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Strappy Days

In blah, the (much) better half, vacation on February 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I, finally have an achievement to speak of, for my existence of over the better part of three decades. Having dithered, dilly’ed, procrastinated and for good measure, dally’ed for over three weeks since the seed of the idea germinated, the wife and I finally left the bustling and apparently irresistible force that is Mumbai for a purely voluntary weekend away, in Mahabaleshwar.

Before I’m faced with allegations of falsely trying to paint myself as a workaholic, it was always just laziness. Firstly, the time and more importantly effort that goes into figuring out a weekend destination is pretty much that goes into planning a year-long hiatus, or what must’ve gone into the invasion of Troy. Secondly, when compared to setting the alarm for 8.30am just for the bliss of pressing ‘Off’ and turning over for an additional couple of hours, the idea of being up dark and early (if it was bright, it’d wouldn’t really be early would it?) to *gasp* shower…and be *choke* physically active seemed just plain dumb. That said, not trying desperately, and succeeding, at looking like a vegetable over an entire day does have its rewards. It helped that the missus took on the onerous task of planning the invasion, namely means of transport and potential hotels.

A late night bus ride got us there; you guessed it, dark and early. Our cab driver’s doubts after hearing our hotel’s name – Fredrick, were justified when we came across a locked gate and an unanswered reception phone number. It was only later that day, as we walked about town, it struck us that our original hotel was the only one that didn’t display “Only Pure Veg.”, almost as prominently as the name of the hotel itself. I’d take up the cause for this blatant discrimination against those of us who prefer their food to have had a mother, preferably well-marinated, but this was a vacation wasn’t it.

Out and about after a hearty breakfast and the overarching theme is red. Everywhere you look, a dimpled red with a short green stalk adorns every storefront. Also the storesides storeback and storeroof. Enter the missus. Now, the woman I married is for the most part, a balanced, level-headed person, the odd transgressions being around chocolate, shoes and bags, in that order. Within minutes of entering the market-square though, she had a gleam in her eyes, that I remember having seen only once before, when I’d done the unthinkable and voluntarily tossed a sock into the washing machine instead of its usual resting place, on the coffee table. There is a scene in The Matrix, where Morpheus takes Neo through his first training simulation of the matrix. As Neo fights his way against the flow of the crowd, Morpheus glides through unimpeded. Ditto here! As I politely dealt with gents of dubious face-reading skills who kept coming up insisting that I looked like Ganpati and would have three progeny, she glided. We mutually decided that the emotion could only be described as strappiness, a state of blissful happiness arising from being in the vicinity of millions of strawberries.

Several ‘points’ with breathtaking views, a guide who had surprisingly accurate data on the number of tourists to have met their maker by jumping off them, the shooting of a film song sequence with a gent with a mop on his head and a lady with enough glitter on her outfit (however much of it there was) to blind onlookers. Quite the weekend.

Terima Kasih

In blah, life, vacation on November 17, 2007 at 3:59 pm

In the days of yore (never knew when or what yore was), hunters and trackers could tell their exact location based on the lay of the land, colour of the soil and vegetation. I figured I’d perfected my own method (besides of course knowing where the hell I was going in the first place).

The theory (Before): Its based on my first interaction with a local official. A combination of the accent and politeness quotient. The former would indicate which side of the equator and continent you’re on, the latter, how developed the country you’re in. Given my only excursions before last week were to the US and Australia (for current purposes, stopovers in Zurich, Frankfurt and London should count). Its only logical that the difference across nations in per capita income and the associated disparity, population density, financial stability will manifest itself noticably.

That had to explain the condescendingly bored tone of the official at the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai) that made clear his absolute control over every individual leaving the country’s shores or the salivating expressions on the faces of those stationed at baggage carousels to ‘help’ passengers, who sidle up going “psst…need help with getting through customs?” Also the contrasting smiley “Good Morning Sir” at the local SSN office in small-city, USA.

That theory however died quietly in a nation not unlike ours in two key aspects; population density and disparity in economic development. Every interaction -polite and respectful. The traffic, as dense as Mumbai in peak hour, and yet, orderly and minus the honking. The excellent infrastructure makes you wonder why Mumbai’s arterial roads are still 2-laned dribbles clogged worse than Elvis’s must’ve been when he croaked. That said, judging by NCR, four lanes are not an automatic cure for boorishness.

The theory (After): It has now been whittled to saying that if the official is polite and shows a smidgeon of pride in his work, you can’t tell where you are, but one place you’re definitely not is India.

p.s: Completely unrelated note, the food in that part of the world is amazingly diverse. My list of meals experiences include padang (indonesian), sushi & teppanyakki (japanese), kimchi (korean), mexican, indo-indonesian-chinese (at a restaurant called Queens!) interspersed with Krispy Kremes and Starbucks. My abs hurt from the crunches. Guilt can be an amazing motivator.

Oh, and the title means Thank You in bahasa indonesia, not the swear word you were thinking

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Necessity: the motherhood of apple pie!

In blah, rant, vacation on November 7, 2007 at 7:12 am

Its that time again. to put together all that you will need for a defined period of time into a rigid plastic receptacle. For someone who relies on striding out of the shower rifling through my wardrobe to follow a regimented process:
step 1: pick up item
step 2: sniff for pervasive body odours. if none proceed to next step, else glumly put item in laundry basket and go to step 1
step 3: examine for all-too-evident creasing. if not visible from more than 5 feet, proceed, else go to step 1

its anathema to think of the things I’ll need for a week in advance! Packing! The prime example of the failure of the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention”. Else, how does one explain the non-existence of the following:

  1. Wrinkle-free & perspiration-repellant clothing: The former does supposedly exist and the marketing claims are true too, as long as once you put them on, you believe that your back is made of brittle graphite and you do not test the flexion of your joints (namely; knees and elbows). The latter, well, would reduce the need for all those changes of clothes, so you could saunter into an airport with maybe a gym-bag worth of underwear changes (if you’re particularly fussy).
  2. Multi-purpose shoes: Blame it on the capitalist mindset to have everyone own multiple pairs of shoes; by that I don’t even mean the two cabinets worth (and then some) that S owns but the need for formal – black/brown, sneakers, sandals etc. Why not one pair that can change colour between black and brown and is supple and provides enough support to take a pounding on a treadmill? But no, if Reebok’s schizophrenia-inducing ads are to be believed, there’s two people in everyone. fair enough i say, but why cant both wear the same pair!
  3. Dress codes not bordering on sadomasochism: It was one thing when the stuffy old coots in good ol’ england dressed in their frock coats, stiff collars, suspenders and went “Jolly good I say!” They had there bonded labour aka butler in the form of Jeeves or Threepwood or what you have you to track down and launder every item of clothing. Why didn’t one of these stiffs realise that as you moved closer to the equator, you needed fewer layers and less of your body covered? More importantly, why haven’t we figured this one out on our own? Imagine going to work in thin spun-cotton tees and shorts/cargos with open-sandals.

I suppose the promise of exotic south-east asian massages does alleviate the suffering to an extent though. Here’s to Indonesia; Happy Diwali and all that jazz…

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