Saturday, November 21, 2009

So near..yet,so far...No More - Part 1!

The Amazing Race.. Chennai Sambar'ed edition... 5 modes of transport... 5 different places... 2 'Phone a friend(s)' on call ...all in 6 hours of sweltering heat! phew! Am proud of the Incredible India(n)! :))

I returned to my friend's place that night and wrote that sentence down,as my Facebook status message.It was my FIRST tryst with..Chennai,the supposed capital of the 'Oh-So-Conservative' South to which I (though I'm French!! mwaahaaa).All life I had lived rather close to it,2 hours South of it, and yet, I had never 'seen' Chennai.I guess I could blame it on the absence of the usual suspects,lack of relatives,while almost everyone I knew seemed to have. I had made fleeting appearances in the city,for purely 'transportation' purposes(think airport,railway station).I used to have one,yes, one relative there..and those visits had dwindled down too.I hadn't 'experienced' the heart of Chennai,public transport.It was to change this time, by a rather weird twist of events(aka Murphy-ed).

Over the next four days, I shuttled between a corner of the city where I stayed,a hospital in the city and a total Tam-Bram neighborhood home at the South end of the city. It was supposed to be cooler in September, but since Murphy was there, it was so comfortable there that even locals complained about the heat. I set out each day,armed with a backpack with essential supplies, energy bars, my metal water-bottle, a towel and yep
.. a deodorant! :)

The big city experience was new to me and after having negotiated only a small part of Delhi,most of Gurgaon and my favorite Bengaluru, I was looking forward to this experience. The days were going to spent shuttling between the hospital and the home but I would never know when I had to be, and where! So the non-peak times were planned to be spent shopping.And public transport would be the way to go. The evenings were to be used to explore the hep side of Chennai before heading to my friend's place to crash for the night.

Chennai's autos are known for being hostile to newcomers as I found out a few years back. But this time was different. I had my sources, my friends on the phone.So one call and a few questions to the people around, I'd figure out the bus/share auto combination I'd need to get from say, the Chennai Trade Centre to Spencers. And since I was always ridiculous at bargaining, I'd start at a real low level, only to be pushed higher, thanks to my only piece of sophistication, my backpack. Anytime an autowallah sees you, he immediately tries to profile you, based on the way you look. And since Diesel tees and Nike shoes are a commonality, at least as their afterlife forms, Deisel and Nika,he looks for minor details.. and that's where a backpack that looks new and has a gazziliion straps comes in handy(or kills you). A 40 buck trip jumps to 100 immediately as he waits for the sophisticated doode to fall for auto, as a shelter from the heat.I was lucky to fall for that trick only once in the entire 4 days.

The auto,share-auto travel also had me witness to some interesting characters.Autowallahs can be sly, or talkative. I was lucky not to find the sly ones, but I guess I attracted the talkat
ive ones(no surprise there)! The second day, I was in a share-auto when the driver picked up one of his relatives for the trip too. The lady and the driver laid threadbare the entire family's politics.At one point, they talked about this particular gentleman, their cousin, who they seemed to mutually hate for the same reason,no reason.He had sent them the invitation to his wedding.. a day before his wedding. They cribbed on how snubbed they felt..while I was itching to jump into the conversation and shout.. 'That is called an Uninvite'!!! :D Jerry Seinfeld would have been a hero in semi-urban India!

But the 'mother-of-all' talka
tive autowallahs was to make an appearance later that day. I was to head to City Centre, a mall, to meet a friend and was running late. I did the mandatory calls.. this time to a cousin, who was familiar with that route.A call to her led to a call to her friend and 5 minutes later I had the estimate, 50 bucks.I stopped the first auto.. the driver looked at me and with a straight face went,150 saar. I unleashed my evil grin on him and asked him to get going with his busy schedule.The next auto pulled over in quick time and quoted 80.. I went for 60.The driver, an old man, laughed and went 'Thambi,Thatha maathri nenachuko pa.. 65'(Son, think of me as your grandaddy,lets make it 65!!). 'Sothhula pangu kudupiya, thatha?' (So, do I get a share of your property,grandaddy?) I quipped.. as both of us laughed and I decided to give in to the sentimental attack . A few minutes into the drive, I asked a question that started it all. 'Hows the day going?'.It was almost as though he was waiting for the question. For the nest 45 minutes it took, I got a glimpse of his entire life.. his Taxi driver days, when he even drove for Late Andhra CM,YSR.. his 30 day hazardous material truck trips from Chennai to Hyderabad... the places he had visited and yes.. his Hindi skills.

Auto drivers in Chennai are the last people you'd expect in Chennai to speak Hindi(Indhi, as they pronounce it), the language that is sooo much more than just a language, thanks to the politics associated.But here he was, our man.. reeling off 'Aap aaj kaise hain?' in typical South Indian accent but fluently nonetheless. It came in handy when bargaining with the North Indians in Chennai, he said.He went on and stated that he was a die-hard Amitabh fan.. having watched a lot of his movies(every one of those in which he was called Vijay!!!).But the killer punch was when he started reeling dialogues from Deewar..Zanjeer.. (freak, i didn't remember them) and yes.. Sholay. The next 3-5 minutes were devoted to Sholay,the dialogues, an introspection of where Gabbar went wrong and .. 'Ye haath mujhe de de Thakur'...'Tere liye pair hi kaafi hain' .He was not only getting the most famous ones right, he was into the Tier-2 dialogues now(was that even a dialogue, I wondered)! :)

I was at the edge of my seat, laughing my ass off. The next half hour went in discussing the reason for his fall to the auto-world.. family issues and some lessons for my life!I listened with attention, even though the man was slurring so much he wouldn't get any points in JAM. ;) We later discussed the auto economics.. his take on the meltdown...and on being asked, some advice from me.The ride finally came to an end, and I walked away,wishing him all the fun at his youngest daughter's wedding in two months, with a smile, and having paid him 70 bucks! A ride to remember! :)

Discussions in Chennai always lead to either politics, public policy or... movies. But over the last few years, with the industries setting up shop,Chennaities are finding a new topic of conversation. As I hung out of the elctric trains, Chennai's metro, train trying to catch
a whiff of fresh evening air,available in limited supply a conversation between two elderly men sitting in the first row caught my attention. It was not Karunanidi vs Jaya,not Rajni vs Kamal or IT vs Manufacturing... it was on Chennai's new brothers-at-arms.. Ford and Hyundai. Both were one of the first to set up facilities in Chennai's and somehow you always see as many Hyundais as Suzukis in Delhi. Ford was the rising star. Hyundai's small cars are better but their big cars were good but weren't marketed well, one of them said. The other disagreed, supporting the Ford range.Ah! This was turning into the Detroit of the South and a battle reminiscent of the GM vs 'Iacocca' Chrysler battle during the 80s was brewing.I have never lived in Chennai,I'm a rank out-of-towner.. but from what I've heard around, it does look like Chennai has found a new love.. Coffee,Carantic music and now.. Cars! :) A cup of strong filter Coffee, with Kadri Gopalnath setting the tone to a Hyundai/Ford hot hatch redline drive wouldn't be too bad either!

(to be contd.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

'1' of a kind!

If you live in Northern California, there is a no dearth of roads that b(l)end nature and the driving experience in one awesome package. CA-1,or Route 1 as they call it, is one of them. It starts from near San Diego and goes all the way, into Oregon, hugging the cliff-filled delicate coastline.The best section of the road around here starts from Monterey and heads down to the town of Big Sur.It is a weird conundrum you get into, every time you drive on it. You want to take in the breathtaking vistas.. but at the same time take the wheel, feel the force as you make blind turns, all while being ridiculously close to the edge of jagged cliffs. Split time, you say?That is where it gets tricky.The stretch is different every bit and the view when driving back is totally different. It is that kind of a place where you want to go once as a driver,if you love driving, and once as a passenger.... one lucky passenger.

It had hardly been a month since I landed in this part of the country when it was decided that we would visit Monterey.The junta was here for only 8 more weeks and as we came to realize,it was going to be tough picking the spots.Late on a Sunday morning we set out,still talking about how cold the Monterey Bay waters were the previous day,when we took a plunge in the ocean. What started that day, has almost become a 'Standard Operating Procedure'(SOP), when visiting Big Sur and my car's favorite haunt.

The first real hint of things to come, was at the Carmel River State Beach.As we watched the scuba divers get into their gear,plan and walk,yes... walk, into the ocean, we looked around to see small cliffs all around with the sunlight painting a unique color on them. As we took the customary pictures and started south, we were greeted by an interesting road sign.Shank and I looked at each other.74 miles of winding road? And we were doing only 30 of them to Big Sur? We could not wait for the 30 miles.

This was my first real 'drive' in my Si.. and it too was rubbing it hands in glee.. waiting for the 30 mile stretch.She wanted to! :) The stretch was like I'd never seen or imagined before.The greenish-blue sea,the road inches away from the edges of a jagged coastline filled with cliffs,the fog,the ridiculously sharp turns that lead you into an ocean of blue and on the other side, huge mountains.. with an icing of fog!Heaven must be close-by. The bridges looked like picture postcards,while defying belief and the gusty winds and if you missed a turn by a small margin,you had to get ready to swim. To top it all, were some outrageously beautiful houses on the cliffs. Who are these people? How do I get to stay there?

After a billion stops,gazillion pictures and some rather adventurous hiking to the cliffs, we finally reached level ground as we entered the various State parks.It was calm,serene driving through the forest. We were hungry and it was somehow the time when most chefs were taking the nap between lunch and preparing for dinner. We drove and drove,tried every restaurant on the way and finally on one such turn saw a restaurant perched up the mountain.The drive there was cruel, a 45 degree slope, on a two-way road. And the parking was no exception...a nightmare, especially when driving a manual.The views were stunning, the food outrageously good(puny portions though) and the restroom so wonderfully decorated you just wanted to stay there.I forget the name of the place,argh.

But on another subsequent visit, we soon found another spot that fits into the Route-1 trip. Behind River Inn,the first hint of civilization and Big Sur, when driving South is a small picnic area. Under the green tent the Ent doodes call,canopy, is a small but beautiful stream.But wait, that isnt even the best part. Just when you think of settling down on the grassy carpet next to the stream, you see the chairs on the stream. Yep.They are attached to the rocks, so you can get into the sometime shin deep ice cold water and relax.It is like listening to a Deep Forest CD, the water gushing, the birds and interrupted by an occasional Ferrari zipping through the road. :) Pick up a yummy Wrap or Burrito(the veggie ones are awesome),dip you feet into the water.. and RELAX! Time will indeed fly when doing so.

The best part of THE road is how slightly different it is every time you visit.Sometimes foggy with the clouds cutting into the road at sections,sometimes chillingly windy and sometimes just the sun and wind.But one thing is a perennial fixture. The cars. You should consider yourself unlucky, if you aren't following a 911, sometimes a Ferrari and like I did once, a Maserati!Ah! Sheer automotive Nirvana.And if you still aren't satisfied with just looking at the water,there's Carmel-by-the-Sea.Yeah! That's the name of the place. A beautifully idyllic town with splendid art galleries and an even more stunning array of supercars, the beach offers one of the best sunset views on the coast. And yes, it is dog friendly, in fact, it is like a dog-universe. :)

So if ever you are to visit Nor Cal, make sure to drop by.. but yes.. pick up a convertible.They may be not be the best driving cars, but they were dropped for the sole purpose of driving down such roads. Take to the twisties!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of starts.. and ends

Ever since you started listening to meejik,the one thing you always remembered was the start of any song.No surprises there, since as kids, we loved a few songs and as soon as it started playing on TV,radio or now,the Internet, we directed our attention to it. My nephew, a few months back,had to listen to 'Taxi Taxi', the Tamil song, on TV for him to start eating. :)

Over the years, as we started listening to music by the tons,the start became even more important.Not that it was all was that needed for you to get hooked to a song,but it was important nevertheless. During a recent weekend drive(the usual one), I decided to give one of my older folders some work . U2-All that you cant Leave Behind. I'd heard it in college, thanks to a friend who had the cassette.I'd heard all of the songs, but for one. New York.I don't know why, but I always remember running out of patience on the start,with Bono in absolutely no hurry to get the song going. I would forward it and head onto the next song. Today was different. I was tackling the traffic filled twists heading out of the valley and had forgotten to forward it. A minute or so into the song, it came alive,with so much energy, true to the name of the song. I heard it, and heard it again .. and again.

The first few minutes of a new song were always when, sitting in the car, you go either way,'Oh interesting' or.. 'Next station',most of the time. It didn't matter if the song was to get better later on, you'd assume that you'd jump listening to it in the middle and in the future and . An assumption. New York's start wasn't alone. Every time you'd listen to 'Hallowed be thy name' you'd use the slow start to get yourself closer to the speakers.. and then go breathless on the seemingly endless '(running)lowwwwwww........' trip with Dickinson. And then wait for it to blast on your face. Most AC/DC songs were similar,TNT,Hells Bells.. all slow starters that packed a punch.

The starts were remarkably brilliant in Indian film music as well. As I grew up, it was exhilarating listening to the starting minute of Ilayaraja's best numbers.So much that I'd created a 1:30 min collection of three of my fav ones.The starts from Mouna Ragam,Agni Natchathriam and that mid blowing theme from Punnagai Mannan. Rahman took over the mantle from him, to perfection with an innumerable number of such gems in the first minute. Too many to count.And the new wave of Hindi music with SEL,Amit Trivedi,Pritam(even if its lifted) have carried that forward. Oh!, the starts.

But there are some songs that make you wait all the way, before introducing you to their best. Dire Straits' Lady Writer is a prime example. It is a good song,starts in typical Dire Straits style, but you have to go to the last 30 seconds to get the best part.Mark Knopfler toys with the guitar and with such speed, you want the song to go on for some more time. Brilliant,end. Rahman produced something similar too, with 'Kismat Se' from Pukar. Nothing great, but having heard it recently, I bring it up.A song dripping with melody, the male and female voices come together in the end for a promising duel, with the tabla joining in, not to be left out. It is real short, when all three sounds merge and lead to a promising end.You only wish the tabla went a little more crazier.

I'm sure there are tons of other songs that have brilliant starts and ends that belie the sluggish start. The ones I have here are just those that I remember,very well,now.Do chime in with your picks.

Edit(10/26): In the 'ends' section... I forgot the 'Big Daddy' of all ends. 'Stairway to Heaven', Led Zep.Oooh! Thats is the most expensive gift you'll get, for your time. You wait for the first 4 minutes listening to Robert Plant talking about his 'wonder'.Then you are introduced to a certain Jimmy Page on the guitar. The two then decide to call Mr. Bonham on the drums and give you the gift. Your 'precious'.2 minutes. 2 minutes of adrenaline rush. 2 of the best musical minutes.Then,The End. One that needed the support of that START. Ah!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The flying nomad....

I guess that's how you feel,for a brief period, as you shuttle through airports across the world,heading to Hindustan.I hadn't done that on over 2 years and if was finally time. The airline had been selected, not much of a decision when it is a super inexpensive deal! :) the next things are always tough.The seats and meal selection. There are times when you make decisions sub-consciously and the seat selection is one of them,if you are claustrophobic. You want to select the aisle, common sense,stretch your legs, trip the air-hostess and have all the wine in her hand on your tee. But every time I try doing it, selecting the aisle seat, not the other one, I end up selecting the window.It feels liberating,no wonder I took the window seat in college too! :D
The meal.When in a new place, do you try the most weird or risk option on the menu? I usually do, with a reasonable hit rate. 'Oriental Vegetarian Meal,Mister.. Rangaanaa.. I'm sorry I can't pronounce it..' said the stewardess, laughing to herself at the very thought of the two words 'Oriental' and 'Vegetarian' co-existing,forgetting the name for a split second.I'm sure the chef looked at the list and went, "Oriental Vegetarian? Oh God.. why, why... is this my biggest test?'. No wonder I got steamed rice noodles, real fat ones, and 6 spears of Asparagus for lunch when leaving SFO and one HUGE slab of tofu when leaving Hong Kong.The cognac more than made up for it, but that's a different story. :)

When in a different country's airport, you look for the best place to experience their food.I was like a guy from Greenland in San Jose, who'd for sure look for a 'Taj Restaurant' when in search of Indian food.No luck on the way home, but one the way back,I found a place at the HK airport that served some yummy veg food.Sauteed vegetables,rice and mushrooms in a thin rice pancake.The texture of an Uthappam,with the thickness of a dosa.Yummy.A must eat. HK is also a great place to pick up some loose tea leaves with a tea infuser packed in a steel box, that is so exquisitely decorated. And then comes the cultural differences. You don't know what is the shopping etiquette is, especially when in the East. I opened this tee,wanted a different size, so tried to fold it in a not so bad way, and put it back. The sales girl, gave me 'You didn't fold it? ' kinda look, or so I thought. I wasn't asked to fold the tee again, atleast. :)Thank God.

As a traveller, you always contend with some characters,at airports or in the seat next to you.Having bid goodbye to my parents(sigh!) I proceeded to the duty free store in Chennai, looking for miniature bottles of spirit. As is the case, there usually is one pesky 'Sir, What can I help you with Sir?' on your back. This guy took it further.As I gave him the teeny weeny bottle, he looked straight at me and shot 'Sir, we also have cigarettes and cigars.Do you want some to go with this?'.Argh! Stop the stereotyping, phellow. He also had chocolates and perfumes, but somehow he thought I'd be more interested in coupling the 'bad habits'. I smiled and with a straight face told him ' One bad habit is enough, right?'. 'Right ,Sir', he said with a sheepish smile. That done, I was working my way through some delicious Singapore street noodles, all spicy(remember,Oriental Vegetarian) when this dude next to me started 'So where are you going?'. I'm not usually disconnected, when in a flight. You do the usual 'Hi' to the neighbour when you sit. This guy gave me a 'I don't say Hi' look in response. And here he was, trying to write my biography. It only got better,five minutes into the conversation,after we found out (yes, we finally found out where we were headed) he popped me the 'Easy Question'.'So.. you make about 60-75 lakhs in our money at that bank you work?'.He truly was chronicling my survival in the recession. And surprisingly, this was an 'easy question', primarily because you always expect it coming, when in the midst of more than 5 Tam-bram maamis around you. I'd mastered the response well, at this point. I make them feel elated.. by nodding at their guess. '65 lakhs?' Nod.. Nod Nod.. 'Naan nenachaen(I thought so). '45 lakhs?' Nod..Nod.. Nod.. 'Naan sonnaen illaya?'(I told you so..) the maami would tell her friend. My mom would have a good laugh too, waiting for me to crib about these people ,with her later! :) So I went Nod.. Nod.. Nod.. with this dude too, my new Biographer.

Best Sight : Watching the skyscrapers compete with the mountains in Hong Kong
Best Buy : Dragon tee and some tea leaves with the infuser, at HK airport ---->
Biggest Regret : Not enough time to listen to all the albums Cathay had. Ah! 78 Rock albums alone! Can we fly around the world twice? :)
Best Watch : Oye Lucky..Lucky Oye (Hindi).Every character is 100% Delhi. :) Brilliant.
Big Letdown : Citizen Kane.Argh! what a pain. So cliched. Such a bore.
Oh so Weird : As an elderly man found out, never knock on the restroom door , to ask someone to quicken, when on a flight! :)
Thumbs Up : Cathay Pacific!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chinatown's oddities...

Chinatown in SF never stops throwing surprises at you.The kinda people you meet there and more importantly the variety of art work found in absolutely ordinary looking stores.It was a routine SF tour with IK when we decided to spend some extra time in Chinatown. I'd been there quite a few times, but was always pressed for time to get going. This time Shank and I decided we'd go there exclusively to pick up stuff for home.. with my impending India trip in mind.We started with a visit to the factory that made the fortune cookies..and had Chocolate fortune cookies.. and saw how simple it was to make the cookies... a flat crisp just folded right.. voila! done..

SF always has a 'fascinating' chaos associated with it.. and Chinatown takes it a step further.The roadside vegetable stores buzzing with people haggling for bargains, bakeries with some of the best coconut macaroons and the roadside vendors trying their best to catch your attention to what they sell! :) In between all this are the SF MUNI the metro buses.. cars trying to.. yep.. 'trying to' make their way through the melee and a truckload of pedestrians trying to cross the road.If you are lucky, as we were when IK was visiting, you even got to see a Dragon dance procession to collect funds from the shopkeepers(Maamu ko paisa dena kai..Shaney!!).

This visit though was meant to visit every store and see what novelties we could pick.And find we did...Chinese dolls decked to perfection, multi-layered candle stands(weirdly called Mango stand?),silk embroidered spectacle cases and the omnipresent samurai swords and the painstakingly artful masterpiece.. the bamboo woven vase(more on it later).As we walked along, we realized that it was the out of the ordinary stuff that was really.... weird..and ridiculously funny. So funny, we had to step out of the stores to let that laughter wave out, for fear of being blasted at... in an unknown language(Nee-haan.. was all we knew).

A couple of stores looked absolutely normal, swords, calendars, the waving cat(after a bit I felt dizzy thanks to the incessant waving).The cat as supposed to be a sign of good luck, we learned later. Another addition to the long list of luck-enhancing dolls/figurines, I guess. Most were adorable, unlike the pic on the right, which looks like it was forced to wave! :))

The cash counters in these stores were cutting edge.... in edgy entertainment. Yep.. there were a full stack of sex-toys.. bizarre sex games(these were hardcore, unlike the one we saw on Raymond).. and even better... candy based clothing(Apple candy bikinis anyone?)... and body 'accessories'. The people who noticed it had a good laugh, while some had a nervous one so as not to appear too loud! :) It was an entire world altogether.

Another store had huge toys.. there were the Transformers ones(I'm a not a fan of the toys.. but i'd take a Bumblebee Camaro anyday!!).. then the superheroes..Spider,Super and the King from Burger King.. wait..what was he doing there? Imagine.. you go home to your kid and as he anxiously waits for the huge gift-wrap he can see you hold, you pull out the King!! Unless he loved the mask 'V' wore in V for Vendetta.. am not sure he'd be thrilled.

In a nearby aisle, next to the irritatingly noisy dolls that spoke.. everything from 'Get lost' to 'Kiss me' were bars of soap. Soap? here? we wondered. The cover read...'For a cheek to cheek clean'.Hmmm.. facial soap maybe.. with Chinese natural ingredients. One closer look and we were ROTFLOL!!! The soap had "FACE" engraved in huge letters on one side, which was white in colour.The other side was dark brown.. and had the words "BUTT" written in equally huge letters!! What a brilliant idea!Oh maen.. you have to pack only one soap when flying to the Bahamas... and have to have both face and butt soaps.. so what do you do? you get the soap that cleans cheek to cheek!You've got to give it to the guys who came up with the caption. Am sure these are the same guys that decide my fortune. :)

Most stores were still on the MJ tribute mode.. Thriller playing form one end and Bad from another... non-stop. Amidst all that were a gazillion roadside vendors inciting a new revolution selling Che Guevara tees.With tired legs and my stupid decision to leave my jacket home(why would anyone in NorCal ever step out without sunglasses and a jacket) playing havoc, we wound up with one final store.But there was enough food or thought there to last an entire train journey back to Mountain View.

We've heard of the 3- monkeys made famous by the Mahatma.But in a twist in the tale, historians have found the presence of a fourth monkey that was cut away, from the stand that became famous, during the medieval period.This store had the original. The 4 monkeys.If the 3 stood for..
  • Don't hear Himesh's music
  • Don't speak of his music
  • Don't watch his movies
What was the fourth meant to mean? Why was it hidden from us all along....and why is that monkey the only one looking the other way.tch tch! Profound questions....I guess we still stand by the 3 monkeys as the fourth, is well.. as edgy as any B-grade horror flick. Or was it to mean..' @#$%^/Do no evil'?A conservative India would never be able to accept it,I'm sure. But why did the Chinese come up with it in the first place?And.. more importantly.. when did they come up with this genius monkey! We'd never know... nevertheless.. it did help us laugh our way back... and return satisfied with our pieces of art.Including a bamboo covered vase from a ridiculously humble lady.A small 4 inch vase typically takes, as she explained, 4 hours to 'weave on' and she even weaves patterns(on the entire vase..every inch of it!) such as the Panda on them.. brilliant work. We picked up a couple and wished we could get that $150 buck tea set.. tea pot and four cups.. all covered with beautiful bamboo patterns.The set took her a week to complete.It still was sold for $150? Wo! In a country where labor id perenially over-valued, this!Sigh! :(.We spent quite some time listening to her explain on how she did them.. amazed!We returned.. vowing to go back sometime when we need to pick interesting stuff.Chinatown.. a place like no other indeed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Left is right... and right is wrong....

Here's whats happening in Samoa.... a rare event.. as rare as seeing Punter Ponting all genuine.I was told this by a collegaue at work sometime back... and was intrigued... in this day and age would it make sense? Guess it does... On Sep 7th, Samoa is switching the side they drive on.I knwo you might say.. 'Ah c'mon.. we do that every once in a while back home'!! :))

Here is the WSJ report.
It is always fascinating how governments and organizations always come up with the best possible acronym... that people will always remember.PASS, is the organization supporting it. Will they.... passs?:)) Guess they'll only have to fear.. fear only and oh.. a huge truck coming at you too!

Monday, August 24, 2009

the start of it all...

It was to be a rare weekend at home.But its that itching to get out.. to get out and feel the fresh air. And I had a reason to... Ganesh Chathurthi it was... on Sunday.So it was decided that we make a trip to see the dude in his summer retreat.. Livermore. Set amidst the giant windmills on top of hills, it is perfect California in spring, and all green(Windows screensaver says Shank). In summer it turns into one of the many reasons why this is the Golden state. All dry and ready to burn grass.The temple is like any back home.. all dieties and lots of area around, to make you feel silent and serene. I somehow am more comfortable with this kinda place than one small hall as a temple. To me, the point of getting there is to come out feeling good and get some rare and precious moments of meditative silence.That is, if you can withstand the incessant yapping around and people unleashing their huge SLRs right in front of boards that specifically mention 'No Photography Allowed'. It riles me to no end. I almost felt like walking up to this gentleman(?), removing his lens.. and handing him a small piece of paper with Dodo1 on it.

'Please come later to the backside and collect the lens after presenting this token,Saar', I felt like telling them.

Thankfully,the place is equipped, really.. equipped to handle crowds.. and there are enough volunteers to keep over-zealous 'devotees' from cutting through the lines(and getting tripped by me!!) :))

Anyways,we finished the darshan and the as I stood in line to collect the prasadam, I realised the abundance of them all over the place. Styrofoam plates, plastic spoons etc. I'm not a tree-hugger(the perennially exaggerated reference used by those who hate common sense ideology).. but am always surprised by how good we are.... at being eco-friendly in the smallest things.. and always miss the big ticket items!

I guess it wouldn't be too tough for the temple to get bio-degradable cutlery.. for God's sake(he ha ha!) :)) And as has always been the case, there is a huge advantage to a movement when religion gets behind it. I'm sure there are enough people who dont notice it unless the Supreme Office does it. 'Ada, kovil ley idhu thaan use panraanga pa' (Even the temple uses eco-friendly stuff,dude.. in Tamil) would become a common refrain. What a huge filip the entire movement would get among the staunch followers, usually the slowest adopters. After all, what is religion if it cannot lead to the development of the community and greater good. I decided to coontact the temple to see if they respond.
Ok.. done with the serious writing.. :) now to the fun sighting....

As we picked up the food, met a few familiar faces and stood in a corner to munch on the sambhar rice, I happened to notice two kiddos next to us having an extremely animated conversation. The boy(Kid1) had a Calvinesque hairdo... as with all kids... while the girl(Kid2) was well.. lets say Susie like!! :)

Kid1: So tell me....
Kid2: what do you want to know....

Kid1: Do you sleep in a bunk bed?
Kid2: Bunk bed? Nooooo.....

I didnt know if it was at home or some camp.... but our Kid1 wasnt expecting a No for an anwer... he was confused... if there was a Calvin expression to capture the moment, it would this....
Stuttering along, obviously still not accepting the answer....he continued...

Kid1:No bunk bed? So... what... do .....sleep on...
Kid2:(enthusiastically) a huuuuuge Queen size bed (with arms wide open to show the size of the bed)....

Kid1: Queen size bed(amused by the description)....
Kid2: Yes.. a big bed... :)

That when we had to walk away.. but the kid's expression stayed with me. He had just experienced Peer Pressure 101.. :)) if it was camp, he's going to pester his parents to send him to it.. while the parents are still wondering as to who put this into his head!! And if it is at home? ah! forget it... he'll not sleep unless he sleeps on a 'huge Queen bed' :) I'm sure he'll be as disappointed as being shown a bag full of candies and only given one. But as with kids and some adults too (hint hint!!) being serious/sad over extended periods is not their core competency.One bright yellow truck will do for some........ or sometimes all it takes a drive in the open road to the tune of...(right now).. ' Kya Karoon' from Wake Up Sid.. or always pep song...Be Yourself by Audioslave ....always! Peer pressure.. eco-friendliness.. all can start right in.. HIS office..... and while we delve on Him... i shall recall a saint's words... 'HE must be a Mech'!! hee haa haa! :)