Category Archives: Humour

letterfrombangalore

Published: “Letter from Bangalore”

A piece I wrote for the magazine, “Vision – fresh perspectives from Dubai“, published by Touchline, October edition.

It’s published quarterly in the English language, and has a print run of 60,000. It features reporting on business, culture and life in the emirate, high profile interviews with influential thought leaders, In-depth special reports and notes from different parts of the world.

I did a piece on the cycling in Bangalore (my favourite topic!) and how, despite the lack of roads and infrastructure, enthusiastic Bangaloreans have sparked off a revolution on two wheels.

Read the piece here — LETTER FROM BANGALORE.

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Why cities shouldn’t have more than one airport

I rush to the Vueling airlines desk at Brussels airport. Rather breathless. Trying on my best “distressed” look face. Actually, I don’t need to try. I am rather distressed. I have been looking forward to landing in Spain. And it seems the universe colluded. Against me.

Earlier this morning, I wake up really early (like 5 am), trying not to disturb the three other sleeping occupants of my hostel room. Got ready in around 20 minutes and snuck out of the room. I double checked with the guy at the desk as to which station would be closest to the airport. The north, he said confidently.

So I made my way to Brussels Nord station, towing my luggage along. At the counter I ask for a ticket to the airport. He gives me one and says I’d have to get down at the last stop and take a bus. “The train doesn’t go to the airport.” Sounds fine, I think.

He points me to the train and the platform number. I run and make it just as the doors close. Phew!

Around 30 minutes later, the train pulls up at the last stop from where there’s a bus saying “Aeroport”. Excited, that I am getting closer, I jump in.

A rather long journey of around 30 minutes and finally we are deposited at the “airport”. I rush in and find huge queues. For Ryan Air. Right. Whatever happened to all the other airlines? I go to the information desk. He looks at my ticket and says, “This is Charleroi airport, you need to go to Brussels airport.” Uh… right. You know the feeling you get when you reach an airport, and then find out it’s not the right airport? That’s what I’m feeling.

And how far is this other airport? Well, there is an express service for Euro 2000, he says. At this point, I nearly fall off my imaginary chair.

I rush outside. The next bus back is only in around 40 minutes. The cabs don’t go till they have 8 passengers. And there as no way it’s going to be filled soon. I have no option. I pay 2 euros for Internet access (most places don’t have free WiFi or have some deal like “15 minutes free, if you register and bequeath your property to us”) so I can change my flight, but it’s too late. It is 830 am so do I still have an outside chance? Then I find out that the bus takes an hour to reach Brussels Midi, from where I need to take another train to the correct airport. Zavertem, by the way, is the name. Heavens. If only I’d committed that name to my memory and said it to everyone on my way.

I decide to give it one last shot. Rush to a cab and ask if he can take me as fast as possible to the airport. ‘Get in,’ he says and then drives through some side roads (in exactly the style they show in the movies) and then onto the auto route to the airport. I know it’s a losing battle, but what’s the harm in trying? In the movies at least, they usually make it.

Reached the airport at exactly 10 am with 20 minutes to go. Rush to the counter. The lady there checks, but I know it’s too late. They won’t allow me to board now. “If only you had 1 piece of luggage,” she indicates. Ya right, I’ve been travelling for well over a month, missy. Of course, I don’t say it aloud.

So there it is. I am prepared for everything. Except two airports. And looking back, nowhere did anyone ask (the guy at the hostel, the guy at the ticket counter at the station) which one I needed to get to. Of course, I can’t blame them. I should have probably confirmed it by it’s name. But at 630 am in the morning, I was more intent on getting to the airport, than “the” airport.

One would think that after all this travelling, I shouldn’t make this seemingly silly mistake. But we all live and learn. So here I am, stranded in Brussels airport and thinking that cities should be banned from having two airports. Why do they do these kind of things and just confuse the hell out of us? The the last minute prices of tickets don’t help matters.

One more lesson to learn on the road. Get the name of the airport next time. If possible etch it on your forehead. And say it many times. It’s definitely an expensive mistake to make. Especially in Europe.

(PS: To end the story, my final destination was Malaga, but since the flights to this place on the same day was very expensive, I flew to Madrid and then took a train to Malaga.)

Happy in Kerala!

Finding happiness in Kerala!

Pharrell Williams set off a really large happy virus when he released his “Happy” song. Now there thousands of versions around the world now with everyone hooked into making their own videos and if you haven’t starred in one yet, make sure you do it quickly. It’s catchy, fun and good for your soul!

We made one during the Kerala trip, thanks to the camera work of Anthony, who’s captured some amazing shots of us dancing (and trying to dance) to the tune in scenic locations during our 15 day journey. Well, it’s difficult not to be happy in Kerala!

And go make your own happy video now!

Yoga

And this is how we bend it!

After 15 days on the road, the Kerala Blog Express chugged into Cochin and came to a halt. It’s been fun. It’s been tiring. It’s been exciting. Yes, it’s been quite a trip.

And instead of writing about more sights or sounds, here’s a fun post. Introducing some of my fellow passengers on board the Kerala Blog Express (KBE) 2014. It’s been fun getting to know them and though it’s impossible to cover everyone, but here’s an attempt to present a few. And with a twist. Yes – I’ve convinced, sweet talked and arm twisted them to do various yoga poses with me.

A disclaimer – these might not be “real” yoga poses, but we should at least get brownie points for trying.

Daniel Nunes Gonsalves
Daniel is from Brazil and is a very well-known journalist and writes for several high profile publications in his home country. He’s in India for the second time and is excited to be Kerala. From here, he goes onto Ethiopia for an assignment (I’m jealous!), before flying home. And I have a new friend in Brazil now. Besides the scuba diving, we’re going to do in New Zealand! Right?

Gaia Calheiros

Gaia, is also from Brazil and has been a very popular DJ in the country. She’s also a journalist and blogs here. She also knows more about Hindu gods than I do. And looks rather Indian when she’s dressed in a salwar kameez, which she grew pretty fond of of wearing! I definitely want to grow my twitter following to hers, even if it takes another decade!

Nelson Carvalheiro
Nelson Carvalheiro is from Portugal and an extremely prolific food and travel photographer, now based in Berlin. He’s got years of experience in the food/hotel industry. This is where he blogs and he has about a gazillion followers on twitter too.

Emanuele Siracusa
Emanuele is from Italy, but an avid traveller having lived in Thailand recently for a few months. He’s now on the way to Portugal to be reunited with the other half of the Siracusas. And then start planning his next trip! He loves travelling and discovering new places – don’t we all?

Ola Wysocka
Ola is from Poland but loves travelling to different parts of the world. Doesn’t like the cold (and she lives in Warsaw!) and is enjoying the Kerala sunshine. She usually travels with her husband and her two kids, all of them true travel enthusiasts. They travelled across the US in a trailer for six months last year. She also runs a coffee place in Poland and I have been promised a good cup of coffee when I visit! (Ola – I’m packing a bit of the sunshine that you can take along).

Desi Traveler Prasad
The man who doesn’t want to be identified, the Desi Traveler, Prasad is from Hyderabad. We tried this in the side of the road, while trying not to get run over, so I’m not sure this is a certified pose. But, it was fun trying!

Elsie Mendez
After which, Elsie joined in the fun on the crowded road. This was enroute from Kappad to Kochi, where we stopped for “tea and toilet” as our guide called it. Elsie Mendez is from Mexico, loves wine and the good life and is now planning a wine tour in Spain. (Take me with you, Elsie!). Before that, she also stops in Mumbai.

Vijay Nambiar
With Vijay Nambiar, who is a travel enthusiast who is getting ready for an out of the country assignment and is enjoying his last dose of India before he departs for foreign shores. Being 6 foot something, he does a great job of the backward bend (ardha chandrasana). Vijay – you need to do more yoga!

Taufan
Taufan is from Indonesia and we tried this on the beautiful private beach of the Kadappuram resort in Thrissur. What we were trying was the “trikanasana”, but what we did in reality looks nothing like it.

Dina Rosita
Dina Rosita, also from Indonesia with a penchant for running into trouble. She’s already hurt herself and is carrying a huge scar from a fall – a memento from the trip. Dina is an ex-ballerina and can do things with her legs that I can’t do in this lifetime. So we settled for a nice stretch over the bridge instead!

Edin Chavez
And lastly, the highly talented Edin Chavez – a hot shot photographer based in Miami, Florida (now that’s what I call living life!) who was game to try this with me on the same pristine beach. Here’s him doing out the “standing stick” (tuladanasana) pose – he’s a natural!

Edin has a jaw dropping portfolio of work (mine dropped!) and you must check out his aerial photography, while you’re at it. I am hoping he takes me on a helicopter ride with him while he’s doing his aerial photography, if and when I visit the reach the American shores again. Though I’m half scared, he’ll be surrounded by beautiful women on a beach sipping beer and say, “Anita who?”

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Fun, curious and interesting facts about Kerala

Just some notes from the road as we meander through Kerala on a 15 day trip with Kerala Tourism on the Kerala Blog Express taking in lots of sights, sounds, history, monuments, beaches and backwaters. So while the rest of the troop are in the thick of action sightseeing somewhere in Wayanad, I am enjoying a “do nothing” day at the pictureque and peaceful Vythiri Resort. And while I’m trying to make friends with the monkey who keeps dropping by, these are some thoughts that cross my mind on a particularly lazy day.

Density and number of moustaches
More often than not, Malayali men will sport moustaches. Most heroes and famous people/ politicians (seen on hoardings – haven’t seen that many in real life) all sport large, abundant moustaches. “Why” is a question that befuddles me and I haven’t gotten an answer from anyone yet. It’s also a fact that it’s not in vogue in the North.

Coconut here, coconut there, coconut everywhere
Has anyone taken a census of how many coconut trees there are in Kerala? Because I would be curious to know if anyone ever counted. It might possibly be the highest density of these trees on earth. And how many people have died from coconut related injuries. Surely, someone walking down the village path would have a coconut fall on his head. At least once, I would imagine. There are actually no reported numbers on coconut related deaths, not just in Kerala, but in the world. Isn’t that strange?

But I am rather alarmed when I read this article about the decline of the coconut. And then I realise, it’s a dated article. A more recent one indicates the price is rising. Yay! “A steady increase in coconut prices has given a new twist to the coconut sector which had been marked by low profitability for long. The retail price of coconuts has gone up to Rs.17-20 per nut.” The widespread availability of coconut also means that you get to experience it in your food, your drink and your hair.

Gold’s own country?
How much gold is “really” there in Kerala is anybody’s guess. Combined with the Padmanabhaswamy temple and every Kerala household, I am thinking it might possibly be the richest state in the country, if not the world. And a NYT feature reports: “Kerala gobbles up 20 percent of the country’s gold every year, and the World Gold Council estimates that India, the largest consumer of gold in the world, consumes 30 percent of the global supply.”

Kerala brides apparently wear so much gold that on their wedding day, that they could potentially wipe off the debt of a small 3rd world country.

Land of heaviest drinkers?
Somewhere enroute, as a few of us were talking outside the bus, in the morning about to board, we noticed a seemingly inebriated guy who was just barely able to stand, hanging around our bus. Now, I’m not about to disapprove of drinking, and early in the day. But at 8 am? Fully drunk? What time would he have started? And seriously why do men in Kerala drink so much? (I have no idea about the women, since I never see them in those long serpentine queues outside wine shops).

Someone else has pondered on this heavy issue and this BBC article has facts and personal accounts that might give an insight. “Kerala is India’s tippler country. It has the highest per capita consumption – over eight litres (1.76 gallons) per person a year – in the nation, overtaking traditionally hard-drinking states like Punjab and Haryana. The curiously-named Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC) runs 337 liquor shops, open seven days a week. Each shop caters on average to an astonishing 80,000 clients.”

And the heaviest readers too!
In case you thought drinking and reading don’t go together, you’re mistaken. Kerala also reportedly has the highest literacy rate among the states of India, followed by the state of Mizoram. It’s a common sight to see people read local language newspapers. People are generally very informed. Ernakulam became the first district to attain 100% literacy. And programs like Literacy Mission, Kerala and the state government’s education efforts help reach this figure.

However, I also read that recently the state from my part of the world, Tripura has actually beaten Kerala in 2013, but this is what I’d call healthy competition.

More interesting facts

Rules of engagement!

The 5 rules of engagement

Actually, I thought I’d call this post, “matters of the heart”. And then I changed my mind. Didn’t want to sound too cheesy, right?

Someone was telling me how I don’t write too many personal posts nowadays. And then I thought I should make some changes. I didn’t really intend this to become a food and travel blog. It just turned out that way. But that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about other stuff. Other interesting stuff. And vent.

Yes – I need to vent sometimes. Get things out of my mind. Sometimes, I have all these things to say. But I can’t really find someone to say it to. Well – you know how it is. No one wants to sit around you sipping coffee and be lectured :-) And then I realized, I do have a blog. A place I can actually talk about things that I think are important. And hopefully, that you’ll enjoy reading too.

So here you go. The 5 rules of engagement (in no particular order):

a) Laughing
We don’t laugh enough – this is a fact. And absolutely true. There’s research done to prove it (just don’t ask for the link). But the reality of the matter is that we don’t laugh enough. At the world, at each other, and at ourselves. So try humour – it’s really the best medicine for your relationship. And develop the ability to laugh at yourself (especially, if you don’t have it). You’re not the best, you have faults, you are not perfect. And it’s actually not a bad thing. So please – go ahead, laugh at yourself. No one is going to think less of you. I know someone who usually pales and develops this really constipated expression when his leg is being pulled. Like he’s actually in severe pain and someone is twisting his lower abdomen or other important organs. Get rid of that expression. Please! Have some fun, lighten up and you’ll be a much happier person. Rather than look like someone who is carrying the world’s burden. Seriously.
Link: Laughter is the best medicine

b) Tolerance and patience
So this is important – just remember that you live with the person. Let me rephrase – you have chosen to live with this person (for whatever reason made sense at that point of time). The least you can do is be tolerant and not lose your patience over everything – especially the small inconsequential stuff. Like they say – don’t sweat the small stuff! And I find this is always an issue with relationships. You can stand in the queue for hours, not honk at anyone on the road (even that motorbike driver who cut right in front of you), but with your partner, your patience is always on the edge. Like you’re a live bomb waiting to blow up. You need to ask yourself why. And do your goddamned best to develop some of it. It’s good for everyone all around. And especially your partner.
Link: Be patient!

c) Hygiene!
I can’t even stress how important this is. You might have been living and sleeping in the same clothes for days, you hate washing, you use the same towel for a month, you don’t mind sleeping with stale breath (after that dinner of onion rings and a steak). Or a full pack of cigarettes in your breath. But guess what? You’re not single anymore. You share your living space with another human being. Respect the fact. Canoodling with someone with stale breath or who hasn’t washed up for a few days, is not fun. I am not going to say more, except… Wear clean clothes, brush your teeth (yes, twice a day!), change your towels (not once in 15 days, but every 2nd day), have your daily bath and don’t ask too many questions about hygiene. It’s a basic need if you want to keep your partner near you. Unless, you really, really want to drive your partner a few miles away, of course. Then your strategy will work perfectly.
Hygiene is important, and it’s not just me saying it!

d) Where’s the affection?
You fell in love, took your vows, spent years trying to get everyone to accept you. Showered your partner with endless affection. And lots of lurrrve. And then a few years later. Kaboom! Everything’s forgotten? And I find this the case with more men than women (who don’t usually have any issues with words). If you’re verbally constipated, and can’t get a single word of endearment out of your mouth (like ever), show some affection in your actions. Do something nice, extend a complimentary gesture. Your partner didn’t sign up for the lifelong lease only to feel they’re in a desert alone. Without water. Or a camel.
Link: The importance of affection

5) Getting rid of the incredible sulk
I can’t even begin to tell you how unattractive a trait this is. And in adults it’s an absolute “no-no”. Maybe, if you were five years old. But hey, that was 20-30 years ago. So get rid of it. Pronto. This should be the ground rule. Just don’t do it! Say something. Vent. Get over it. Learn to face it like a man (or woman, as the case might be). But don’t… just don’t pull that face. Please. Your partner will be forever grateful, for the rest of his/her life. Really.

And I know I said 5, but I can’t even begin to stress how important it is to exchange ideas, discuss, even have debates and talk out things. I don’t think most of us talk enough and especially men (though I’ve seen exceptions too, which are rather heart-warming). I know sometimes it seems like a waste of energy and petty conversation. But I’ve also seen the other extreme happen. A lot of bitterness, angst and anger build up and one day it all hits you like a cyclone. It’s bound to happen. So talk – whether about your day, about what you like/don’t like, things that are important to you. I know a couple who keep up a banter about even the silliest things (and this is hard to do!) but finally it works out for them, because they always know what each other feels about things and are less likely to end up hurting each other.

And lastly, be nice! (Link: Are you being nice?) Do your stuff. Clean your mess. Get the household chores done (and don’t wait to get asked; no one like them; especially your partner, but they don’t go away!). And you’ll have a happier, more appreciative partner forever. Now wouldn’t that be a win-win situation for everyone?

So there you have it. Some advise ground in reality and experience. Please don’t take it to heart. Take action instead :-)