Masala Chai and Misty Mountains

Chai Wala

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.

Depressed Gif

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.

You might want to turn this image upside down to see it in its original form
You might want to turn this image upside down to see it in its original form

And there on the corner of the ledge was the hot kettle of masala chai.

I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me.

What’s in a Name?

I am lucky to have always had a place of work that doesn’t require elaborate escape into your own world plans. In my previous office, I was for the first time subject to people who tried to kill each other every afternoon. Now, work does that to you – makes you a monster. But this was on a whole new level. When they weren’t busy playing TF2, they were busy creating ingenious words.

In this office, and apparently it’s a Thai thing, I work with Rong, Champ, Bird, Apple and One (Can you imagine how many ‘The One’ jokes you can make with that?). People’s names are so hard to pronounce that they adopt a nickname. In my three weeks here, not a day has gone by where I’ve dreamt of turning Thai (if one is allowed to change one’s culture and race) just so I could adopt a cool nickname.

This also means that I get the pleasure of having such conversations –

Colleague – Who conducted the meeting?
Me – It was Long!
Colleague – No, I mean WHO conducted it, not how was it!
Me – Yeah, that’s what I mean. It was Long.
Colleague – ARGH!

Me – I’m really struggling with this CMS. What do I do?
Boss – Don’t worry. P’Phol will lend you a hand whenever you have trouble.
Me – People are great and all, but how are they going to help me with code?
Boss – P’Phol’s a she, not a they!

Friend – How was your first day at work?
Me – It was amazing. I got to work on a Magazine. Thor really helped me with that!
Friend – Oh yes, you’re a regular Avenger now.

Thor

That’s another thing I have discovered. People add ‘P’ in front of name to mean brother or sister. Someone who is of your generation but slightly older. This in itself is fine but when you combine it with unfortunate nicknames (e.g. Now) you can imagine how hilarious it would be. Juvenile, yes. Still, hilarious.

On the other hand, if ever I get bored of learning about Thai etiquette and culture, I can always Google cool nicknames. What do you think of ‘Her Majesty’. I quite like the sound of that!

Sawadee Ka

The last month is a blur, understandably so. If I have to look back on it from where I am sitting right now, in office, in Bangkok, it’s just a dizzying mix of suitcases, clothes, family, work, food, salary, emotional goodbyes and presents. Lots and lots of presents. I made a deliberate attempt to not think further than the ‘right now’ and it helped me in ways you can never imagine. For one thing, I didn’t panic. I did, however, pack a towel  just in case.

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I am finding the city a bit overwhelming – while Bangalore is considered a city, it has none of Bangkok’s busy vibes. Bangalore just seems more laid back, less concrete jungle, more smiley people. But then Bangalore is home and so there could be a lot of bias in my views. To make up for it, we found a lovely condo near a ‘swamp’ but the views of the sunset and the sound of the birds in the morning just make it worth it (Kidding! The house is lovely! And the best part is, no cockaroaches!)

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People think I’m crazy for spending 30 minutes on my commute to work. I get a golf cart to the BTS, take a fully AC sky train to work and get off into my office. Compared to the 1.5 hours (one way) that I used to spend on the road in Bangalore, this is heaven. I hope I never take it for granted!

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The food is a revelation. It’s spicy in a different way and I have coughed far too often from having a chilli flake stuck to my vocal cord. You can just walk into a night market (which is about 300m from where I stay) and buy cheap and yummy food. Bangkok so far is great for your stomach. The clothes, the shoes, the quirky souvenirs, I hope they don’t make it a slimming diet for my wallet.

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Market Scene


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It is not the first time I have moved to a non-English speaking place (re: France, Tanzania) and so the problems in communication are more challenges I look forward to. I enjoy trying to dicipher special things that make a country what it is. In a week, I have already figured out the two most important English words in Bangkok – ‘CAN’ and ‘CANNOT’.

Example Conversation:
Me – Should I be attaching these photos to the email before I send them?
Colleague – Caaaaaan!

Me – Does this pass work on the subway station as well as the skytrain?
Stranger – Cannnnot!

I have quickly added these two words to my vocabulary so the next time I reply with a simple can or cannot, instead of a yes or no, you’ll have to forgive me. While I have made a fool of myself both in France and Tanzania, I have never had to pick up a language that has 5 different tones. You can take one simple word and have it mean totally different things based on just intonation. I am looking forward to learning more about the language and hopefully not become too much of a laughing stock.

Until next time

Change of Scene

We’ve been shifted to the top most floor of our office building. Now, this isn’t such a big deal – considering we have been moved thrice over the past one year. However, this view is doing good things to my imagination!

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What’s that in the distance? A palace you say?

 

Overheard in Office

V – Dude. why are you playing this damn DOTA with your ice princess. Click, click, clicking away. Just join our game. The whole team is playing.

A – No. Leave me alone!

V – God, you’re such a clickhole!