Adios 2015

I’m a little late to the party, I know. But ever since I put it out into the universe that I wanted to create and put out a novel, work got extremely work like and dumped me with more tasks than time in the day. Needless to say, I failed that particular task miserably. However, the whole of 2015 was not a failure. Instead of tempting fate and starting an another ambitious novel titled ‘What Happened To Me in 2015’ or the less ambitious version of ‘How Everything Can Change In a Year‘, I created a picture collage of my 12 highlights of the last year!

2015 Photo Snapshot Cupitonians
Click on the image for a full size view!

And here is a list – since I can’t help myself!

  1. I attended a music festival in Bangalore and the headline band was Alt-J, one of my most favourite bands of all time. This is big because growing up we never got to go to concerts (part of the reason being that not many artists came to India). I attended it with people I love and there just is something about hearing your favourite music live while swaying in the rain to the rhythms that move you.
  2. The boy moved countries for me, yes. But I love the fact that over the year he has gotten to know my family better to the extent of having inside jokes with them. I’ve always wanted to be with someone like that and watching them cuss out identically during family sports night just fills me with so much happiness. It really is the little things.
  3. We watched a lot of sports. I don’t get to do it too much now that I have moved countries but Bangalore gave us the opportunity to watch our cricket team and football team in action. So what if there was a little (okay, fine, it was a lot) monsoon!
  4. The third image is us watching the finals with Bangalore Football Club (BFC) and the fourth image is of us at a Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) match
  5. As a going away present, my colleagues and dear, dear friends gifted me a Kindle. It is such a blessing because I love reading so much but have had to leave all my books behind because of the move. Thanks to the Kindle, I can now read anywhere and it weighs next to nothing despite having a billion billion books.
  6. We moved to Bangkok for a lot of reasons. The Erawan Shrine became a big landmark for us because I work next to it and it was bombed shortly after we moved. It is a symbol of how resilient we are as humans when it comes to disaster and ultimately, what it is that makes us humans
  7. Bangkok is a BIG city in the true sense of the word. I share a love-hate relationship with it. But every time I get down about it, a breathtaking market pops up. I’m not much of a shopper, but the markets here have been such a delight!
  8. Part of why I love being in this part of the world is all the travel opportunities – I have so far been to two coastal areas and one beautiful island. Bangkok is another gem that we still haven’t explored fully. In the photo here is the lovely island of Koh Samet.
  9. Photo of the pier at Pattaya (Which reminds me that maybe I should write more travel journals!)
  10. The Bangkok river side and Asiatique
  11. I have always wanted to travel for work. I realise that the idea of travelling for work is much more romantic than it really is, now that I am leaving behind someone. However, while previous travel for work experiences were limited to one end of Bangalore to another, 2015 took me to Malaysia and one of the most beautiful office spaces I have ever seen.
  12. December saw Star Wars (Weeeee!), a new love for BB8. It also included an unplanned trip back to Bangalore for Christmas with family.

The most important event was the chance to meet and spend time with my niece. I am forbidden from posting her photos on online platforms (her parents have a thing about it I can’t really explain!). However, I never thought it possible to love someone so truly without actually knowing much about the person but I am truly in love with that little munchkin.

Can’t wait for what 2016 will unfold!

Packing Essentials – Things You Should Never Leave Home Without

I am a great advocate of packing light and making do with bare necessities because let’s face it, if you wanted to travel to another country to experience all the things you love at home (re: McDonalds), then you might as well stay home. To be fair, I make it a point to try the local KFC meal just because. This is what it looks like in Bangkok.

KFC Thailand
(Expert’s note: When they say spicy, they really, really, really MEAN IT!)

Jokes aside (but seriously, the word ‘Spicy’ in a meal is a warning, not a description!), there are somethings that you should carry with you no matter how large or small your luggage space is. It has helped turn travels into journeys into unforgettable adventures and the best part of it all is that they are ABSOLUTELY FREE!

In no particular order, I give you my packing essential list.

Packing Essential #1 – An Open Mind

Bucket Cocktails

Shady Bars

Right alongside your handy travel adapter (even though being phoneless can have great perks!), bring an open mind. There will be times when you are called on to drink cocktails from shady bars in buckets, there will be times you will have to drive on the other side of the road, times when out of sheer hunger you will say yes to the man selling roasted scorpions. These make great icebreakers when you’re on your next adventure but mostly you will remember having the time of your life!

Packing Essential #2 – Patience

Zanzibar

If you don’t have an annoying sibling, find an annoying friend or go stand in the queue at Nilgiris (a supermarket that just can’t bill your products without also making you wait for 500 hours) in India. It will help you develop this great thing called Patience which is also free but you won’t believe the things it will help teach you. That delayed sky-train ride, those long hours being lost in translation, those cancelled flights, those times a terminal becomes your second home – these are things that help you live a realistic day-to-day life in a foreign country. It could lead you to holidays you never planned for – like an island trip to Zanzibar or breath-taking views because walking through dangerous hills was your only chance out. When you aren’t trying to follow in Bill Murray’s footsteps, life happens to you.

Packing Essential #3 – Greetings 101

I have always been the kind who doesn’t read much about the place or its culture till I am actually smack in the middle of living it. It is not always a good idea. There’s always a chance that somebody speaks English and will help you out, but it could just as easily go the other way. If you are like me, just observe the words that are being said in greetings. Saying hello is a big deal in all cultures and even if you speak no more than the word for ‘whats up?’, you will find your journey that much more easy because of it. It gives off the impression that you are trying (which, of course you are) and it helps you make friends with the locals which can lead to even more moments you won’t soon forget. Find a way to bond and if you can get them to smile (or laugh) back at you, you are set!

Packing Essential #4 – Manners

Tanzanian Kids

While not all rituals seem logical to you, when in a foreign country, it is good to practice your manners. They do things different two streets down from where my parents stay and yet, when I’m in their neighbourhood, I respect their way. As a guest, it is your duty to be mindful of what goes and what doesn’t. Keep your eyes open and read body language where you can. Take your shoes off where you need to, cover up where it is expected, and stand up for the anthem even if it is in the cinema. At the end of the day, good manners will take you where your money won’t go.

Packing Essential #5 – Curiosity

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This great characteristic to develop is deadly to cats, or so I hear, but great for us humans. Wanting to know what that particular shrine is, or what is down that colourful street is a great way to discover things that aren’t on a Lonely Planet Guide or on Trip Advisor. Yes, you can see and do and all touristy things that your heart desire, but there is something appealing about finding a canal and pointing and ordering the greatest dish you have ever tasted. Forget the taxi and get on that rickety boat. You never know what treasure you will find on the other side!

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Beautiful Bangalore

I got obsessed with looking at photos of old Bangalore – it’s one of those things that happens when one research topic leads to the googling of another and then another and then … you know where it ends, if it ever ends. It made me nostalgic for the kind of Bangalore I grew up in. Ones where we’d build a makeshift tent in the backyard in the summer, where the roads were full of cycling teenagers and intense games of street cricket. Sometimes I forget that in all this 21st century pollution and greyness and smog and traffic (Oh god, the traffic!), that Bangalore is still green and it still has pockets of magic just waiting to blow your mind if you know where to look at it.

I knew this without a shadow of a doubt as I was rushing home after work and you could just see the monsoon storm clouds rolling in. You know what Bangalore is when you can run with a bag on your head to chai aunty and ask for a hot cuppa. You know when you’re sitting on the old swing on someone’s old Bangalore house and you see the trees that are centuries old, that were once parts of woods – they have seen and will see everything.

You know Bangalore is beautiful when you look at views like these!

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Oh to fall in love with your city all over again!

Five Years Time

I’ve had a serious sit down to take stock of the past 5 years. In the same breath, so much has changed and yet so much is the same.

2010 – 2011

Zanzibar

I was in Tanzania mid-2010. I had quit my 7 days a week, 16 hours a day job that I thought was helping me “save the world” and “make a difference”. Oh to be young and naïve. My mental and physical health had deteriorated and in desperation for a change or on a whim (I can’t remember which it was) I decided not to wait for the ‘someday’ and just book my tickets to Tanzania. I decided I’d go there for a few weeks and if nothing worked out, I could just as easily come back. I stayed there nearly a year. I went in blind and made up the next steps as I got there. It is an adventure close to my heart. Being as list-crazy as I am, I managed to list all the things I managed to do while there so I don’t have to rehash an old subject. Read more here.

2012 – 2013

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When I came back from East African adventure, I was so jaded I stayed at home and decided to enjoy just being. When you’re on the go for so long, you crave moments of being rooted. One day turned into two years. I stayed at home, I took care of grammie (which was gratifying and yet very mentally and physically exhausting). For work, I consulted with a few NGOs and conducted workshops, I also took a step towards moving to my dream career of writing. I blogged more, I sought out freelance projects and got lucky to be hired by the Day Zero Project (I still contend it is the best job I have ever had). I went through emotional rollercoasters of a very extreme kind – I lost a mentor (you can read the requiem here) and just the baggage of being someone’s caretaker, of staying at home and never going out pushed me to a whopping 105kgs of weight. When I hit rockbottom and there was nowhere else to go, I decided to get my fitness back on track and also decided to pay for an international trip for my brother.

I know, I know. It isn’t as glamourous as it seems. We went to Malaysia and Singapore and had the time of my life (I had to tag along you see. Make sure my money was being put to good use. Shortly after we came back, I got to see the Taj Mahal which is every bit as beautiful as they say it is.  I felt like I found a fresh lease on life – I suppose you are always optimistic when you are travelling.  I got back home to find myself in the same rut. Something had to be done. I decided to do a drastic – I’m leaving – step like I did with Tanzania. Only this time, we found out the li’l sister was engaged so I made a deal with the parents that I will stay till she got married and then leave the nest (about time too!)

The Baby Pea got married in 2013 and I used that as an excuse to get some more travelling in. After visiting large parts of England, Wales and Scotland (including hunting for Nessie and visiting the mother of all henges!), I saw my dad walk her down the aisle and it was as if the whole world came a full circle. Later that evening, I realized I was falling in love with a guy I had met at her birthday party – that silly guy that turned my life around. Thus started the long distance phase – the phase that was never meant to be.

2014 – 2015

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I started the year with a visit from said silly man. All those people who looked at me like I had cancer when I said we decided to give long distance a try – I wanted to show them that for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, it was working and I was happy. I stayed on at the parents but got a job as a full time writer. We decided as a couple to try India for a while and so Adam moved all the way from England to a third world nation that somehow suits him more than it suits me. He must’ve been an Indian in a previous life. We moved in together which also meant I moved out of home. Despite all the stress of “OMG what will people say” and the many fights that come from it, it has gone very well. While there is still some pressure to get married because I’m “old” and living in – which is a big sin – I have had an amazing 6 months so far. My family has gotten to know him and he’s gotten to know them. We’ve had a couple of family trips and I finally got to spend so much time with my little niece who is (no bias) a complete sweetheart.

Some of the things we’ve done in this phase makes it feel like we’ve lived lifetimes. We met and saw Alt J and Daniel Waples (who was a revelation) in concert (Rudimental played, but meh!), we’ve been to Thailand, to Pondicherry, to Mysore, we watched RCB play live – which was always a big dream for Adam, we saw the little niece grow from a little baby to a restless ‘I need to see and touch and taste everything’ crawling creature. I’ve also been offered a job in Thailand that may see me there by the end of this year. Or maybe not.

Life is every changing but not one minute of it has been boring. I can only wish that the next five years be as full and adventurous as the last five have been. I’m looking forward to every second of it.

Cheese, Gromit.

I’ve been meaning to write about this old dutch couple that came to volunteer at my parents Aid & Development project. I’ve been meaning to write about it because they seem completely oblivious to 21st century etiquette. For example, they didn’t think there was anything wrong with them bringing their giant dutch flag and wanting it to be flown at the entrances of the villages where my parents work.

To them, they couldn’t see that there was something wrong with white people wanting to plant flags over the land of people from the third world. My dad refused in outrage – it isn’t okay to go around asking people to hoist your nation’s flag. Especially not on their Republic Day. They, of course, thought our outrage was silly and that we were just making a noise to be difficult. So while the new car was being blessed, they went out, brought their flag out and then posed for photos.

To prove to you that this is not a work of fiction
To prove to you that this is not a work of fiction

I am trying to paint a picture of what sort of couple they are. Having read their blog, I know that they think that Indian food is horrible and made to kill your palette, that all Indian cows are dutch cows, that everything in India is inferior and cheap and that every single Indian is  uneducated and poor. Because of the language barrier, they went back home thinking that a 5 year tailoring student became brilliant because of her tutelage and an entire farming community became master farmers because of his planting techniques.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I saw her put sugar on her egg and eat it whole, my giggling would’ve been replaced by something more vocal.

They refused to eat any Indian food and preferred to live off cheese and tinned goods that they brought back from the Netherlands. This is an actual conversation I’ve had with them –

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Them – Do you want some cheese?

Me – I wouldn’t mind tasting some.

Me – Mmm that’s good. What sort of cheese is it?

Them – It’s dutch cheese

Me – Erm, I know, but what sort of cheese is it?

Them – *speaking slowly* it. is. dutch. cheese.

Me – No, I mean, cheddar, blue, goat, you know, variety!

Them – *losing their mind* IT IS DUUUUUUTCH CHEESE!

Me – Forget it.

I think I might be off dutch cheese for good!