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Category Archives: Over a Cup of Coffeee!

My Team of Freaks

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Disclaimer 2: No, I haven’t put the 1st Disclaimer to save my job.

Fact 1: What is life, if we can’t laugh at ourselves (and at others 😛 )

So, let me introduce you to my work mates!

  1. The Trailer

He doesn’t know what a full stop / period is. His conversations only have a ‘comma’. However, if you mistake his pause as the end of the conversation and start walking away you’d not offend him; he’d first strain his neck to look at you and talk, then raise a voice a bit and then he’d just walk with you to continue it. Last week a person was trying to run, waving him a bye, saying his taxi to the airport was waiting downstairs and he needs to rush – what a big mistake of deciding to bid our guy a goodbye before leaving!

Ask him what he did over the weekend, the casual reply would be – 200 kms of biking. I told’ya, he never stops!

  1. The Nodder

Why say a simple ‘Yes’ when you can exercise your neck muscles? Cock the head to the farthest possible distance in the left, take a big U-turn, reach the right, complete the 360 degree nod by looking down and repeat the process for at least 3 times. Imagine running around a football field but just with your head – and do this for each and every freaking ‘Yes’!

He is also the kind of person who’d start explaining if you let out a , ‘Yeah, tell me about it’. 😛

  1. The Techy

He is so technical that while preparing for his 1st 14km run, he finds out the exact brand and flavour of the electrolyte and the brand of bottled water they’d be handing out during the race and practices with it! Since the race course is far from his place he finds out which route and elevation could mimic the race route and practices there!! His ear pods don’t play music during the run – they provide a live commentary and stats of the current run. And mind you, he is a first time runner; he’d be a pro in no time!

  1. The Brand-wagon

His life can be categorised into B.C and A.D. – Being Cashless and After Degree.

During B.C: He holds a record for getting a speeding ticket while riding a 50cc TVS Luna! He also holds the record of the cop letting him go without paying for the so-called fine or a bribe when he challenged him to cross 35 km/h in that moped and he’d pay him double of that on the fine receipt! He was brave enough to ride triples on that grandpa’s moped for 45 kms on muddy, dusty roads, many a times, unnerved that he’d be fifty shades browner when he reaches the college gates.

A.D years: Now the motto is – The more the cost, the better the quality. That includes everything from a toothbrush to a car! When he moved further away from work making his commute an hour each way, all he had to say was – I at least have a good car for sitting through the choked roads!

  1. The Sweet-tooth

If the sweet craving strikes, which often does, she’d wake up early, meticulously prepare Gulab Jamuns (Milk dumplings soaked in Sugar Syrup) that needs a minimum of 30 minutes for trained hands and bring some over for the team. If her pantry is empty, sugar with left over rotis would become laddus! No brownie points for guessing her favourite vegetable. Naah, not sweet potato; sweet corn, of course! (Sweet potato isn’t that sweet, you see.)

  1. The Salutation

People close emails with various phrases but this fellow opens it in his style – ‘That’s a good question.’ He is the only person who looks good in his ID card and passport. I want to get his voter or aadhar card done just to show how we can distort his sharp French face! Did I mention, he runs, plays tennis and squash, and kite-surfs? He did a kite-surfing exclusive backpacking tour to Brazil, alone – now that’s uber cool!

  1. The Lion who is a Herbivore

The oldest in the team yet the youngest looking, thanks to his surfing, skate-boarding, tennis and a gorgeous dog. (Should I also include his herbivorous diet in this equation?? He has 6 meals a day, by the way!) His Dutch surname means the lion but you’d never see him growl or even put up a scowl! Unassuming and modest. Talk about any sport in this world and he’d have played it or would know about it – even dodgeball, under water hockey, fist ball!

  1. The Carnivore

His sole reason for eating meat is to balance out the herbivores and maintain a healthy food chain! Duh, he is helping the environment by doing so. He doesn’t know what intonation and making an eye contact while speaking is. His comedy and tragedy are delivered in the same tone. You’d mistake him for talking to himself , looking outside the window but he’d be addressing you, possibly cracking a joke! His way of accumulating steps through the day ?? Wear the pedometer on your wrist and type away! An avid cricketer and that is not considering the umpiring he does at home with his 2 kids.

  1. The Fitness Guru

This guru has a personal guru who makes him do upside down crunches in mid-air with just his legs holding onto a beam at 6 in the morning. And what do you get when you merge a great physique with impeccable dressing sense? A smart metro-sexual dude!

I should have named this post and ‘My Team of Fitness Freaks’.

  1. The Thesaurus

Two sample sentences from her – The key main priority for teams members functions is to first analyse evaluate investigate then agree negotiate compromise later establish stabilise and change enhance improve. If the idea is obsolete irrelevant then push postpone delay until you confirm clarify.

Psst: I typed out the words as she spoke in the pretext of taking notes. Would Redundant better suit than Thesaurus?

Well, whatever, let me add the list of ex-members too below!

  1. The Gyaan Guru

He has an opinion on everything and his opinion is always right. From choice of peanuts till breastfeeding (and yeah he is a He!). But yeah he wouldn’t say you are wrong; he’d just say he is right. This is definitely better than the Always-Right in the neighbouring team who would put across the silliest of reasons to strengthen his stance, or that’s what he thinks, and out-rightly dismiss any of opposing views. It could be as trivial as a choice of fruit or clothing. Always-Right annoys the shit out of people.

Back to the actual team member: the fitness segment for him– he’s the fastest runner in the team. He still is, not was; no one has broken his record yet.

  1. The Guitarist

And the salsa dancer. And the walker. And the Tea connoisseur. And the Cake Club member. And the Social Committee Head. And the Universe. She is everything you can imagine and everything you can’t. She’s everything you’d wish for and everything you don’t. She is all-inclusive yet aloof. She is the Zen.

  1. The Grumpy Ol’ Man

If he doesn’t like somebody (that’s everybody!) he says, “If I meet him in a lonely dark alley, I’ll show him who a true Russian is”. He is as strong as he threatens you too – an ace craftsman, carpenter, who also knows to lie floors and build bridges – his house is soaked in his blood and sweat! A physicist by education, a software developer by profession, a sailor by passion. Now beat that.

  1. 2 States

A real life Punjabi marrying a Tamilian story who worked real hard on his 6-pack so that he could look fab in a dhoti! On the diet spectrum, the stench of his food from last week that he is having for lunch today would beat that of a month old, open, tuna can and his response – what does not kill me, makes me stronger. Clap, clap, clap! Food wasters, take a cue!

Fact 2: If my relationship with my colleagues goes sore, you’d see another post soon, with more details on the specific people 😛

Btw, who is your favourite of the lot?

 

 

 

A Laughing Labour

There’s being confident; overly confident; viciously over-confident; and then there is haughtiness.

“Are you signing up for the Epidural?” asked a fellow mum-to-be at the ante-natal class in the hospital. We learnt that there are 3 common pain management options during labour – Inhaling Nitrous Oxide, Injecting Morphine, Administering an Epidural. Without getting into the technicalities of them I will just mention that epidural is the sure shot way of no or least pain and the other 2 are just partial pain numbing mechanisms. On the flip side, epidural, if not injected properly, might cause side effects.

“Naaah”, said I. My husband had an ‘are-you-sure-question-mark look’ on his face. I smirked and told him, “You see, female mammals are designed to give birth. We are super beings. We have high pain threshold unlike you men and your man-flu. I can manage, don’t worry”. His face changed to ‘are-you-even-sane-puzzled-question-mark’. I raised my eyebrows and said, “Ever heard of laughing gas before? If only you had paid attention in Chemistry classes. Duh! That’s what Nitrous Oxide is. I will inhale it as and when I have pain and laugh my way through labour“. Now his face turned to ‘fine-you-know-better-but-I-am-not-at-all-convinced’.

Fast forward 7 weeks. I started getting ticklish sensation in regular intervals. It induced laughter! It was as if the foetus inside was tickling me! Laughter! I ate like a famine stricken hyena and went to the hospital. Need strength to push, you see! A mid-wife checked the contractions and told me that they have just begun and I won’t deliver at least until the next morning and asked me to go home. People were tensed about going home but I was cool. I said, “Mine is going to be a laughing labour, remember? So chill and let’s go home”.

The laughter lasted only till the night when I started feeling the pain each time a contraction occurred. Ouch, it hurt and then it was gone.  Repeated every few minutes until next morning when the interval between them was just 5 minutes. Got admitted in the hospital and learnt how to use the gas mask.

The Nitrous Oxide is usually in a cylinder connected to a mask and lies right at the head rest of the bed in the labour ward. Whenever there is pain, one needs to place the mask over the nose and mouth and inhale the gas. Easy. Easy?

Easy till the pain gets intense and you don’t have the strength to take it and place it. Imagine not being able to lift a tiny mask! That’s when the husband helped. As the contraction graph on the monitor spiked, he kept the mask on me. The exercise lasted for about 45 minutes or so until I found myself screaming for the mid-wife. I pleaded her to give me a morphine injection. Later, I was heard saying things like “If ever anyone utters a word about more children”, “That is if I survive this ordeal”, “I can do it but I can’t do it because the world’s ending”, “Adopt, people, just adopt.”, “I am going to poop, goddamnit, the baby is pushing the poop out “(that was while the baby was crowning and the doc calmly told that that’s the baby sliding out and I, supposedly, was yelling, “No that’s a different hole!”) etc., to an extent that a nurse came in and said that she could hear my screams at the other end of the corridor (to which I, apparently, explained to her that I wasn’t screaming, I was just exerting pressure to push) ! Thankfully, people inside and outside the room did not have to hear me for long.

Even the baby did not cry as soon as he was out as he still had fluids in his mouth and nose. It was just me!

A week later at the doctor’s I met the lady from the class again. She eagerly asked me, “So, did the laughing gas work?”

“Yes, it did”, I said feebly, “but on others. They laughed at my plight and I delivered!”

The 100 Kilo Story

Talking about weight seems to be an unending fad. The internet is filled with detailed chronicles of people’s success stories, cheat sheets, tips and tricks, workout regimes, topped with intense emotions of initial rejections and low self-esteem, followed by never-give-up spirit and dedicated efforts for the coveted beach body (ironically for a nation where the majority don’t know how to swim!), the before-after pictures, the selfies, the compliments, the confidence, and at times the flatulence.

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I am definitely not belittling any of the hard work. With my laziness I don’t deserve to ridicule either. I can only admire, appreciate and yearn for such a story. I am just enthralled by how vivid they get; how just a small number plays a vital role in one’s life. Again, I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t focus towards a healthy lifestyle. It is just about the other half of it – trimming down to impress. Same journey, different goals.

However, that’s off track. I too want to join the band wagon and speak about weight: how companies and organisations impose strict rules on us and make money out of it, and the tedious process of losing it. Trust me, accumulating is easy, eliminating isn’t. It took a good 1 week for me. The process broadly is divided into these categories:
Acceptance: Coming into terms with “Yes, I do have lot of extra weight.”
Identification: Finding and listing all the areas that need a shedding.
Implementation: The main step of working out to cut out all the excess weight.
Weighing: To keep track with the goal in sight and weighing regularly.
Motivation: Celebrating the achievement and motivating to push further.
Iteration: Repeating all over until the goal is reached.

And as the wise say, the effort is even more after pregnancy and child-birth. Both contribute towards some weight that either you can’t eliminate or won’t. But the end goal remains – it doesn’t consider these factors. The scale is tough and demanding.

I set mine at 45. A meagre 45. Underweight, isn’t it? But I couldn’t afford any more. 45 it was. And until I weighed, I never imagined in the wildest of my dreams that the scale would point to a whopping 72. Yes, that includes my pre and post described above. I had to make a choice. I had to move forward. I had to leave all that dragged me down behind.

I began the workout. Looped through it several times until after strenuous ups and downs I finally hit the magic number. I did it with a fair share of self-pity and the hardship of letting go. The biggest motivating factor was a new wardrobe – new clothes.

I wasn’t alone in this journey. My husband too was involved. I assigned him 55 kilos and made him iterate through the same trauma. And as cruel as it would sound, the child was also in it. 10 kgs was the cap. The poor thing obliged.

The day finally arrived when we had to present ourselves for scrutiny. Their scales were unforgiving. They wouldn’t allow even an ounce more than specified. We heaved and panted and waited for the red digits to roll. 100 it had to be and a 100 it was! Plus a 10 for the baby. Phew!

The airline check-in officer beamed at the thought of writing a hefty receipt for the extra 40 kilos that we checked in apart from the allowed 30 kilos per adult; I beamed for I was within the reimbursable amount for Excess Baggage by my company!

Well, did you think my body weight is just a 45?!

I want to be Chinese in my next birth…

…if at all I am reborn, that is, and as a human and as a girl. It is an irresistible offer you see. Let me list out the major perks –

First and yes this one’s my trigger, I don’t need any other perk – No or negligible body hair. Spare me from all the plucking, waxing, threading, epilating, depilating. Spare me from all the pain. Give me an extra hour to sleep before vacations. Let me laze on Sundays and not run the blade on my skin. Let me wear shorts on any day I want to. Help me get rid of the full sleeve shirts for all those lazy days.

If this one reason is not enough then here’s another. All you North Indians who ask us how in the world we eat rice every day and yet don’t look like Hulk and all you mothers who ask us not to eat the unhealthy noodles, I present you the Chinese and their staple food. They’re probably half your chapathi eating and noodles shunning self and they don’t have to hit the gym to stay slim. Just no body fat whatsoever. I most definitely want those strong genes. And those flat abs and thin legs.

I know your burning question – am I ok with almost no eyes and no boo.. er.. mmm.. well yeah, I think I can live with, I mean without, them!

If you are still not convinced dear girls, then here’s something that will make you reconsider. Post-Pregnancy body weight – what does it even mean? Have you seen Indian women in this phase? They are made to eat 2 people’s portion and by the time the kid pops out the mother finds it difficult to find clothes even in the Plus size stores. Buying cloth in Pantheon Road and getting it stitched is an easier way out. Have you seen Chinese moms? Only the belly balloon grows healthily but they don’t. Pop, the balloon bursts, the baby comes out and they are back to their gorgeous body shape. Spare me all the shopping, slimming, complaining. Spare me from all the fuss around it. Let me get into my pre-pregnancy clothes. Make me look like a 20-year old even when I am a mother of two.

There are other minor perks too like naturally straight hair, girlish ways, love for all that is glittery and shiny, and knowing a language that is most spoken in the World.

But what if by my next birth India becomes the most populous country and I get to be an Indian again?? That case let me be this same armpit scratching, nose picking, loud burping, cracked lipped me but can you just delete the body hair from my chemical properties please??

A Guide to Simplified English

The Singaporeans and Mainland China folks adopted an easier form of written Chinese some 50 years ago and called it Simplified Chinese. Malaysians have taken a cue from them and are doing a better job by adopting this approach in a spoken Language instead of written – Simplified English (SE)!

Though much easier than many other foreign tongues like French, Dutch etc., regional language school kids in India still find the grammar and tense in English tough. We Indians have come up with many transliterations and introduced numerous new words and phrases to the language like –wala, Avtar, rain is coming, prepone etc. but you just can’t beat the SE.

Though the language Nazis would condemn it, I am not really against it, specially when everyday becomes laugh-roll day. How else do languages evolve? We don’t speak the 15th century version of Thou, Thee, Thy and Thine anymore! More importantly, I won’t be around when the language dies 😉

Yet, I find this way better than the SMS slang– ma (Mairu?) , whr (where or whore?), m8 (meet or mate?), drnx, hvng, txt (why do you hate the beautiful vowels?). We aren’t using the keypad Nokias to say that it’s quicker. (Even that had the dictionary mode!) The Text app auto fills words! R wl it evlv nto a wrtn SE? :O Kll me nw.

Here’s how you speak SE –

The 3 most important words in SE are: Can, Cannot, Got.

Memorize these like a prayer. They can help you in any life or death situation and in anything in between.

Usage :

Can – Use it in place of all Auxiliary Verbs such as Can, Will, Must, Shall, Ought, May, Yes, Could, Would, Should and in some places of Want.

When in doubt, use it. To break ice, use it. Pick up line, use it. For precaution, use it. Use this goddamn word anywhere. 

 Cannot – Rule: You aren’t supposed to shrink it to Can’t. It has to be pronounced as Can-Not.

Use it to denote No, Not, Can’t, Won’t, Mustn’t, Shouldn’t, Couldn’t, Ought not, May not…

 Got – Use it in place of Available, Got, sometimes in place of Have.. Usually preceded by a ‘there’.

If the verbs appear more than once in a sentence, you could replace the first one and just drop off the remaining ones. And if building a sentence looks tough, break it into single word sentences. There, just 3 words that solve so many grammar problems!

Got Usage

Picture Courtesy: The Grammarly page on Facebook

 Now, let’s get to the examples: (I kid you not; these are all real world exchanges, mostly spoken, some written)

Come here, can?

I take 50 for a pair, can?

Cannot Miss, Cannot for 40. 45 can.

You can come to the station at 5. (Means could you because the tone is soft and eyebrow is raised, 5 dragged!)

Can / Can can / Also Can / Can already.  (Means Yes) (This is a valid sentence in SE.)

You cannot open the window, it is raining. (Means shouldn’t)

I cannot join the party but I try. (Means might not)

You cannot kill me please. (Don’t)

Do you know where I could find a jar of mayo? Go to Aeon. There Got.

Do you have a smaller size? Got got got.

Where is the tofu & cheese section? Behind milk, there got tofu.  Lot. But no got cheese, girl.

Got 10 sen change?  No got, OK no problem.

 To sound a little sophisticated, use terms such as Never Mind, Free and Easy and include some Alreadys here and there.

For Tenses, if you know the present tense (or any one form) that will do. And always remember to keep the sentence crisp and short by dropping unnecessary verbs.  

 How old you? (Initially, I always responded with a “I am fine, thank you” for this question because l and d are silent here and so it sounds like how are you! 😛 )

SE Examples

You try Ice Kacang, very nice. I try, but I no like peanuts and read beans in ice-cream. (Yeah, you read it right, Malaysia’s most favourite Ice Cream or rather shaved ice comes with sweet corn, peanuts and fruit flavoured syrups. Cendol, another national favourite, is shaved ice with cooked read beans, plain jelly and a jaggery equivalent called Gula Melaka. Here’s me eating it –

Eating ABC - ice Kacang )

Well, there are a lot of purists who speak impeccable English too but, come on, who’s interested in talking to them!

OK, enough, I go now. If you got any questions or clarifications on SE, don’t contact me – however you speak it, it is right. There got no rules OK. The only goal: Conveying the message. If the other person understands makes out what you want to say, then you succeed. Flavour up the conversation with some gestures, sign language and please grab yourself..er.. I mean speak SE! Can?

P.S: If you think I am a Subramaniam Swamy’s Arnab Goswami, please come to Malaysia to see for yourself.  (While you are at it, I am sure you’ll get some Desi Ghee, Vadams, Sambhar Powder and Krishna Sweets Badam Halwa & Spinach pakoras for me. Add in some Karachi Biscuits if you can; pistachio flavour preferably. Don’t forget the jar of Mango Pickle from my mother. And, some Pani Puri take-away, can?)

Thai Break – The Return Flight Story

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit – That’s the full ceremonial name, world’s longest place-name, of the city of Bangkok from where our return flight to Kuala Lumpur was at 7:30 p.m. local time. After a bone-cracking Thai Massage and an unwinding at the banks of Chao Phraya River, we took a tuk tuk to the Airport Link Station and sat down for the 40 minute ride to the Suvarnabhoomi Airport. The name in Thai has the same meaning as in Sanskrit – Land of Gold but pronounced as Su-var-na-ppum.

At 6 p.m. we disembarked at the Airport and strolled through the shops. Why did we reach only 1.5 hours prior to departure? Well, we generally travel light, don’t check-in bags. A backpack each is what we take on trips. An hour before departure is always enough; we were, in fact, in early that day! Mj was speculating on what to snack on, as always, and I was searching for the Flight Information on the display board. There were flights listed till 21:05 but our 19:30 one wasn’t there.

“Our flight isn’t in the list” said I while fiddling through boarding passes. “There, that’s’ the return pass”; I stopped mid-sentence and looked up with my mouth open. I passed on the piece of paper to him but he did not need to look at it to know what was wrong. He started running, shouting, “Find the taxi stand”. I sprinted behind him.

We ran to the concierge and asked her, “How long will the fastest taxi to Don Mueang International Airport take?” “At the least an hour, more if the traffic is bad”, she replied. The boarding closes 20 minutes before departure; we’ll have to clear immigration and security check as well. An hour and five minutes is the max that we had at hand. But there was no other way out, there were no Airport Link Trains to the second Airport, a Shuttle bus just left at 6 and the next was at 6:30. It was a packed evening on the roads; that’s precisely the reason why we opt for trains or metros if there is one. One among the 3 taxi drivers standing behind her came up to us and said, “Are willing to spend a little extra? I could try to take you there in about 50-55 minutes”. Did we need any further dialogue? We jumped straight into his cab.

We had no clue as to how much extra he wanted or how he would dodge the traffic? Take small lane shortcuts probably? Reading our minds he said, “I will take the highway. That is usually less crowded than the normal roads but there is a toll to be paid (150 Thai Baht – THB = 300 INR) and the final 30% of the route is a normal road. Can not help.”

The anxious us kept tapping the feet and tracking the distance to destination on Google Maps. Over-speeding on the long winding roads would have been a pleasant cruise under different circumstances. We exchanged smiles with the driver when he overtook the shuttle bus that had left before us. The highway’s empty lanes gave us hope. After what seemed like we already left acres and acres of tar behind us in just over 20 minutes, Mj broke the silence, “I did make a mental note that our flight leaves from the smaller airport in the city while booking the tickets, but totally forgot about it. Why dint you check while you planned the commute? You are the one who always does this Maps thingy”.
“Dude, you’re blaming me? It dint strike you that this wasn’t the airport’s name that you saw while booking – when you bought the train ticket, whilst in the train, after reading the sign boards, just nowhere and you blame me for jotting down the wrong route?” “Okay”, said he, “both at fault”.

Our cat fight dint last long, as we exited the motorway my anxiety and silence returned. Ahead of us lay hundreds of cars, thankfully moving but scores of them. Funnily, the station from where we took the train to the wrong airport was on our left and we’re going towards the hotel where we stayed! If only we had gone straight from the hotel! Would have been under 30 minutes of journey time, sigh.

The driver, did not even ask his name, took to the task as if his flight was due. He snaked through every little gap he found, adeptly changed lanes wherever he could. Were you previously an ambulance driver, Dear Sir? 40 minutes after we got into the cab I saw the Don Mueang International board. But there dint seem to be a straight forward entrance. We had to go around more flyovers, do more U-turns, and take more round-abouts for 10 more minutes. When he pulled up at the Departure gate he had a big grin of achievement on his face. Why won’t he when had covered about 47 kms in 50 minutes. If it was a lousy or a normal driver, the final 15 kilometers would have definitely taken us more time. He said “You won’t miss your flight, not today!”

“Thank You, Thank You”, I yelled as I rushed towards the document check counter. Our travelling light policy saved us time. By the time Mj stuffed all the money he had into the driver’s hands(a well-deserved tip!) and came in search of me, the passports were verified. More running towards the immigration counters.

“Why you come at 7 for a 7:10 boarding time, Miss”, asked the lady at the counter.
“We realised that we were at the wrong airport only after reaching Suvarnabhoomi”, I replied.
“Oh you go to the wrong airpoaa?” , read it in the South East Asian Slang – drag the Oh, compress the you-go-to-the-wrong as if it’s a single word and say it as fast as you can, make the r and t silent in airport and add aa to it – or even better, a aaaaaa. And don’t ask me why it’s a go and not a went.
“Yaaaaaa” said I and Mj in unison. She quickly stamped the passports and we rushed to the security check. A guy who was behind the immigration desk came to the security gates and was telling the officers in Thai why we were late. Or at least that’s what it looked like because he pointed at us and said suvarnaphum , suvarnaphum and the officers went Oooohh. 19:08 we were at the boarding gate with a cappuccino bought with the final 100 THB we had. And with enough time to pee before boarding.

But I wonder, why did the Taxi Driver add a “Not Today” afterthought ?? :O

A Thai Break – Part 1

Beach, Food, Outdoor Sports, Night Clubs and Culture? Thailand, it is. Phuket’s pristine sea and the adventurous islands are a great get-away from the routine of life. It has snorkeling, scuba diving, island hopping, para sailing, sky diving, jet ski and many more. You can get to try out all the different Thai dishes and immerse in the culture by mingling with people and visiting the Cultural Theme park, Fanta-Sea and learn the Thai story from the elephants. And how did I even miss out the blaring and glaring Bangla Walking Street?

You can get a bigger dose of culture and art in Bangkok, the Venice of the Orient. With its numerous Wats (temples), lively day / night markets, boat rides (The Long-Tail Boat is the counterpart of the Gondola of Venice) , floating markets, tuk-tuks, fish farms and night clubs, the list is endless. It has the world-renowned Reclining Buddha and the Emerald Buddha. The stunning of all, I think, is the Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, standing tall and high on the banks of River Chao Praya and gets even more beautiful when it is bedecked with lights after sunset.

 

Phuket-Bangkok

L to R: Fanta-Sea Palace of the Elephants; Wat Arun on Chao Prayo River; Para-sailing; With Post-op Beauties; Reclining Buddha

 

The human element in the country, above these touristic things, Thai’s inclusive and tolerant attitude towards the LGBT community is what I liked and respect the most. Prostitution is legal and I guess, so are the sex and ping-pong shows. Transgenders are treated equal; they don’t have to resort to dancing on trains or to tapping your windows at traffic signals to earn a living. And there are these transsexuals, known as Lady Boys, a plenty of them, who undergo a voluntary sex change and make their living in the numerous night clubs and go-go bars. Many run shops in the markets, a famous one being the Patpong Night market. I heard that many such people who are shunned in their country seek shelter in Thailand. A very broad mindset for an Asian country, a good example that other countries need to follow.

The most important place that we did NOT visit was the Tiger Temple / Tiger Park where, I heard, they tranquilize the animals all day through so that we can fill their pockets for a picture next to the tamed wild animal. Tiger,my most favorite animal! I was tempted to strike poses with it, put my arm around the huge beast and feed a tiger cub (it was my childhood fantasy to raise a tiger cub as a pet!! 😛 ). The pamphlet had amazing pictures (Search for Tiger Kingdom, Phuket). But no, you don’t ill-treat something you love. No, Thanks.

So, there goes, a gist of a super awesome trip. The story of how we returned to KL will be lengthier than this! That’s for the next post!

The Asian Vegetarian Meal – A Six Sigma Case Study

A squint-eyed, disheveled haired species with a pukish look, dangling spectacles, wearing a baggy t-shirt looked at me from the mirror in the tiny loo of an aircraft. But I didn’t go there to look at it; I had far more important calls of nature to attend to.

The Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVM) is something I can vouch for, after having had the privilege to sample it in quite a few flight carriers. I really applaud the consistency, texture, quality, taste and smell that these boxes come packed with. You can never put in a rank on which airline serves better meal plates; they all compete fiercely with one another. It’s a matter of pride, I believe, and it rises above petty things such as carrier, destination, flying class etc.

Have you heard of the Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants? This restaurant stands testimony to the factors I mentioned above. They say, a dosa or a coffee or a biriyani will taste exactly the same and as delicious no matter in which branch you devour it – be it Chennai, Paris, the USA or any part of the world.

The world’s premier and even the not-so-premier airlines have taken a page or two from this secret story for their AVM, only in the other extreme.

Consistency – Rock solid, pity can’t carry hammers in hand baggage to break the naan breads

Texture – Uncooked, breaking through the rice and chewing is a privileged teeth exercise

Quality – Benchmark. On par with all the flight kitchens.

Taste – Am a bland food lover and imagine me complaining about the taste

Smell – Hey my socks are fresh out of the laundry

High time Business Schools did a case study on this topic. High time it is given Six Sigma recognition. Maintaining the standard across destinations by just one flight carrier is by itself a tough and a meticulous task for an organization, enforcing strict Quality Inspections and processes, and here we are speaking about multiple airlines maintaining exactly the same standard! And of course, with similar results due to its intake.

I need to head back to the species in the mirror now, Mr. Neighbour, please excuse me.

P.S: I found this brilliant brilliant piece by Krish Ashok, hammered the AVM on its face (and in the process broke the hammer) – Asian Vegetarian Hell !

 

The Aussie Way

Update: Useless Trivia : You know what, Australia is double the size of India but has a population that is just about the same as Mumbai!

  1. The lesser the denomination, the bigger the size of the coin!
AU Coins

Left to Right: 50 Cents, 1 Dollar & 2 Dollars

 

2. Don’t want to face the passenger in front of you? Uncomfortable sitting in / facing the opposite direction of a train route? Switch the back rest!

http://youtu.be/Yj6wCIY59ow

How cool is that?! People who have experience with Maruti Omni vans will appreciate this!

  1. Constipated? Eat Chocolate!

 

Chocolate Board

Ad in a toilet cubicle

  1. Pay and Use Toilets? What do even mean by that?!

Answer nature’s call free of cost – All public restrooms in Train & Bus Stations, Beaches, Malls, Harbours, Shops, just about any toilet in the city is free. No loose change needed.

  1. Free Drinking Water.

Forgot to click a pic of this, but there are drinking water taps installed in all major locations. Even if the shops close down by 5 p.m., the taps will quench your thirst.

  1. What’s the next important thing in Life, after free toilets and water? Oh yeah, WI-FI, that’s free too!

Imagine Free WI-FI in a beach!

BondiWifi

  1. Scan and Pay Machines at stores.

I have seen such machines where you can scan your purchased items yourself and pay using Cards. Here I found many machines that accept cash as well. Good for tourists. (Maybe it’s there elsewhere too, I must have missed to notice)

Scan n Pay Machine

8. Kangaroo Meat, anyone? 

 

Kangaroo Meat Burger

Or Octopus, maybe? 
DSC_1264

9. Cut it Short

Don’t waste your energy, use short forms. Kangaroo is Roo, Mushroom is Mushy, Avocado is Avo, University is Uni, Barbeque is Barbe, Mosquito is Mozzy, Regulatory Board is Regs Board, Breakfast is Breakie, Toaster is Toasty, Presents are Pressis, Journalists are Journos, after all, we know that Australia is Oz..

Ciao, am off to my preggy colleague’s baby shower with pressis.

First Night in Amsterdam

Did you, by any chance, click for the title? Then spoiler alert: the post is just about my first visit to Amsterdam, which, by chance, happened to be a night landing, 2 years ago. Nothing more! 😉

See Journée à Paris (A Day in Paris) for the account of the day! Evening and Night account follows –

The talented pilot touched down at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam braving the bad weather. It was way past 8 p.m. and the Hotel Address and the metro stop names were my only bet in this foreign land – all alone.

I waited forever for my bag to come on to the carousel and don’t think I am exaggerating but mine was the last one to come on, after a full 20 minutes. It was becoming dark fast, unlike the usual summer day in June that has sunlight till about 10-11 p.m., thanks to the rain and thunderstorm. My prolonged wait at the carousel eyeing each and every bag sparked a suspicion on me at the customs counter. As I collected my bag and walked past the desk towards the exit, a tall lady (Dutch are on an average the tallest people on the planet!) in uniform blocked me. She said she wanted to check my bag. Patiently and meticulously she unpacked everything. Clothes, shoes, toiletry kit and food! I had taken a couple of MTR ready to eat packs (Jeera Rice,Pongal and Upma) and she was keen to know what they were and why had I brought them along. I told her that it was my first time there and these food packets are a backup in case I don’t find anything vegetarian around. Her next question was why only 3 packs for a stay of 20 days? I told her that I thought I would find a veggie serving place in 2 days. She was again curious, and asked if my veg list included Fish. I said No. Then she asked if it included Cheese (She thought maybe I was a vegan, which I intend to become someday soon!) and I said yes. And my yes brought a big grin on her face and she bid me a goodbye saying “Ah good, you will enjoy the dutch cheese”.

The best thing about the Schipol Airport is that it has an integrated public transport system – right outside the arrivals, there are the Train and Bus Stations.

My hotel was 1 train stop and 2 metro stops away. Had I come during the day or had I known that Amsterdam is one of the safest places in the world, I would have hailed a taxi but unfortunately neither was the case. I was apprehensive and the night was falling dark and wet. So I trotted down to the train station and asked a fellow passenger if my pre-bought travel card (Known as OV-Chipkart) would work on the trains. He nodded affirmatively and I swiped it across the small machine on the platform and got onto the train.

In came the Ticket Checker and I showed him my card. He looked at me, then at my trolley then back at me.

“New to Amsterdam?”

“Yes”

“No Ticket?”

“I swiped this card at the platform.”

“My dear, this works only on Metros, Trams and Buses, not on Trains”

I gasped.

“But I understand that mistakes happen and you are new here. In the future, don’t travel without buying a ticket. For now I will let you go without a fine.”

“Thanks a lot Sir and I am sorry, I didn’t know”

“Hope you like Holland, Fijn Avond (Nice Evening)!”

And Yes, I liked Holland from that instant.

Another integrated station. I hopped off the train and went to the Metro Station. Now, I had a problem. I knew which Metro to take and where to get off but I did not realise that it was necessary to find out which direction too.

Metro 50 towards Station Gein or Metro 50 towards Station Sloterdijk?

I couldn’t find a metro route map immediately. So I asked a person next to me. He said take the platform on your right and he dashed off. I am seriously dyslexic when it comes to left and right. I can assure you that I always get it wrong, at all times, in all cases. But I was determined that this time I won’t get it wrong. I looked down at my hands and was perfectly sure which was the right platform, on the right.

Ten minutes later I was onboard. Mine was the 2nd stop from there. As the metro came to a halt at the next stop I was horrified. Of all the people in the world, I chose to ask a Right-Left dyslexic guy or did I mix-up yet again? Whatever was the case, I was going in the wrong direction. The route map inside the metro confirmed my fear.  By the time I could react to the revelation, the metro chugged off from that station. I got off at the next stop, heaved my 20 kg bag down the stairs and up the stairs to the opposite platform. It was quarter past nine and was getting darker. I had 4 stops to cover now. Plus, I just have a mental picture of the route from the Metro stop to the hotel. Darn, why did I not print out the google maps image. If it was in India, I could easily spot people on the roads to ask for directions when in doubt but here I don’t see anyone at all, the stop is deserted and I had growing doubts if the metro will ever come… There it is.

Again, my destination was also deserted. I got off and started walking very briskly towards the hotel. I could spot absolutely no visible living organism what-so-ever. I just hoped against all odds of my right-left problem that I’d make it without getting lost.

My pace quickened with each step. And an inherent fear of the implication of my recklessness stood before me. Why did I have to opt for a 6 p.m. flight and not an earlier one? Why did I not check for the weather forecast? Why did I even take a detour to Paris in the first place? No person on the Earth knew where I was right now. My phone’s dead and I was last seen with known faces over 20 hours back. Folks back home must have thought that I must have flunked on the bed by now, all exhausted. Because, you see, I don’t have this habit of calling up home once I go somewhere/ reach a destination. I have seen many people do so. They would have gone only a few blocks from their home and as the first thing would call up mom/ spouse/ boyfriend/ girlfriend saying, “Hey, I reached”. I never do that be it when within the city or when I go to Bangalore from Chennai.

So people back home will find it perfectly normal of not receiving a call and they themselves will conjure up all the usual (but practical 😉 ) excuses that I give them – I was tired, Battery drained, No local Sim, No Wi-Fi, above all – Why do you want me to call at unearthly hours? (I usually take the train to Bangalore that reaches at 4:30 a.m. – a perfect excuse for not calling. But basically I forget and that’s the only reason but that is not accepted by people and so I have to give other excuses.)

So, finding the Hotel in one piece was my only option. Walk straight, take the left at the Round-about Junction and then the first right. I did just that but all I could see on this road were apartments and a few shops (closed, of course. Shops in Amsterdam close down by 6 p.m. except on Thursdays when they are open till 9). And I could see a small horizontal stretch of darkness across the road caused by an overhead bridge’s shadow. My heart thumped in my mouth. I am shit-scared of the dark. I walked ahead and stopped just before the bridge. Looked around. No one around or beneath it. Coast is clear. But if I don’t find the hotel on this road then I don’t know if I can summon up the courage again and dare to walk through this stretch for a second time.

I reasoned out to myself that my lefts and rights were right (Fingers Crossed!) and I am on the right track. I can’t stop, I need to proceed. I obviously can’t spend the night on the road. I don’t have a choice. Fear only weakens. Face it and destroy it. Even if this is the wrong road, I at least can be sure that I tried. Trying and failing is better than not trying. Worse- not trying because of a small, insignificant fear. Even worse – fear of the mind ,not of any physical hazard. Shame on me!

In a fleeting reflex I ran straight ahead. In less than 10 seconds my bag and I were out of the shadow of the bridge and on my immediate left, nestled between the branches and trees stood a lonely, old board, “Hem Hotel, Amsterdam”.

I pushed my heart back to my chest.

My Heart is in my Tummy!

I went to a party recently. A party by a bunch of expats ecstatic about leaving the country, for good. (Now that’s something to throw a party for given that you are in Malaysia.) But the reason doesn’t matter actually, as long as you get free food cooked with ghee (read as fat), booze(more fat) and unending supply of kachoris, pakodas and samosas (Did I tell you oil is great for protecting your stomach, pancreas and the intestines from punches and blows? It magically transforms into layers of flesh and withstands sibling rivalry very well).

Ask people for a treat of a mere popsicle any time during their stay, the answer would be a list of all possible excuses which none of the listeners can ever buy into. But they do this free fat-spreading service with great interest as the last good deed before leaving the country.

Doesn’t bother me much though because the reverence I give to the food wins hands down as the reason for attending a farewell – for the dead or alive. As a kid there were many aftermath-funeral prayers I attended without even knowing the deceased which boasts of sumptuous food believed to send off the soul happily – I don’t know if the departed soul was happy or not but mine sure was.

No, I definitely ain’t the starve-the-whole-day-for-the-evening’s-party-invite or the party barging kind or the buffet line breaker  who follows the scent of burgers, bhel puris and basundhis right to the kitchen unless it is a birthday party of my friend’s uncles’ (mother’s brother’s) son’s daughter ,all of whom I have never met; or spoken with; or even heard of.

Neither am I binge-like-you-haven’t-eaten-for-days and eat-all-you-can kind except in the monthly get-togethers thrown by people leaving the project/account (mmm yummy vada pavs) or the occasional eat-outs/treats – paid by others or celebrating birthdays – of friends and strangers at workplace (ooo that death by chocolate cake and the fruit tart). Ask my ABN friends – at least Richard and Sailesh will vouch for this.

My experiments have taught me that – Food is a great ice-breaker, a conversation starter but the aftermath bill that the host receives ends their acquaintance with me then and there. But Hey, people like me don’t let the food go waste, thank us!

Ah, the Weddings- I can withstand any number of pesky relatives, the Oh-child-you-have-grown-so-big-in-2-days aunties, the do-you-remember-me-we-met-when-you-were-6-months-old uncles, the high-time-you-got-married (when you are single) and the high-time-you-give-your-parents-toys-to-play-with i.e. grandchildren (when you are married) grannies, and the my-grandson-is-also-in-a-IT-company-earns-50k grandpas  : just for and only for the food.

And I love India for this. We celebrate every occasion with 50 different types of food. As with the Tulu community, Annadaan is the greatest form of charity. Am one of the countless beneficiaries of the mouth-watering Saaru (Toamato or Lemon and Lentil soup), the tangy  Kusumbri (pulses salad), the undefinable Meneskaai (Sweet+Sour+Spicy+Bitter – all in 1 gravy), the healthy tumbili (ground spicy greens – like spinach, mint in yoghurt), at least 5 different varieties of sweetmeats (like Jamun, Halwa, Coconut Burfi, Sugar Cashews, Jalebi, Mysorepa, etc.), the smooth and soft Holige (kinda sweet stuffed chapathi) , the out of the world payasa (kheer – Sago/ vermicelli/ legumes in milk) and my all time favourite the divine Cuckoo Rasayana (Mango Milk shake made from ripe mangoes, jaggery and coconut milk – all healthy you see). Not to miss the usual – dosas, sambhars, chutneys, parathas, pickles, pooris, et al.

But this doesn’t mean am only an Indian food fanatic. I am totally against food racism! When it comes to eating out I absolutely love Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and any cuisine that offers me a tasty vegetarian option. My tummy adores all the cheese burst pizzas, the veggie delights, the tofu chowmeins, the burritos, the risottos, the ricottas, the fetas, the Tapas’, the Dim-Sums, the lasagnes, the Malaysian Paos – you name it, I will eat it.

So, do not miss my funeral by any chance, I will pre-set the menu in my will!

Getting back to the parties where we first started, apart from the food I find everything else about it boring – music : usually too loud, dance : which am pathetic at, gossips : yawn, girly talks on handbags and footwear – wake me up when you are done, guys version of tragedies of a marriage – Bitch please, am snoring already. Though it is called bitching, feminine gender, I see guys doing this more than girls. Girls never get to finish talking about jewellery and apparel to get to the bitching part.

So until food is served I just have one thing to do – check out on girls and try to hook the best one up, with my husband.

Puppy Loves and Broken Hearts

I propose the hero of this post to be a tall, lanky lad with a sharp brain, witty remarks, an eye for details yet oozing with oodles of innocence and child-like enthusiasm. A happy-go-lucky chap who believes in following his heart, who quit his boring desk job to learn and take up the career of his dreams, who believes in originality and individuality and who refuses to follow the rest and sees beyond the usual forte in his profession. A person with inspiring aspirations. A fit and handsome fella. A mamma’s boy. A fierce friend. Let’s put his age as 27 years but give him a salt and pepper look to match his different personality.

Oh my,my, when I read it again it looks like a matrimonial ad! Too good to be true. A very desirable profile. Our hero must be juggling girl friends! There comes his life’s only tragedy. How much ever he tries he either fails to impress girls or chooses a wrong one.

Episode 1:

After being a shy boy in school, he decides to become a cool dude in college. Cool dude = Having a girl friend! I am told that and I quote as with every college, either you don’t find a beautiful girl in the campus (I think this is a myth because beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder; so can’t help it) or the one you like is taken. So before you approach a girl you need to do, what the corporates call as BGC, Back Ground Check.

When the Step 1: Finding the right person (indicative picture below) and Step 2: BGC is cleared, you move onto the next step of approaching her.

Minion

Picture Source: Internet, Random Site.

There’s a catch here too. Again am told that this is where friends play a crucial role of Setting Karna / Set Pandradhu. This is how the play is staged:

ACT 1:

Scene 1: Hero’s friend talks to the prospective Heroine about the hero who finds her interesting and would like to be friends with.

Scene 2: If the heroine likes the introduction, on her nod (of approval), hero emerges from behind, exchanges pleasantries.

Scene 3: Friend departs.

ACT 2:

Hero and Heroine hang out and try to find compatibility.

Looks like a variation of Speed Dating!

“Why ACT 1 at all?”, I ask. Apparently when it is to introduce someone else it is very easy (Daayein haat ka khel) but when it is for oneself it is nerve-breaking –

image

Picture Source: Internet, Random Site.

Translation: How do people propose, I hesitate / feel ashamed to ask the street hawker for an extra puri.

So armed with this formula our good guy helps his friends but has no luck in finding his dream girl. As the Valentine’s Day approaches, pressure increases and on the so-called Rose Day, he zeroes in on one girl. “Aww, what beauty, she is my angel”. He nudges his friends to go and 2 of them immediately get into the battle field. The play goes as scripted – They approach her, she sees him standing a few paces behind, she nods, hero arrives and they start chatting about Dadar locals, Anna’s idli and masala tea.

The next day is the Propose Day (Where do these college fellas come up with such weird days? Why not propose for more days on the Propose Day such as Propose-a-day Day, No-Ogling-at-Girls Day, No-Social-Networks Day, Dogs’ day, Clean-your-neighbourhood day, Ring-the-bell-next-door day, Mango-stealing day, Go-to-work-on-time day, Take-the-stairs day; add your own to it). He decides to ask her out. He musters courage and blurts out. She is taken aback and says , “I thought you just wanted to be friends, ” Hero’s mind-voice, “Zandu Dost Log, you screwed up the introduction yesterday”. “And moreover, I already have a long-time boyfriend. I’m sorry”.

His love bubble pops. First wicket down.

Episode 2:

As he raises his sad face and looks ahead, there, near the gate, another angel. Woah, it must be his lucky day. A second opportunity. The three of them run to the gate. The girl is in deep conversation with two other guys. So our boys wait for the coast to clear. But those 2 never seemed to leave. Slowly the 3 of them inched closer to eavesdrop. The illusion cleared; the mirage broke; the bubble burst – The 2 chappies were ‘setting’ her with their friend standing behind and they succeeded. The hero’s story ended even before it began!

Disheartened with back to back failures, the hero gives up on this exercise.

Episode 3:

A few years later, he sees his 3rd angel in a team across his bay at office. But with no college friends around for the ‘setting’, he has very little luck and courage in talking to her. And he had put his papers too, so he never took a step. A year after he resigned, he suddenly felt a (rare) courageous moment and regretted for not talking to her back then. Now with a revived energy and many bollywood movies’ lessons and songs running in his head off he goes to his old office. It’s deserted. He learns that most of the folks are holidaying in Goa. He walks past his team towards the adjoining bay. There again, many seats’re empty.

“These guys too have gone to Goa, is it?”

“Yes”

“What about the girl?”

“She, obviously, has gone!”

“Oh”, thinks our chap patting himself on his back, “a fun loving girl. Good choice.”

“Didn’t you know she’s getting married today?”

Bubble bursts! Again, the story ended even before it began!

Episode 4:

A few more years later, the fourth one. He’s crazy about this girl. He did not have so many butterflies in his stomach with his previous 3 crushes. She filled his heart with joy. His eyes lit up just with the sight of her. Her presence mesmerised him. He guarded her all through her short stint in India and followed her like the Hutch pug.

Once, after a hard day’s work, she dozed off in the taxi on the way back home. Our hero and his friend had gone to escort her home. After reaching, he didn’t have the heart to wake her up. He just sat next to her, with eyes glued, watching her sleep, oblivious to the taxi driver’s abuses and his friend’s filthy looks. Had his friend not woken her up, our chap (told with great conviction that he) would have bribed the taxi driver to stay put there till she woke up!

Mereko kya ho gaya rey, is this how it feels to be head-over-heels in love?”, he wonders.

But even with this strong emotion and the madness, this time he chooses to end the story himself. He doesn’t approach her at all. “Nahi bataega mein“. She is his model for his shoots. A Cleopatra from Brazil. He is contented with the photographs he clicks of her and buries his burning desire. And now, all day through he keeps humming,

“You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful, it’s true. I saw your face in a crowded place, And I don’t know what to do, ‘Cause I’ll never be with you.”   [YouTube Link to the song]

You see, with an international crush he can’t stick to bollywood songs anymore!

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this post are definitely not fictitious. If you find resemblance to any real person(s), then, ‘Bingo!’. If you haven’t then what name do you suggest for this good-calm fellow? I suggest a Sanskrit version of good & calm – Sushant!

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