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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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.

The Odd Even Dilemma

I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a walking talking Indian stereotype. I am 27, unmarried and have a white boyfriend. However, I live with my parents, work in an IT job and love cricket. Whenever I have travelled in India or abroad, there’s always been a good long soul searching session to figure out how Indian I am. The verdict, maybe a 2.5 out of 10.

Streets of India

I truly felt the guilt of not knowing enough about my culture when I was in France as a teen and had to conduct a 2 hour workshop on India. I drew a blank and my peers took over. I had spent so much of my youth trying to get out of the country that I forgot to take a look around.

Shame on me!

I spent the next few years growing to love the quirks that make India who she is. All communities in India are usually divided by language they speak, geography next. The language you do speak is usually an indication of the culture you grow up in. Despite how we are typecast, India is not of homogenous language and culture. We don’t all speak ‘Indish’ or ‘Hindu’. Those are not even languages. It wasn’t till I was at a work lunch that I realised people identify which community/religion you belong to by your surname.

ROTFLMAO

Of course. I don’t have a surname.

And while most situations go like this –

“What are you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, Kannadiga, Tamilian, Malyali …”

“Erm, I don’t know”

“What language do you speak at home?”

“English”

“So you’re Anglo-Indian?”

“No. I don’t have a single British ancestor”

“What is your mother?”

“Erm, I don’t know”

“What did she speak at home?”

“Kannada”

“So she’s a Kannadiga? So that means you are a Kannadiga”

“No, she just grew up in Karnataka so they learnt to speak in the local language”

The conversation gets really, really confusing after that. If I were to sum up, we are a non-traditional family. Mum’s parents were from two different communities and spoke two different languages. But, they both grew up in the same state and so the local language of Kannada was their go to language. It’s the same with my parents. Their common denominator in terms of communication is English. So what does that make me? A cultural melting pot of South India with a hint of Malaysia? Or just plain old confused?

My despair at being a terrible Indian has gotten less intense after I started dating an Englishman. I notice everyday how some of our conversations start with me saying “In my culture …” and then I wax ad nauseum about things I’ve been told not to do (or do 3 times a day) because that’s the Indian way.

 The latest in this string of conversations was about the Indian gift giving etiquette. I am visiting the UK this month and I was starting to make lists of presents to take for everyone to the sound of the boy’s great confusion. Apparently, I’m a weirdo for wanting to buy everyone presents because the gifting culture among the youngsters has a motto – ‘meh!’

However, we have very specific rules here. Everyone we meet after ages gets a present. If this everyone stays in your city or country, it’s usually a box of sweets or dried fruit. If it’s someone abroad, it would be something that screams India. If you are just returning from a trip abroad, EVERYONE gets chocolates. Even your colleagues whose name you don’t know.

Raj Kootrapalli Gif

We have this odd rule about gifting in evens. If you don’t want to invoke a butterfly effect type disaster, you have to make sure to gift in pairs. You can’t take just one cushion or throw, it has to be two. I think that this comes from a wish that you won’t ever be alone and that you will always have someone to share it with. So gifting in even numbers is a blessing of sorts. This rule does not apply to money, if that’s what your preferred present is. At weddings, birthdays and any big event, we always add a Rs. 1 coin to make it an odd number. So you would gift Rs. 1001 instead of the boring old Rs. 1000. There is a feeling that odd numbers in finances are lucky and will lead to your wallet being quickly filled up till you reach the next 100 and then another 100.

All this to say that I’m really confused – my Indianess dictates that I buy presents. I am in no doubt though that I am going to viewed as a total weirdo. So just in case, I’m looking up YouTube videos so I can blend in the rest of the time.

Oooh look. Already found one about pub lunches!

F.R.I.E.N.D.S E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E

For some odd reason, F.R.I.E.N.D.S is really big in India. It came out on TV when I was in highschool which meant that we would watch it when the parents were asleep because OMG, kissing scenes. But it’s just one of those shows whose catchphrases have stuck with you even after all these years.

Case in point, sometimes I go running in the morning with Broseph. Today he did something like this –

He overtook me with a "That's not running. LET'S GOOOOO!". Erm, thanks Phoebe!
He overtook me with a “That’s not running. LET’S GOOOOO!”. Erm, thanks Phoebe!

But then I realised that these are somewhat worldwide.

I was in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) getting ice cream when I heard the nasly “OH.MY.GOD”. I nearly dropped my ice cream when the other person said “Oh hi Janice!”
I was in Inverness on the eve of Rockness 2013 and we were all jamming the good old jams – Beatles, Clapton and as the night wore on, a million renditions of Smelly Cat!
Broseph and I walked around, sometimes the whole day, in Malaysia. We’d work up monster appetites and when we sat down to eat, we’d always get interrupted by some tourist or the other, talking non-stop about their adventures. Till one of those days, Broseph really lost it and actually said “That’s a great story. Can I eat it?”
Men (and a few women) have actually tired to pick me up with Joey’s classic “How you doin’?”
When we were in school, and mind you, this is a catholic school, we’d do the Ross Gellar hand curse when we really wanted to get a certain point across
The number of times my male and female friends have used the “We were on a break” excuse, phew!

And lastly, I had a really intense conversation with Broseph last night. It went something like this!

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Have you ever walked into situations where F.R.I.E.N.D.S references were being used? Or has Breaking Bad taken over the Empire Business these days?