Drain Bamaged!!

Inspired from Life, Love & Laughter

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.



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!


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!


  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? 

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.

Vishuddhi – Scholarships 2014

This year Vishuddhi reached out to 22 students from The Children’s Garden Higher Secondary School, Chennai and helped them with a part of their school fee. The girls were from class XI and XII.

This year’s scholarships were made possible by these benevolent people – The Patnekars (Rohit, Monica and little Mahi) and Rohit’s friends who joined in the cause started by Rohit where he said he would prefer money to charity instead of gifts to little Mahi on her birthday. So, all that collected money went to these deserving girls – (2 were absent on the 14th of July and hence there are only 20 of them in the picture).  Thanks a lot folks.

Vishuddhi Scholars 2014


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?”


“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.

11 Culture Shocks You Get Outside India

A few from my experiences!

  1. Pedestrians have the right of the way.

You don’t have to look (first to the left then to the right on a one-way street :P) while crossing the road. Even a Heavy Vehicle will wait for the pedestrian to cross the road. If you wait at the curb for the vehicle to pass by, the driver would stop in front of you and motion you to cross! Abiding the Signal and Lane rules go without saying.

Peak Hour Trafic

A glimpse of the peak hour traffic in Kuala Lumpur :O

  1. Slashed Sale prices are genuine.

When you see a 70% off on an apparel store window you can be rest assured that it is genuine, unlike our place where the sale price is same as the normal price! (My 10 Euro Zara dress stands testimony!)


  1. Smile at the stranger!

You don’t have to know a person to pass on a smile or ‘Good Day’ or a ‘Happy Weekend’. You just realize how cheerful the outside world is. Men hold the door open for women. The public bus driver greets you as you board.

  1. Vegetarianism

Indians (Some groups) are probably the only people who don’t eat meat because of religion / sacred texts. Elsewhere vegetarianism/vegan-ism is by choice and not by birth.

  1. Vegans

Most people (like shopkeepers, waiters) don’t know the difference between Vegetarians and Vegans. As per them, both are the same – No Milk, No Cheese, No Ice-cream :O

  1. Force feeding meat / Respect for others

As with Indians, a non-vegetarian will usually try to feed meat to a vegetarian. They would come up with variety of reasons, black-mails and dares to make a non-eater eat. But this will never happen in when you step out of the country. People respect your choice of food and never will try to force their opinion/ food on you.

Here’s a good compilation of this: http://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/what-happens-with-vegans/

  1. Queue-ing Up

When you stand in a queue you don’t stick onto the person in front of you. There is at least one arm’s distance between 2 consecutive persons. Yeah, I know, for such a populous country as ours, this isn’t possible.

  1. Tea is without milk, coffee is in huge mugs.

Beer is the national drink! And in Amsterdam, dope is legal. Whatte place to be 🙂


And that’s not even a large serving, that’s regular

  1. Infants are quiet!

Infants and toddlers in their prams stay quiet and cute. They don’t cry, shriek, yell, shout. How, just how?

10. You aren’t an Indian if you don’t eat spicy food!

People give me strange looks (and question my ethnicity!) when I avoid spicy food and when I say I can’t take the spice and burn, just like them!

11. Cities are Wheel-Chair Friendly.

Almost all buildings and footpaths have small ramps and are Wheel-Chair and Baby Pram / Stroller friendly. There runs a yellow protruding line, known as tactile tiles,  alongside curbs, bridges, metro stations to help the visually challenged find their way and not accidentally get on to the road. Really appreciate the thought behind these very essential yet simple ideas.

VisuallyChallenged Friendly

Visually Challenged Friendly

Wheel-Chair Friendly

Wheel-Chair Friendly

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.


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 –


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?”


“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!

The Bombay Halwa

This post was long due, probably should have been the first post. An incident that leaves us, the school buddies, in splits every time we talk about it. An incident that’s 12 years old and yet fresh and vivid in our memories. A post dedicated to the girls involved –

Unlike now(I’m sounding like a granny!) where eating out is more of a norm than a luxury, it wasn’t so in 2002.  And we did not have as much pocket money to eat out every other day too. But this was a special moment that was approaching. 10th standard Board Exams. So along with the exam preparations a bunch of us, class mates, started putting aside our pocket money of Re.1 and Rs.2 for the ‘Treat Yourself’ Day.

After the last exam we jubilantly threw our books and bags (you imagined the picture of students throwing their graduation hats, dint ye?) and merrily walked to the the eatery of our choice. Before we entered we counted how much each of us had so that we order within the amount. We were 8 of us with around Rs.25 each.

Woohoo Parrrty Time!

We occupied the best table and my pal Shrinidhi and I started scanning the tattered, antique menu card. We went to the rate side of the page first and then matched it with the menu item. We had to be within our budget you see, can’t indulge in something exotic with 25 bucks. The one item that caught both our eyes was this –

Pav Bhaji          Rs. 5

Woah, that’s what we should order first. That’s damn cheap for a restaurant of this range – echoed our expressions and we announced to the girls , “Let’s start with Pav Bhaji”.

“8 plates Pav Bhaji, please”.

We then resumed scanning the card for the next item to be ordered.

Bhel Puri        Rs. 10

Sev Puri          Rs. 10

Dahi Papdi      Rs. 18

We settled on 4 plates Bhel, 4 plates Sev and 4 plates Dahi Papdi. We could all share and eat, that’s the whole point.

We brought the roof down with our yells and laughter,  licked clean the plates,burped loudly, and finally called for the bill.

’Twas Shrinidhi and I again to receive the bill and our eyes popped out looking at the amount – Rs.272. How in the world? It had to be Rs.192. We found the culprit right away –

Item             Price           Quantity       Amount

Pav Bhaji      Rs.15               8               Rs.120

We called the waiter and told him, “There seems to be a mistake in the bill. It says the first item is Rs.15 but the menu card said it’s Rs.5”

The waiter was taken aback and he returned with a menu card, this time a new one, with clean pages and no rate revisions and pointed it on the Menu. The Menu ,now, clearly said

Extra Pav         Rs.5

Pav Bhaji          Rs.15

You’re bad at Match the Following said the waiter’s looks while his mouth uttered, “Ma’am looks like you saw it wrong”.

“Oh Okay, Thanks”, said we and turned to the table and continued chatting. He waited for a minute and left. The moment he was out of the earshot I said, “People we are 80 bucks short. Quickly devise a plan or we need to get ready to work in the hotel today”. The girls frantically searched their wallets for more money but how will it appear when we had counted each rupee before entering the restaurant? We settled on the escape route of calling up a parent to bail us out. Next question was who would that be? Shrinidhi’s dad said Sandhya as his office was a few blocks from the restaurant and he could get there in the shortest time.

And again unlike now, (granny talk) where even 4 year olds have mobile phones we were in an era where 1 land-line was shared between 4 households. None of us had a cellular phone. So Sandhya and Shrinidhi immediately jumped off the chairs and rushed to find a PCO. After reaching the place they realized that all the money was with me and they were penniless. Miraculously Sandhya’s pocket had 3 coins – 50 paise each. 1 call was Re.1, so they could make only 1 call and it had to get through. They dialed Shrinidhi’s dad’s mobile number. No answer. It could be that he is driving and hence couldn’t answer, they thought. What’s the point in calling up or walking to his office now? So they called her mom.

“Mom, Hello. Dad’s not answering the call. Could you ask him to come over to the chat shop in Mylapore right away and bail us out? The bill amount is more than what we have. Please Mom.”

“Are you crazy? Where do I find him now? He might be out to meet clients.”

“Then you come over, please”

“I am no way getting into your foolishness”


Beep. Beep. Beep.

Line got cut.

The guy at the counter was fast asleep. The shook him and woke him up.
“Anna, we need to make just 1 more call. Would you please let us call? We are just 50 paise short. 1 quick call, Anna, please”

“Out, both of you. Out of my shop”

Not knowing what else to do, they loitered around the shop.

Meanwhile in our parallel universe, we were trying to somehow prolong the payment. 2 girls suggested that they would go out and see what the first two were up to. When the 3 of us still sitting inside could not pretend of being in deep conversation anymore we asked for the Menu card once again.

“I feel hungry again, how about a Roti?”, said Neeraja indicating that 1 roti was only Rs.8.

“What subzi would you like to order with the Roti, Ma’am?”, ridiculed the waiter. “Wait my dear boy”, I thought, “I ain’t leaving you any tip”. But that’s only when we leave.

For now, back to the menu. Not a single curry was less than 25 bucks. So I tried to save our skin by saying, “No I ain’t that hungry. Let’s order a dessert”.

Bombay Halwa – In House Speciality         Rs.15

“1 Bombay Halwa, please”

“Just 1”

“Yes, that will be it”

He immediately served us a small halwa with 3 spoons. We started eating the sweet minuscule amount by minuscule amount. We were competing as to who could cut the smallest possible bite. After what seemed like ages and after the halwa became half its size, I saw the much awaited Blue Bajaj Scooter materializing near the window. Uncle Sundar! The sight of him filled me with so much joy and in a reflex i popped in the remaining sweet into my mouth.

We breathed a sigh of relief when he paid the bill and thanked him profusely. I gave him the money that I had and told him that we will pay him the remaining amount soon to which he said, “Don’t bother about that. Enjoy your vacation and next time you go out to eat make sure all of you visit an ophthalmologist first“

After he left, I got a sound thrashing on the road. No, not for the menu fiasco but for this –

“Bitch, you gobbled up half of the halwa in an instant without giving it to us!”

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