culture

Notes from Melaka

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“Melakka (Its also written as Malacca) is a historical place”, they said. At numerous coffee shops and other places. Being this romantic sucker for history and the stories that it tells, it was only a natural that the car found itself making an unplanned detour to ‘check out Melaka’.  Actually, we were famished. I could have given my right hand for some food. That famished.

There is something distinctive to every city. Even the most nondescript ones. Sometimes it hits you in the face. At other times, it envelopes you in a seamless trance. Yet other times, it surprises you.  Here we were, looking forward to set our foot and have some food in a city with history and character. And the first sign board that we saw was this: ‘Dont mess with Melaka’.  Mess with Melaka sounded rhythmic, but also caused the eyebrow to arch.

Dont mess with Texas” was a similar campaign that ran in far away Texas. How a campaign that started out as a campaign against litter turned out to give a deeper cultural meaning to Texas and Texans is stuff that advertising legends are made of. That phrase went on to become a federally registered trademark and later on the motto of a nuclear Submarine : USS Texas!

“Dont Mess with Melaka”, is a similar campaign against litter, “robbers, snatch thieves”. To promote a clean environment. All this information came after a frantic searching the web. Truth be tolda, “Dont Mess with Melaka” caused some consternation. Albeit, a mild one at that.

Now, Melaka has some history to it.  A cursory glance scramble of the fingers on the Malacca’s wikipedia page, will lead you to some interesting facts. It has a Malay-Portuguese-Dutch-English rule to it. A history that dates back 13th century. A diverse population. A size that is less than three times the size of Mumbai. It has the Malaccan straits names after it. But what seemed bigger than all of that to the famished me was this : Melaka city had Restoran Selvam.

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It was Deepavali day and all shops were shut. Restoran Selvam was however open and we had a melange of tourists eating out of banana leaves. I was famished and the sight of the spectrum that seemed to be mind numbingly focused on the food increased the hunger quotient by a large number. Taste buds seemed to erupt in some tantric dance as they stayed stimulated by this gastronomic delight. Food that we were used to, but having a different etching to it.

After the food, I wandered the road with the camera in hand and got a few shots of a small sleepy city, caught deep in festive slumber.  Melaka seemed to invite everyone. The ancient seamlessly invited the new. And the new, respects the ancient, not deferentially but taking its place in the modern scheme of things, rather gracefully.

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Across the road from Restoran Selvam, is Discovery Cafe.  It teemed with people who seemed to be visiting Melaka but sporting an air as though they belonged there. Backpackers with beer, languidly conversing is a pretty sight to watch. I made a mental note. Melaka was a place to visit again. With a backpack. Tasty food, history, culture and an opportunity to trade your story for another’s. Thats Melaka.  What more is there to life?

Ofcourse here is a lot more to life, if there are kids with you who are keen to keep you busy. The daughter is one such. We soon drove out of Melaka. Missing the River Cruise, the Dutch & Portugese forts and several other aspects of the architecture that teeming travelers and their accounts on the internet point us to bear in mind while planning the next visit. Melaka City’s city centre got its ‘UNESCO Heritage’ tag in 2008 and that means something.

Thats that Melaka. Or atleast, that was my short visit to Melaka. Ah, there is one more aspect that I accidentally bumped into. The ‘Chitty People’.  People who migrated from Tamil Nadu in the 15th Century and made Melaka their home. Mingling with the Malays, Chinese and the Javanese folks, this is a set of people who have assimilated from every culture, while retaining aspects of their roots. Wikipedia announces that there are 2000 people left of them. That number doesnt add up in my mind.  That is one more reason, I want to go back. Soon.

Malaysian Diaries

It is something to travel. To travel across borders is something else. But going over there and seeing that more the things seem different, more they are the same, has held firm.  Every single journey that I have undertaken. It didn’t disappoint this time either. We went to Malaysia for a certain number of days that can be aptly described as ‘few’.

The big difference this trip, was we were going ‘agenda-less’. We didn’t have places to see or items to tick off a checklist. No Lonely Planet. No fervent reading of bloggers who had traveled there. We landed there, and eased ourselves into the home of our friends who live there. The idea was to catch up with our lives. That it was a ‘phoren’ was incidental.  Well, almost. By the way, I had a deal with the missus.  This holiday was also meant to be a holiday from the internet.  I was apprehensive but not as bad as I had feared it to be. That story for another time.

The immigration official at the KL airport extended a grimace at our long names South Indian tongue twister of names. But a polite grimace that almost went unnoticed. In quick time, with a laborious movement of the hand, landed the seals on the passport and let us into the country.  A board screamed in small letters :”Salamat Datang”. “That must be ‘welcome'” hissed the missus.  I nodded in quiet agreement. Seemed like it. And disagreements at the border are not wise.

From that time on, till the time we said “terima kasih” (Thank you) a good ten days later, we were completely taken by the inviting beauty of the land and its people, the rich tropical climes, the surfeit of connected history and of course, the many culinary delights that shook up our taste buds. We took to the roads and drove to Southern Malaysia in one of the most inviting roads that I have ever driven on, made a dash to Singapore and then settled to discover unfamiliar nooks of a familiar culture in KL. It was one hell of a trip and I am furrowing my brow to remember all that I wanted to write about. Perhaps over the next couple of weeks a few posts from my Malaysian http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/diabetes/ Diaries would unfold here.

Malaysia catches multiple cultural winds. One that flows in from India, another aggregation that comes from many lands that are collectively (and often unfairly ) bunched together as ‘ASEAN countries’, not to forget stiff whiff from China. Indian and Chinese traders set up shop in the first century AD. So there!  The unfortunate and traumatic tragedies of Malaysian Airlines would have acquainted the world with more of Malaysia than it would have otherwise known. But what seems a rather small land mass in the map has a striking, profound and rich stuff to offer. Far more to offer than what the maps and tourist brochures indicate.

Malaysia has got a population of about 30 million people ( Mumbai has a population of 12 million, to give you a sense of scale) but large tracts are still forests.  There is rain almost everyday. There are Sultans and kings and a confederated way of working that seems to be working! Daily life has options that are both modern and traditional to choose from. Modernity doesn’t come in the way of tradition. Nor does tradition come in the way of progress. There seems to be a peaceful embracing of each other. A joint flowering of sorts. Like the flowering of the lamps.  Lamp post designs that I found rather striking.

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The roads are clean. The buildings are good. The cars are modern. There is no honking. The fuel is cheap. The wildlife is pretty. The food is awesome (and not expensive).  But above all this, people are warm and very inviting. A way of living that is inviting, not mandating a ‘fit in’, but rather letting the person be and kind of envelope them with charm.  A culture that seemed relaxed and at peace with everything around.  For that last reason, if all the previous reasons don’t resonate with you, its a must visit place.

As we boarded the flight back home, I didn’t feel a sense of loss that our holiday was done and we were to start for home as is the case normally.  “I think we will be returning here”, the missus said. I stared out through the airplane window looking into the Malaysian skies. ‘But of course’, I thought. Our reasons were different. But thats besides the point.

Market. A real one at that!

I have a perfunctory snort of dismissal when anybody mentions shopping.  It usually feels like a ‘waste of time’ to travel, hoist all the body weight around go to a place and then choose.  That statement usually brings a howl of protests and a stern look of dismissal from the missus and her bevy of supporters which quickly cause my feelings to change!  

With that kind of disposition, the chances that I would go shopping in Cairo were as remote as remote can get. But throw in some history. Throw in some pieces of stories of culture and discovering a ‘way of living’ and am already in the car waiting for the drive to the market place. 


Khan el khalili in Cairo, is a market place that dates back to the 13 century.  And for that sheer reason, I went armed with a camera, open ears and a curious mind. 

Imagine an age old marketplace where you could practically get some of the most pristine stuff under the Sun. Stuff like Paintings, trinkets, spices, jewellery, perfume and the like. Narrow lanes that erupt from intersections and shoot into another maze of crowd, colour and cacophony to soak the senses. 

“It is crowded”, I say.  Only to be corrected that after the revolution and all the political instability the number of tourists have fallen starkly. “By as much as 75%”. Normal is when “there is no place to place your feet on the ground” I am told. 


The next I know it was a couple of hours later. It was such a feast for the eyes and ears. For one, it is home to some of the smoothest talking salesmen the world can ever see. Whatever they were selling. 

There is a lane for Jewellery. For clothing. For spices etc. And all of them have ever inviting people who do it with such ease and flourish that you could swear that they had come to your marriage! Or at least, bought you a drink. Or something close. 

The first look at me, got most of them to say, “Indian?” and upon hearing the affirmative “Namaste”.  Then followed the sweetest of talk laced with a countless “My friend” to sell you a perfume that was scented for the Pharaoh or the outstanding painting that you had no idea to buy. Or clothes. Or spices. Trinkets. Whatever. 

We were sufficiently warned of the need to ‘negotiate’ by almost every single person except perhaps the officer at the Immigration counter who had a rather businesslike approach and just stamped our passports. Practically everybody else asked us to negotiate. Such kind people they are. 

Here is a description of a deal, just to labour that point. 

The friend that I am with, is interested in Papyrus paintings.  “A thousand Egyptian Pounds for this wonderful painting” says a young man displaying a large painting which looks beautiful to me. He has deep eyes and a sing song accent that is adorned with love and decked with concern for the whole world.  They negotiate. The young man reels of stories of why he must sell at that price. Features. Benefits.  (If ever you need to the learn how to negotiate with charm, you must take lessons from here) 

Time and my friend’s patience wilt the price down from the 1000 he started with. At 600 Egyptian pounds, the young man lowers his volume and says, “Ok 550. But don’t tell anyone. I will lose all my respect amongst the traders here. They think I don’t sell for anything less than a thousand pounds”. 

“You called me ‘friend’ and quoted a 1000 pounds when we started”. My friend almost wails. “Ah, that,” the young man replies. “That is the ‘Enemy price’.  The price I am quoting is a ‘friends price’” and they go on.  

The persistence, and more than anything else, what catches my imagination the smoothness with which the soldiering on takes place with no forceful argumentative stuff that is so typical in similar markets!



My friend soldiered on.  It reminded me of an intricate chess game ever as I was clicking away at this chess board with Egyptian characters on display at the same store. Finally the deal was done. 550 Egyptian Pounds. For TWO paintings!! The money exchanged hands and we walked out happy. My friend was sufficiently chuffed and suitably thrilled. 

Until about half an hour later, when we were offered two painting for three hundred pounds. 

I didn’t know who was having the last laugh between them, but all the trade, commerce and  bright lights brought the smiles out in me. Markets indeed were in conversation!

My friend, for some reason, was in a deeply contemplative mood. Perhaps it was something that we ate during lunch.  

The Great Indian Thali !

There are many things unique about India. Amongst the chief elements is the variety of the food palette that can cater to every single pore on your tongue. 

With the coming of the McDonalds, KFCs, Pizza stores and a variety of others the degree of standardization across the country is no joke! The walls are of the same hue. The uniforms are of the same colour. Even how they greet you is scripted. So much so, if you have been regular at a particular fast food chains outlet, you would exactly know what they are going to say next !  So much for ‘standardization of user experience’.

But ofcourse, you go to a junk food joint ( ok, fast food joint ) to fill the stomach. If there is an itch to satiate a travel bug, well, you eat only partly to fill stomach.  The other portion is to soak up a culture and fill the soul.

Take for instance the Thali. The great Indian Thali, is different in different places.  Its called the Thali and is an assortment of permutations and combinations of main courses and side dishes that will kick up an awesome taste that lasts far beyond the big burp at the end of the meal.

For instance, a Gujarati Thali is served in what seems like a necklace of small containers  which sit inside a large plate, with some space for ghee laden rotis and rice are a part of Gujarati Thali.  

Before

During

After 

The refills for every container will keep flowing endlessly.

I swear, I have wiped off every morsel much to the embarrassment of the missus and anyone else that eats alongside.  


A trip down south to Tamil Nadu will get you a very different version of a Thali. On a banana leaf. All partitions need to be created by the one who eats.

‘When good food is gorged down, of what use is a partition’ ! That was a good friends mom, when, I asked her for a bowl to house my payasam !

Such delights!  

The after effects can be good sidestory though. That warrants a separate blogpost.  

Defining a state

Driving through Kerala is an experience. For starters, whats called the highway has just about as wide as for two regular trucks to go past barely scrapping each others paint on the bumper. That may not be completely accurate all points of the highway. Someplaces, its actually worse.

Yet, it is an absolute pleasure. For several reasons. For it is in such a drive that the contradictions clean out any preconceived idea that you came laden with.

One, the perpetual sea of green that adorn the sides of the road is such a soothing alternative to Mumbai. Where the roads are so seamlessly and almost by way birthright encroached upon by a builder, a hawker or a gawker. The road side in Kerala is a green.

Two, is the colourful array construction that surprised me no end. Truth be told, some choice of colour left me open mouthed debilitation of the eye. Churches , temples, mosques, toddy shops all hold your attention. Amidst them the churches predominately hold attention. Atleast they did so to mine.


Just as you are taking a turn at the road, if you need to be keeping yourself mentally alive and occupied its easy to do here. You could play simple game like betting with yourself (or with the people in the car that you are traveling with ) that the visual element that would next meet your eye, upon taking the turn, would be a ‘purple coloured spire with some connection to Jesus’.

You could be right. In most cases, I was. Or wrong. Like I was. In yet other cases I was yet to recover from the intensity of the previous sighting or the point of interest it generated.


For instance, you couldn’t think of a South Indian temple without thinking of the golden staff that adorns them. The permeability of culture to enable people to settle into a new idea or religion and help them feel at home was evident in some churches sporting the same golden staff.

But then disappointment or joy doesn’t matter. Either way, the sight is arresting with a limitlessly boundless feeling. Of either joy, wonder, curiosity or ‘what-were-they-thinking’ ! For the sight of a green coloured toddy shop or a bright yellow temple or at the least, an aesthetically constructed and ever so visually appealing to the eye kind of a house (bungalow) ensure that there just is no dearth of what the eyes can soak up.

At other times, distant cousins of Schumacher and Hamilton will shake you up as they rev the cracker of an engine in what would seem like a bus that would barely survive the corner swerve. The only warning signs are written on the sides : ‘Super Fast’ . In a rather quiet and demure way.


If you look at the shape of the bus that seemed to have rubbed its body against dinosaurs and conclude that super fast would be as glacial movement, well, let me put it this way : please be prepared for a rude awakening.

But try wrapping your arms around the state with a singular idea or a definition, and realization quickly dawns that its tough to do that.



Somewhere between all these churches and temples, communist party supporter still thrive.

Amidst all the relaxed ambiance of nature that thrives by the side of the road, the super fast buses rule the roost in the middle of the road

Wonderful stately artistic houses nestle in the midst of purple spires, yellow domes and toddy shops painted in green.

The simple pristine dhoti is the regular wear while big billboards advertise for jewelry, seemingly by the kilo, that could well have the potential of making the Reserve Bank of India feeling downright jealous.

The artistic quotient in the real movies of Kerala is perhaps the best in the country. Of the other kind of movies, that get made have an equal if not exceedingly alluring claim to fame too.

It is these contradictions that seem to have made peace with each other and thrive in a seamless ease, that make the place rich for me.

Much like a husband and wife who have a productive and harmonious marital life. Yet, he annoyed at the way she squeezes the toothpaste out, even as he gives the same toothpaste case the treatment she would give to a jewellery box.

And she perennially cheesed off by his insistent perpetual oddity of chewing dosa with loud chomps that would fit a primate even as she would insist on using a knife and fork to prise open and transport the the masala dosa from the plate to the tongue with elegance that can reach a hall of excellence in that category.

The red flag waving communist complemented by the purple church spire and yellow temple dome. The clean roads matched only by elements of nature and insistent ‘towers’ that are coming up now. The oodles of history besotted by the imminence of the present day. All of these, and much more, make what perhaps is an idea that is Kerala.

An idea that is not defined by singularly by geography or history or Economics or by this all encompassing word of ‘culture’ ! For the state comes alive in its boundless contradictions and uncanny beneficence of nature and hospitable people.

Who make some awesome boiled rice and fish curry. On that invigorating thought, I rest this post.


Previous post is here

Bringing up children..

We were at the Grand Canyon. It was almost end of day. Tired and exhausted. The muscles cried for some rest after hours of battling the sun, the heat and the height. Perhaps for the first time, the camera was whining too, with the batteries draining.

Attempting to take one last shot of the ‘depth’ of the Canyon, I ventured as far as daring would get me to and the missus would allow. It was a sheer drop beyond the point I was attempting to walk upto.

Earlier in the day, the bus driver had joked, ‘If you want to get to the bottom of the canyon faster than the bus, I recommend that you keep walking off that ledge. Beyond a point, it would take you all of 6 minutes”. And then he indulged himself into a shoulder-jerking-in-fits–of-laughter !

His words ringing in my ear, I took each step of the descent to the ledge, with great care. When I was about 5 feet away from what seemed like the end of the world, two important occurrences took place. One gradually receding and another getting more and more pronounced.

One, courage was steadily evaporating. Slowly but steadily. Leaving behind traces of the big sized occupant that it once was. For, from where I was, I could see the end of the stretch of land I was standing on, and the beginning of a sheer drop.

Two, from a distance, the missus was howling me to stop right there. Howling to the point of embarrassment. Anyone could have mistaken me for one of those greedy bigamists who was just running away with her jewels! There perhaps were two elements that powered her thought : One, she had heard the driver. Two, she knew me well !

Anyway, the combination of those two factors got me to stop moving, at the speed of light. Perhaps faster. I stopped. Waved back to her. Indicating that I am not moving an inch further, and she stood right there, in a distance, crossing arms.

In that moment, there was transformation. Of the howling scare on her face, transforming into a solid stare, perhaps indicating what would happen if I did. These of course are moments of silence and depth in our marital life!

As a consolation, I pulled out my camera, and started clicking.

Which is when this young mother walked past me with her kid in one hand and the camera in the other. I was aghast. She walked right past me, straight to the ledge. Got her kid to sit down, she sat down http://www.eta-i.org/provigil.html too. Two steps to her back or one step to the left would mean she would go down thousands of feet ! A concealed squeal escaped my lips.



She pulled out her camera and started taking pictures ! I stared in awe. I turned to gesture to the missus to see whats happening only to see that she her face was buried in her palms, not wanting to see what was going on.

That is end of the story. Obviously the lady, after clicking few pictures, stood up, looked around and walked away. Impervious to all the hyper pumping that she caused in at least two hearts.

What we didn’t know was that this scene was to take several avatars and play itself out many times over during our trip. The settings were different but the theme was the same. Parents that seemed inclined to expose kids to what could be called, a certain ‘spirit of adventure’.

Which took me back to how kids are brought up in the households of neighbours / friends / relatives and colleagues back home here. For instance, would anybody let their kids go that close to a ledge? Am not so sure. ( You would notice that I am conveniently side stepping the angle of ‘Would anyone go close to a ledge’).

Which is when the mind darted to a comment that an auto rickshaw driver made some time back, while discussing seat belts. The sum and substance of what he said was this : Daily life in itself was such a challenge, adventurous and risk-prone.

He spoke of his kids who were about in their pre-teens years old, who carry the satchels, cross the highway, take a public bus, at peak hour just to reach school. Everyday. For the past several years.

Now, quite obviously, crossing a highway will not be at a zebra crossing but just looking at and dodging traffic and rushing through. The public bus perhaps has all of four inches of feet space available. Of potholes, the less said the better.

With an arid tongue and matter of fact tone, he said, ‘This safety & risk business is for soft people like you who live in high rises. Beyond a point, nothing matters’. The rest of the journey was populated with such conversation laced with moments of silence.

Quite often, I wonder how kids are brought up here. Forget risk. Do kids in modern day metro go out and catch fresh air, throw themselves at nature, run with gay abandon…? Like we used to ? I am not sure.

Ofcourse, I wonder what you think..


Honour in Strawberry picking

It was a perfect summer morning. We were driving from somewhere to somewhere in California. This big signboard was significant enough to grab and hold the attention of folks in the car. STRAWBERRY PICKING.

In no particular hurry to get anywhere the mind didn’t need any effort to get enticed to alight and set afoot to do some picking. Strawberry picking !



It’s got some level of physical activity for all in the family. For the kids to run around. For the adults to run after the kids. For adults to become kids. And for kids to chase the new found adult kids. In between, of course, plucking and heaping up strawberries in small containers.

There were very few instructions to follow. This board illustrated all that was needed to be done. Which was as elaborate as : Come here : Go pick : Come back & Weigh : Pay up : Go !









Pick we did. With some gusto. Any first timer could have mistaken us for folks that have never seen strawberries before or for folks that have been kept restrained for long. Slowly the baskets kept filling. The red strawberries glistened to the background sounds of cars and big Harleys whooshing by, which in themselves were dwarfed by the shrieks of joy in finding a bigger strawberry !

Soon we were done. There was enough energy left in the nieces to pluck the entire strawberry. It was us adults, who were tired. And folks like me still calibrating the dollar-rupee equation and wondering how much we would have plucked for !


That brought me face to face with the ‘honour till’ as they call it. The concept is simple again. It goes like this.

a. You bring in the strawberries that you have plucked

b. You weigh them yourself

c. You calculate how much to pay

d. You open the till ( ‘cash box’, as is better known in our part of the world )

e. You pay the money

There is no ‘cashier’. In fact, no one from the store is around. There are no cameras. Nothing. The folks just trust you to weigh correctly and pay appropriately. Guess what, we lived up to their trust, in right earnest. Paying to the last dime. That perhaps is the model. Trust people to pay and they will ! That was interesting. To say the least.

Its about a month ago that we did all of this. The rain drenched Mumbai air provides a distinctly different flavor to the senses. Much different and much enjoyable too. Yet, dipping into memories of red berry dotted rows of green, is done with no difficulty.

The days when adults became kids and kids remained kids are not days that are forgettable. The expanse of nature and the fresh clean best complimented by an expanse in the trust of the ‘honour till’. The clean blue skies and the fresh stillness of farmland only to be punctuated by those shouts of joy from such adorable nieces.

Well, some memories are truly priceless.

Names & Numerals

Truth be told, my math (amongst many other things that can go without mention) isn’t top notch. Well, let me put it mildly that way, and leave it there. But whatever little understanding that I have had around math was ably aided by scanning number plates and their three / four digit numbers on licnece plates.

As a kid, vehicle license plates and their three/ four numbers that Indian number plates had, held sway over my attention. Permutations, combinations, additions, multiplications on were best matched by a keen interest in automobiles!

That fancy for number plates, I discovered has remained ever so dormant. That discovery happened because the dormancy was disturbed, in the US !


While most plates were of the regular alpha numeric variety, there were some else that that arched the eyebrow, evinced a laugh or even evoked sympathy in human condition. When none of that happened, it plain popped the eye out !

Thus scanning of number plates of vehicles that were passing wasn’t just another passing interest but quickly ascending ( the missus calls it ‘ descending’) into a profound obsession that I could have easily passed for a car jacker or an insurance surveyor or a cop!

Some elementary macro dissection of the number plate. The full name of the state is present in a particular font. You are allowed to have symbols, alphabets and letters. The plate could get a different hue depending on a ‘theme’ ( for want of a better word ). ” A memorial ‘theme’ ” could get you a different background on your plate than what a “Olympic training center’theme’ ” could get. Or even ones that are ‘themed’ after a college / university that you went to.

A portion of the fee thats collected goes to that college / Olympic training center etc ( the list is long and myriad ). In case it interests you more than this, the list is here. And in the larger scheme of things, $ 75 per anum, well, seems ok !


Every spotting of a car with a fancy plate got the heart to beat a trifle faster. Sometimes evoking a strain on the neck to see the full plate or look at the driver to reconfirm deepest suspicions or just about see if the driver was for real !

On another note, these license plates while giving me new vocabulary, haven’t quite helped my math much. The closest that I came to math computation was spotting and counting ‘5Punjab’ ‘6Punjab’ ‘7Punjab’ ! That was elementary, even by my own towering mathematical standards ! Nevertheless, Name plates that beamed from BMWs and tangoed from the Toyotas stood out on Californian roads. !



Which brings me to another subject. The Hindustan Times speaks of number plates in Delhi that is going for as high as Rs.5 lakhs ( $ 11,200 )! All for a string of numbers. Imagine what creativity can be unleashed , if the US style is adopted. And of course, imagine the money spinner that it can become!

Sporting stylish license will become a super cool thing. Ad gurus will start specializing in it. Artists will thrive. Mainstream media will have a program going for it. And like all other sundry programs including the weather report, millions will stream to watch it.

Occasionally, or rather, frequently, some Sam in a whimsical mood to impress his wife or make up with her, could have his name plate bearing “SamYAni”. That could get the moral police up in arms for “public display of affection” or some such convoluted interpretation of a some archaic rule that caught a Britishers fancy many eons ago.

Of course, there would be protests and prime time national coverage with four blokes having a shouting match and the winner being the one with highest decibel levels!

I mean, just imagine, how many salaries can this number plate rule pay. It can bring about a change in the economy, I say !

Ah, but I digress. As usual. The number plate I so strained to capture on camera but with very little success was of this lady on a Harley Davidson, as she whooshed pass us. Her plate just said : ‘O Not Hiz’


Back from the Bay Area !


So there ! Am back. Armed with a little more than the usual courage to wallow in prose hoping that jet lag and such else, will tug at the sympathetic sides of your brain and aid you in giving me some more allowance.

The Bay Area is a beautiful place. Clean air, copious food, cool breeze, warm people and an eclectic mix of experiences have left me pouting the good life in the the US of A to any who would care to ask me ‘how have you been’! With a preponderance that can only be matched by the now pronounced pot belly that is making its presence felt, best supplemented by the dark circles under the eye!

I come armed with stories and pictures. Of a land that’s far away yet seems so close. So different yet so alike. So familiar yet so distinct. Ofcourse, these stories will find a way to get to the blog. Or so I hope.

My Grandmother used to tell me many stories. Amongst them, one darts to the forefront is about an ass who starved to death. Oh, no. He wasn’t practicing yoga or whatever. He starved to death because of the two bales of hay that were kept on his either side . Yet, the ass that he was, died in braying glory, unable to choose which side of the hay he start his food with.

Places seen. People spoken to. History that’s not so long ago. Natural beauty that seems to have been around forever. Contexts. Conversations. Reflections. The pictures that abound the hard drive and the stories that jump around in my head has lead me to the same problem the other ass had : The problem of plenty! Which leaves me reeling about what and where to begin !

I flew Korean air. But time flew some other jet, that flew far faster ! The only time in the entire trip when time seemed to go on frame-by-frame slow motion mode was on the 24 hour return journey. For a variety of obvious reasons !

But am back. Back from order to chaos. From dollar to rupees. ( My multiplication skills have jumped manifold, especially if something is to multiplied by 47). From silence to noise. From left hand drives to right hand drives. From tissue paper to the good old mug in the bathroom.

Am back home and feeling good that am back home !


PS: Please scroll down for earlier posts on this trip, or read them here and here.

Wisdom in a truck..

The colour and pageantry of India is a subject of a deep discussion for anyone who lands from a foreign soil. It has always been a comment with sincere and perpetual wonder, often causing ceaseless head shaking and a breathless ‘its so colourful ..’

What was so colourful here didn’t dawn on me for a long while. But, enlightenment can dawn at odd places and often arrives unannounced. The Bodhi tree for instance would have been another tree until Buddha sat underneath it ! Or take the case of the like the just-another-apple that brought appledom great fame by falling on Newton’s head!

Well, read on !

A sultry evening of fiddling with the camera had an interesting picture in the view finder. A moving truck. In all red splendour. As a cleaner hung on to in what appeared to be a rather precarious position. To me, that is. For him, he didn’t seem to have a care in the world as he sashayed like an emperor in his bathtub, with confidence only fit of a trapeze artist in a Russian circus !

Sruprise surprise, I soon lost the plot of staying clued on to the chap that was hanging by the door, but was hooked onto pageantry of the rather pedestrian form of transportation for goods!

As the finger clicked away, beaming red truck carrying what looked like gravel suddenly became an object of wonder. Go on, play close attention to the picture. Play with me, ok ? Go on an spot these for yourself.



The trishul on the bonnet

The yellow eagle on the bonnet

The multi coloured fenderThe chains that hang

The picture of ‘kumb’ on the sides

The invocation for profit (above the headlamps !)

The same invocation (written colourfully in the head )

The Triad of Red-Green-Yellow ( three ) near the windscreen

The Three night lamps kind of bulbs on the header

The psychedelic designs on the header

Ofcourse, all in the name of God !

The intricate curls in the brain could be filled with hyperactivity to articulate a cogent utilitarian reason. Those three bulbs you see ? or for that matter, those chains that hang ? Or the psychedelic design of the header? And so on. Except ofcourse, well, the cultural leaning towards colour !

The truck was oblivious to the zoom lens in action. A rash swerve announcing a turn and bearing the blue design on its behind ! What a combination you would imagine ! A bright red on the bonnet and a bright blue to compliment that would seem an eerie combination as a shirt-trouser combination but somehow this truck seemed to pull it off with elan !

Ofcourse, the tale doesn’t end there, if only you care to look. Yellow and red design layering on the rear may seem out of place for the rather dull gravel in the back but, don’t they make a pretty picture. The ubiquitous ‘Horn Please’, some flowers, and two seemingly replica landscape paintings! Landscape paintings!


If there were any questions in my mind about how colourful a land we are, well, those were dispelled with disdain by another swerve of the truck. Considering the plain monstrous trucks that ply the highways of foreign lands, and where only one man precariously hangs by the door : Arnold Schwarzenegger !

When the eye starts looking, the colour and art that thrives in our everyday lives isn’t funny. Sample this designer danglers that adorn another truck’s door.



And ofcourse, intricate artwork to back it up. If so much of colour can go into porting gravel and such else, we sure were worthy of the tag of a ‘colourful’ country !

Well, that’s the wisdom that came in a truck !