I had a bizarre dream last night. It started of as a stress dream about work. I was sent out on an errand. While wandering the streets, I saw an old Caucasian man sipping a cup of chai (the elixir of life). I felt a sudden and unconquerable urge to buy myself a cuppa. I asked him where it was. He pointed me to a scene that made my chest constrict and my eyes tear up.
Unfortunately, I had to get to work so I had to peel my eyes off, wipe off my drool and slowly walk away. While attending to boring work details, I suddenly hit upon a thought that work didn’t really care about me, so why should I care about them? It was an idea put into my head thanks to a lovely cup of chai. And so I left work and went in search of the chai wallah.
I couldn’t find him.
Someone bumped into me and I found myself holding a key to a dilapidated old staircase. I decided I might as well climb it and see what was above. After a long “I’m going to die”climb, I reached the top. Opened the creaky door at the end of the claustrophobia inducing tunnel.
What I saw next blew my mind. Instead of blue sky, the earth was filled with green, misty mountains and rivers. So when I looked up, I could see mountains instead of stars and the sky was where the rivers were supposed to flow. I was on a tiny ledge on a cliff. It had a tiny wall around it to stop people from accidentally falling off, I guess.
And there on the corner of the ledge was the hot kettle of masala chai.
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!
And here is a list – since I can’t help myself!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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!
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.
Photo of the pier at Pattaya (Which reminds me that maybe I should write more travel journals!)
The Bangkok river side and Asiatique
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.
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.
Going with the ‘never a dull day in my life’ theme, we got duped out of money in a food court at a TESCOs. Yes, of course it would happen to us in a place where people would bet their lives that you will never get duped. The last time I was here, the cab guy charged me twice as much for a ride and happily gave me a receipt for it. Luckily, this money was refunded to me by work and so I thought nothing of it. And you hear a lot of stories about being duped by cab drivers and so it’s a little less embarrassing.
How it works in Bangkok, and it seems the case in a lot of the super malls, is that you get card for the food court and you put money on it. I quite like the idea of a cashless transaction – no more fumbling for change, translation problems etc. You go with your card to any counter your stomach fancies and you pay by card. You get a bill in Thai so you have no idea what it says on there. But it gives you details on how much your meal costs and how much balance your card has.
I got my meal in 2 seconds. The boy went to get his meal and the lady swiped the card and then looked utterly confused and said something in Thai. We just stared at her trying to figure out what she was trying to say. Often, you can get the gist of the conversation through gestures and body language. She pointed at the card and said no and did the thumb and index finger rub to mean money. So I went back to the cash counter and put more money on the card.
I returned to find the boy really flustered. Having worked at the bookies, he’s more astute than I am with money. I just thought he was throwing one of his tantrums because he’s a bit stingy careful with money. She swiped the card, it worked. She kept the card with her afterwards, which I found strange. So I asked her for the card – she kept saying there’s no money so there’s no point. I insisted she gave it to me and we went to try and find a table.
At this point, the boy was huffing and puffing. He pointed out that even if there was no money on the card when she swiped it, there should have been a balance of 25 because of the amount we had put in that day. Luckily they give us bills at every counter and so he was able to show me that we were duped out of an entire meal. She basically charged us twice for one meal. It wasn’t a big amount but the fact that we were cheated at all made me really angry.
I am the kind of woman who rode a bike in Bangalore because I couldn’t be arsed to put up with auto drivers who always charged above the metre level. Ignoring the fact that the boy would probably be embarrassed by how confrontational I can be, I walked to the cash counter and proceeded to tell the lady our story, showing her the bills for proof.
She didn’t understand a word I was saying.
She kept responding in Thai and I started to despair. It is frustrating when you can’t communicate, yes. I get more agitated by it because I thrive on communication. I pick up languages because of it. Being new here, it seemed an impossible situation. After a few back and forths (in which she absolutely denied doing any such thing), she gave us our money back. So the opening sentence of this blog is sort of misleading. Still, it left me with a headache.
To be fair, this is the only instance this trip where we were taken for a ride. I have never had the experience of being charged more than what I’ve purchased, cabs included. We decided to go to the food market instead, because of this experience. We sat down and waited for a good 10 minutes, during which time the chef and the people at the other tables ignored us. Faux pas #1. Potentially the most embarrasing moment of our time here. I bet they still giggle at those two silly farangs who sat at a table doing nothing.
What I’ve learnt about Food Market Etiquette so far-
1. Point at what you want (don’t expect them to know English)
2. Find a seat and wait
Karina from Lazy Happy Bored Happy Sad has been one my oldest blogging friends and after a few awkward tweets, we became close enough to meet in person. You can read all about that adventure here. And while you’re at it, catch up on her previous posts for me here. For now, this is the story of the past 5 years of her life – they reached my heart as I’m sure it will touch yours. Show her some love.
I jumped at the idea of writing another guest post for Anju because I love her and her writing and she is one of my oldest blog friends. I jumped without knowing what to write.
Five years seems like a short enough time; especially to someone who still thinks the 90s were less than 10 years ago. Spoiler alert, they are not. The thing is, almost everything about my life changed in the past five years, hell, five years is longer than my oversharing on the internet even spans.
Anju’s question really brought that up, because while I already realised that a lot had happened in the past couple of years, it never registered that dramatically.
I went from being a student to being a full time employee.
I went from daughter to orphan, passing the roadblock of being a caretaker.
I went from assuming I was straight to knowing I’m a lesbian.
I made a whole lot of friends spanning all over the world.
I travelled to more cities than I can even recall at this point.
I stopped writing to then write a novel and stop writing again.
I grew up more while staying childish.
And I kept thinking about all the things that did change until I remember the things about me that are so inherently me that they stayed the same because they always were and I find comfort in it. Some things will never change. Like me being an unapologetic feminist. It has been the label I have worn proudly for as long as I can remember because I never fit any standard definition of feminine and I didn’t want to. Now more so than ever. This may be the single biggest thing being queer certified for me. I don’t have to conform to anyone’s expectations and norms aside from my own. And that’s okay. Being a woman doesn’t mean you have to wear dresses and shopping in the men’s section doesn’t make you any less of a woman. And being a lesbian doesn’t mean I have to run around in men’s clothes either. I can be whoever and whatever I want to be.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, the last five years taught me to be myself. I’ve always been fairly in tune with my own being but it’s like I got permission to be me and just me. My lovely grandma still wants me to dress the way she thinks I should dress and while I find it extremely annoying and off putting I stay my ground because I have to. There is no way for me to not be me.
I’m afraid this post turned way more serious than Anju anticipated when she asked me to write something for her but it’s a faithful recount of my last five years. Some of those years were the worst of my life and they don’t include the day I woke up to the police hammering at our front door looking for my father who was hiding in the bedroom.
In five years I learned my own strength and breaking points. I met my true self.
I know this blog has taken somewhat of a ‘subtle’ negative tone over the past few months on account of life handing me too many lemons but this Friday, I went for a really nice birthday meal.
It was an Italian restaurant run by a Japanese couple in the IT hub of India who served us complimentary French sparkling wine. It has all the makings of a ‘walks into a bar’ joke but it just filled me with such warmth.