beautiful sights en-route were as exciting as the Kaas plateau itself.

New Year. New Thrills.

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While everyone’s busy making resolutions to become their better selves, we thought we’d get better at enjoying our lives. From trying new experiences to exploring new places, there’s a whole lot to look forward to in 2016.

We’ve made a list of places where you can get started on something new, be it trail running, climbing or kayaking. So take a look and make this year the most exciting yet!

Trail running:

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JAHAN PANAH FOREST – DELHI:
A runner’s haven in South Delhi, Jahan Panah city forest is filled with challenges. From sudden inclines to abrupt dips, this trail will help you take your game to the next level this year. The nearest metro station is Govindpuri many bus routes connect the forest from multiple sides. And if you’re lucky you might just run into some residents – peacocks, hares, mongoose and foxes.

BORIVALI NATIONAL PARK – MUMBAI: 
The perfect setting for an exhilarating run, this national park in the suburb of Borivali is great to build your endurance. It is peppered with inclines that are ideal whether you’re preparing for marathons or just looking for a more interesting way to keep fit this year. Best enjoyed in the mornings when it’s cool and the animals start heading deeper into the woods.

MINI FOREST – BANGALORE:
Let your feet loose in this oasis hidden away within JP Nagar. It truly is a mini forest in the midst of the city, populated by many species of birds and insects. Ideal for beginners, but also has its share of challenges for the seasoned runner. So lace up and run to the sound of nature.

 

Rafting / Kayaking:

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KUNDALIKA RIVER – PUNE:
100 kms from Pune, secreted away in virgin forests in the Sahyadri Range is the small yet beautiful Kundalika river. The region receives the highest rainfall in Maharashtra and is also fed by excess water from the hydroelectric dams located beside it. Which means it has the volume and strength for some exciting White Water Rafting.

BHATSA RIVER – MUMBAI:
So close, yet so unknown! Hop on the suburban train to Vasind or take a 1 hour drive from the city to Vasind and you’ll never regret it. The serene Bhatsa River makes for a calming kayaking experience. Having the forest alongside only adds to the delight you’ll feel as you paddle away.

BHEEMESHWARI – BANGALORE:
You’ll gain a whole new respect for the Cauvery River this year. Bheemeswari is a scenic spot 3 hours away from Bangalore that offers a thrilling White Water Rafting experience. Or kayaking, if you go during the leaner months before the monsoon when the river is not as full and wild.

 

Climbing:

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NIMGIRI TWIN FORTS – MUMBAI:
If you’re taking up climbing this year, try your hand at scaling the Twin Forts at Nimgiri. 144km from Mumbai, in the heart of Sahyadri range, this fort has some steep climbs which are challenging, yet suitable for beginners. The 1 hour climb apart, you’ll also enjoy sight of the ruins of temples and other structures.

MADHUGIRI – BANGALORE:
Situated in Tumkur, 71kms from Bangalore, is Asia’s second largest monolith. A definite must-climb for enthusiasts in the city, niot just for its repute, but also for the challenge it poses. At 3930 ft, the Fort atop Madhugiri rock is a steep climb. And the reward is breath-taking, literally!

MATHU BURU HILLS – KOLKATA:
Another one for amateurs and seasoned climbers alike, Mathu Buru is 3 hours away from Kolkata, but worth every effort to get there. It’s a great place to set up camp as well, once you’re done learning the ropes. Quite an exciting way to begin the new year, you’ll definitely take home some great memories.

 

Cycling:

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MANGAR BANI – DELHI:
This forest is situated at the outskirts of Delhi, between Faridabad and Gurgaon. Held sacred by the locals, it is also a lovely off-road trail for cyclists. If you prefer a road-cycling experience, just stay on the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road that runs adjacent to the forest.

DEVARAYANADURGA – BANGALORE:
A scenic yet gruelling ride, the 75kms to Devarayanadurga, is lined with greenery and several temples. You’ll enjoy some tranquility, one way or the other. This hillstation is surrounded by forests and is also known for its natural spring, perfect for relaxing after your ride.

PANSHET DAM – PUNE:
It so happens that the most challenging rides are the most rewarding. Whether it’s the view along the way, or the exhilaration when you reach your destination. The 100km from Pune to Panshet Dam takes you via Sinhagarh Fort, a steep climb that leads to rolling hills and a verdant countryside.