Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A decade of slogging.

After university I goofed around for an year just basically waiting for results and spending dads money – I thought I’ll do that till I get fed up. I never did have an issue with spending dad’s dough forever, but dad did! Our yahoo group mail was fully active with all my college mates posting their achievements in the past one year – some got promoted, some got overseas postings and some were doing their masters in India and abroad… updates kept coming it. All I had time for in between spending dad’s money and planning holidays was to send congrats to each one of them. I looked at my “sent mails” and it was only “good for you mate” “way to go dude” , “oh wow how are the blondes in the United States?”..hmm.. And so after my numerous failed attempts at finding a job or even getting a decent interview, mostly due my slackness and my overly impressive grades (highly sarcastic there) from university, I asked dad to sponsor my Masters or find me a job. Thanks to my utterly dismal performance in BTech he wasn’t sure of me pursing an academic career. Oh well can’t blame him for that. I still am surprised about how I scraped through college.

So after a month or so Dad finally got me a job or I thought it was a job. I go in happily for the interview and all goes well as he asks me some basic Mathematics and Physics and some Mechanical stuff. And the supervisor told me that I can join from the next day. WOW ! Score one out of one ! Nice ! but hey - what about the pay package ? Should I be negotiating that ? Hmm. Well I thought dad must have sorted it all out and decided on a hefty sum worthy of my skills. Super Dad!

On the first day the manager says – okay let me show you your work place. I am all set in a fancy tie and a shirt and new trousers – all new and branded of course! He takes me to the back of the yard and shows me a huge bench cum table (full of junk and broken stuff) at the very corner which didn’t have an inch of space on it and with at least a few centimeters of dust all over. Not been touched for a year at least. He goes – clean it up and its yours. You will find overalls and gloves and cleaning equipment in the cupboard there – give me a shout if you need anything. Ta. “er..Me ? Clean ?” “there must be some mistake here” “ what happened to the janitor?” these were my thoughts but then I thought it would be best to keep quiet for now and work at least till the first pay check :-P

For the first whole month I was pretty much cleaning the shop and tools and cars, greasing the forklifts and cranes, helping the secretary with photocopies and basically anything that didn’t require me to use my brains I was made to do. Phew that was a tough one month. But at the end of the month the table was spick and span, all tools were serviced, showed up on time each day, worked a weekend when I had to and everyone there liked me because they all had a slave :-P..  Come pay time – I was told that since I was a temp they can’t pay me in cash as it’s against company policies. I was shattered :( instead they gave me a battered old HP printer with no print cartridges because they were upgrading all their printers. So I go home carrying this printer – and mum and dad were all thrilled at the fact that I earned this printer – and told me that this is probably the heaviest pay check me or anyone else for that matter must have brought home ( literally). I smile and then borrow some money from dad to treat some of my friends :) and that night it was my turn to log on to yahoo groups and make a posting with the good news. I was getting there…

Two months down the lane I was made permanent at the yard for my enthusiasm and expert cleaning skills more than anything else. But that was a start to a career that took me places, brought me stuff and allowed me to do things that I enjoyed doing without having to say – “hey dad I am outta money again”.

Come end of this month – it would be ten years since I put on that pair of blue overalls, armed with a mop and mask and went about cleaning up the yard.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oh Scheisser!

KG had asked her blogger mates to pick the 10th picture from their first photo album post it along with the story that the picture unfolds. So here is mine from the Album - Austria2005.

The picture was taken right outside a bar on top of Kitzbühel ski slopes in Austria – was a bit drunk when I took this picture. And this goes down as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life to date and believe me I do have some moments that would make some even jump in a well .. oh well I’ll leave those for some other time.

Me and my mates were all ready to hit the slopes after the ski lift took us to the top of the mountains. It was a pretty exciting ride up to the peak called the Kitzbuhler Horn which is around 2000 m high and view there was fantastic with snow covered peaks rising above the clouds. And to be able to snowboard down the slopes we had to have a bit of alcohol in us to give us that extra guts to go off the beaten tracks and go off piste. So we decided to have a few pints before we started off downhill. Drink and be merry!

Flashback: Two days ago when we were in Munich we had a massive drinking session which mostly consisted of Kaiser beer which is like the Kingfisher of India. But unfortunately we all had to make frequent dump trips because the beer didn’t go down too well on any of us. We were literally waiting for the other person to get out of the loo for our turn. So they ended up renaming the Kaiser beer to Scheisser beer. Scheisser is German for shit – which I didn’t know (at least till two days later).

Okay so here I am all set to take the orders because it was my turn to buy the rounds – everyone was going “ I’ll have a Scheisser”, “me too”, “yea I’ll have the same” .. . So I fight my way to the bar counter between the Germans who by the way have an average height of 6 ft 5 inches. and after a while of waiting I could see the bar tender and I yell out “ three scheisser beers please” .. the bar tender looks at me with a confused look and nods his head in a confused manner. So I yell out again thinking that he might not have heard me properly “ three schiesser beers please” on top of my voice. I started to attract stares from people around me and the bar tender didn’t say much but stared straight into my eyes and I knew something was wrong. So I turn around to where my mates were seated and I find E lying on the bench and laughing away to glory holding his stomach. J too was laughing seated on the floor trying to say something but he couldn’t finish off anything he starts because he would start laughing again.. finally after J managed to control his laughter, he jumped up and told the waiter that I meant Kaiser beer. I was this little 5 ft 8 in guy looking up at all those Germans and Austrians with a totally embarrassed face.. damn I won’t ever forget that moment. We explained the situation to the bar tender and he started laughing too.. *sigh*

Years later whenever we get around for a beer which is not very often as we are all busy with each other lives we still remind ourselves of that day and have an extra pint in memory of the Scheisser beer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

delhi 6

I thoroughly enjoyed Delhi and can’t wait to go back. Wide roads, friendly people and great food. Even the Hindi there sounded much smoother than the Hindi I am used to hearing here in the Gulf which is more like the tapori Hindi. I was even brave enough to converse in Hindi with a few clients and they didn’t quite make out that I am a southie from my accent :) But I still have a lot of work as far as my accent is concerned. The reason I shy away from speaking in Hindi is because I hear Keralites here speak Hindi with a ridiculous accent and I hate to sound like that..

I visited Chandini Chowk, Qutub Minar, Jama Masjid, Raj Ghat and the ISKON temple at Greater Kailas. What I enjoyed the most was the Akhsardham temple which I visited with my mother – it is a fairly new temple and well maintained. They have done it up really well. The security checks there is a bit overwhelming but I guess it is needed there. Cant post any pictures of that place because cameras were not allowed inside. There is a religious show that starts every three hours and I have been told that it is not to be missed but I couldn’t make it due to time constraints.

Also took a day trip to Agra and passed by Fatehpur Sikri which was totally amazing. To be honest I really liked my walk around the corridors of Fatehpur Sikri more than the visit to the Taj Mahal. The Taj was nice but it didn’t make me go WOW like I did when I went inside Fatehpur Sikri.

Just being in Delhi constantly reminds you of India’s history and the freedom struggle and the heritage of India. None of the other Indian cities I have visited had that effect on me. Anyway I am back in Dubai and is telling everyone here how awesome Delhi is and that it’s the best city in India etc etc.. So one of my friends asks me if I am ready to go and live there. And I go “NO” – without even thinking twice. I do not want to part with the comfy life I have here and go live in Delhi although there are loads of things I miss about India but it still won’t take me back – at least not now.

So my friend said “Desh mein hum videsh dhoondthey hain aur videsh mein hum desh dhoondthey hain” – how true !

The man we owe it all to.

The ISKON temple at night - reminds me of the casino Excalibur in Las Vegas.

Courtyard in Fatehpur Sikri.

The magnificent Taj.

A stroll down the corrirors of history.

Jai Hind (mallu eshtyle).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Green is the way forward !

So I bought a jute bag - mostly for carrying groceries back home. Going green is what it’s all about lately and this is my latest step at saving the world. I am not sure how much greener the world will be with me buying this jute bag. I have never been motivated with long term results – I like to see the change now. Very impatient I would say. But I guess there are certain things in the world that cannot be changed overnight and it’s always good to just do your part and not look for immediate results.

But anyway I feel good about the jute bag and thought of sharing this picture with everyone .

My first Blog Badge and completely proud of it :)

YAY ! I got my blog’s first badge !! tara rum tara rum *drum roll*.. tara rum tara rum..
– thanks a lot KG.

But that brings me to have to write ten honest things about myself. Oh well here goes.

1. I pray to god only when things aren’t going well.

2. When at life’s crossroads I ask parents for advice because I always feel only they have an unconflicted interest in your well being.

3. I fall in love easily.

4. I am very materialistic.

5. I do not buy nutella anymore because I cannot stop eating it till I finish the whole bottle or fall sick. *mostly I fall sick*

6. I tend to run away from difficult situations instead of confronting it.

7. I cry easily watching the silliest of movies. But I tell people around that my eyes water if the air con is set too low :-P

8. I still day dream about being a soccer star :) although most players hang up their boots by the time they get to my age :(

9. I go dutch to the point of splitting pennies :-P

10. I can't lie - not that I havent tried but I totally suck at it.

..and seven honest blogs – hmm. I don’t think I even read seven blogs. I am going to mention two other honest blogs that I enjoy reading may be later on when I find more I'll add them to my lsit.

Casuarina - http://writingtherain.blogspot.com
Bedatri Dutta - http://beadysea.blogspot.com


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reality Check

Kerala trip was nostalgic, refreshing and an eye opener in a lot of ways. Landed there early in the morning and took a cab home. I spent most of the day inside the apartment cleaning and dusting it. Later in the evening I stood by the balcony that overlooked a busy street. There were two wheelers, autos, cars and buses all honking their way through in a completely disorganised fashion. What caught my attention was the road work that was going on below our apartment. There was a little kid sitting on a pile of red sand dug out red sand and holding on to what seemed like a piece of fruit that he had picked up from the streets. His father was busy working and his mother was chopping down plants in in order to clear the area. I wasnt exacly shocked because I have seen such scenarios in the past during my time in Kerala. I realized yet again that life is'nt all about that 100K dollar job or that M5 that has been on my wish list for ages. For some life is all about survival, that too one day at a time. For some it's about having clean water to drink and having atleast one square meal a day. For some its about being able to afford to send their little ones to school. For some it's about getting a new plastic sheet to cover the roof of their house in the slums so that water does not drip in on a rainy day. These are luxuries in their lives which most of us take for granted.

There was a lot of rain during the week -
I enjoyed listening to the rain sitting by the window. It was quite soothing to take breaths of the fresh moist air after the rain. You instantly feel a lot relaxed. One of the days I took a drive down to the village where I used to live when I was a kid. If felt nice to wander around the streets where I used to run around and play with other kids. I recalled that one of our hobbies during rainly seasons was to built paper boats of different shapes and set if afloat at one end of a flowing stream and see which one reaches the other end first. We used to run alongside our boats all the way to the other end. Those were the carefree childhood days. I even visited the little school where I had done my primary schooling - now it was shut down and deserted but I enjoyed a stroll through the bushy unkempt area which at one time used to be out playground bustling with action. *sigh*

On the drive back I stopped by one of the street side "nariyal pani" or "karikku vellam" shop. He charged 12 Rs per coconut which I thought was outrageous considering the fact that there are more coconut trees in Kerala than humans. Later he told me about how he has a knack for selecting the sweet ones by just tapping on the outer shell of the coconut. Amazing!

Visited a lot of temples and villages, attended a wedding and a reception and ran into a lot of relatives from different parts of Central Kerala. Finally it was time to go back and as I checked in for my flight I felt a bit of sadness creeping in as I felt I was leaving a place to which I belong. I never felt this way about my country before - hmm.. may be its the age catching up with me? As I walk into the lounge at the Cochin airport I see a different breed of people who are all busy scrolling away on their Blackberries or glued to their laptops while waiting on their cafe latte with skimmed milk.

I long to go back.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

weekend at nasik :)

It was a refreshing weekend at the Sula vineyard in Nasik. A villa by the lake with a hill on the other side, loads of rain, wine, weed joints, amazing food and a cool bunch of friends to share it all with.

I had never heard of the Sula Valley or the Sula Wines till a friend fo mine sent me a link to thier website asking me if I was interested in joining them for an extended weekend in Nasik. www.sulawines.com .I am always up for a new place whether its home or abroad. So I packed my bags..

Stay at "beyond" was ultraa comfortable. We were literally spoilt for the full four days we were there. There was an inhouse cook who made the most amazing vegetarian dishes I have ever had. I am a "a meal without meat? .. whats that like ?" type of person. But pandit-ji as he liked to be called and his group of helpers took care of the meals for four days and it opened up a whole new world of fine vegetarian dining. The food was so yum. In the middle east the vegetarian choices are so limited and bland that it is almost impossible to just survive on just veggies.

There was also a private infinity pool which overlooked the vineyard - this is where we spent majority of our time chilling after getting stoned with weed and wine :) And one one of the days we went for a tour of the factory whcih included a wine tasting session - 10 different types which was enough to get me on a high :-P

After the trip I spent a few days in our Mumbai offices before i returned to Dubai. And since I had to work I managed to get my firm to reimburse my airfare to Mumbai.. cheeky wasnt it ?And it being only a four hrs drive from Mumbai I might even think of revisitng that place..

* most of the pictures were taken by a friend who is a total photography freak*

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smooth? Well…almost!

I was flying back from Cairo yesterday and managed book a window seat on the flight! I love window seats :). So I board the flight, settle down and start browsing through the magazines that were offered, menus, wine list, what movies to watch etc… hoping that the person next to me will not be a hippo who will eat into half my airspace.. It happens to me often. And finally an overweight guy did show up and started to shove his baggage into the compartment overhead. I am thinking – Why ME? . He finally settles down in the aisle seat which is one seat away from me. Phew – that was close. I was so thankful.. and thinking what are the chances of another pot belly getting assigned next to me.. ? naaah !!

Enter a blonde – a total chic of a lady and settles down in the middle seat next to me. She smiles and I smile back. I am thinking ..damn I should have shaved, and put on that expensive perfume I had a bought last month, do I have bad breath ? etc etc.. the usual guys train of thoughts :-P

Hot Chic: *breaks the ice*Hi.. you live in Cairo?

Me: *Clears my voice – sits up straight* No. I live in Dubai – here on business. And you ?

Hot Chic: Oh I live in Dubai too – where abouts?

Me: Al-Barsha and you ?

Hot Chic: Emirates Hills.. May be we can share a cab from the airport ??

Me: *NICE – so far so good* Oh sure – nice quiet place really – I love that place.

Hot Chic: Yea I love it too. Hey that’s a cool tattoo you got... really good!

Me: *er ..okay this is moving on*. You think so? Thanks!

Hot Chic: Hey ..umm..you mind swapping seats? I had a long day and I could do with a bit more space.

Me: *didn’t see that one coming* Er.. Yea I mind swapping seats. I had a long day too and was hoping to catch a bit of sleep.

Fat Guy from across: *didn’t miss a beat* That was smooth… till he refused! Nice try.

We all laughed about it.. and I dozed off after a while.

Cairo after take off.

This might be the Red Sea - not sure though !

And no we didn’t share a cab.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Martin. (june 2005)

..after the training session I decided to wander around the small town of St Gaudens for a while. It’s a small city which is an hour’s drive from Toulouse. It was my second day of training and I was all excited to be in France for the first time. Anyway.. I ended up near a church where there was a lot of singing and few cultural activities going on, so I hung around for a while and had coffee at a near by café, and enjoyed watching people moving about. I was feeling very relaxed. Then I decided to head back to the hotel we are put up. On the way back through one of the narrow streets I heard live music.. some one was singing stairway to heaven. Oooh.. I love that song so I decided to find out who/where etc.. and ended up at a closed shop with a street singer seated in front of it humming away and strumming his guitar. He had a cap in front of him for passersby to drop in a euro or two.. I stopped by and listened to him for a while and after a song or two struck a conversation with him.. actually I asked him if he took requests :-P and he agreed. Stairway to Heaven, Hotel California, Winds of Change and a few of my other favorite numbers followed. After an hour or so he was ready to leave because the church rush had reduced and he had to make it back home before nightfall.. He had made around16 euros that day. He then talked about his family and how he was actually Dutch and how he hated the governments and struggle for financial freedom and material things and how he got on the road five years ago and had never looked back. He seemed and interesting person.. so I decided to offer him a lift back to his house as he was already getting late..

Martin: But your car wont be able to reach my house..

Me: Oh.. why not ? I have a VW Touran – its an MPV”

Martin: I live in the mountains and there are no roads that take you all the way.

Me: OH WOW – you live in the mountains ? awesome.. I always wanted to do that.

Martin: Yea ? you are welcome home anytime – and you can meet my wife and daughter..

Me: Thanks. I think I’d like that.

This is where I found Martin, infront of a shop close to the church.

So we set off to the mountains.. Of course there is a bit of risk involved with going off to the mountains with some stranger gypsy I had met an hour or so ago.. hmm.. but I always had a bit of “living on the edge” in me :-) It was a wonderful drive with the Perynees on my left..and we drove up to the mountains to as far as the MPV would take us which wasn’t much because the ground was muddy and wet from the rains and the car was skidding all around. Then we set off on foot following the narrow pathway through the mountains, We came across a natural lake and a waterfall.. We sat there for a while and emptied a can of local beer we bought at a store at the gas station, and talked for a long time about life and world and music and women and African slaves and many other things I don’t recall. We continued for another 40 mins uphill and I loved every moment of it, the fresh air, Martins stories about survival in the mountains, natural beauty of the perynnees etc.

The beautiful lake we passed by on the way to the settlement.

Finally we reach his “settlement” where there were four families living.. His wife came out running to greet him – he had been gone for four days to earn money. Later in the week they would take their donkeys to the market and load them with their supplies for the next month. This was their routine. But on the other hand they also grew vegetables and tapped in fresh water from the mountain streams. So the only supplies they required were just rice and flour and meds and few other handy items for the camp. They even brewed their own beer which was amazing.

Martin with his daughter Josephine infront of the strong house where they take refuge during heavy thnderstorms.

We sat around in their open air kitchen, drank, ate and danced to the music they played. It was awesome! Later they made me sing a Hindi song and I struggled with “papa kehte hain bada naam ..” from QSQT. I suck at singing so had to give up soon. We all sat around and talked a lot more and I also played with Josephine their one year old daughter.. she was so chubby and cute and she was born in the mountains in their little camp.

The open kitchen cum dance floor cum chillout lounge.

As it got late it was time to say good bye and after I turned down Martin’s offer to walk down with me to the car, I set off on my return journey by myself. I am very good with directions so I had no problems getting down and my cell phone had good coverage through out in case of emergencies.

Long after my visit I still think of Martin and his family and life in the mountains.. and how happy they were to see me :-)

Wonder if they still remember my visit to their little camp??

Monday, June 15, 2009


Although not much of a cricket fan, I watched the T20 match where India took on English in England. Tight match and the English won by a whisker.., they exploited yet again the Indians weakness against short pitched attack just like the West Indies couple of days ago. But the Indians did try hard and missed out in the end. Great game with disappointing results as far as I was concerned. But what shocked me was the crowd response after England clinched victory.

As expected the crowd was predominantly Indian and Dhoni’s team received majority of the support unlike in any other part of the world where the home team supporters will outnumber the visitors. But yesterday the Indians felt like at home.. Which was to their advantage. So when it was finally when the victory announcement was being made England team was drowned in boos. It was just booing that could be heard from the stands and that was shocking. No matter which team wins the winners need to be congratulated. England does not deserve that sort of treatment anywhere and definitely not at home of all the places.

The winning English Team !

Paul Collingwood the English skipper expressed his views in a gentle manner where by he said that the victory was sweet but being booed at home ground isn’t something that they were excited about. I felt bad for the winning team.

What is ironic is that there is a good chance that the majority of the Indian crowd there are Indians who have accepted the British nationality and are living there. In fact they are British Citizens. What right to they have to boo the British team after they put up a great performance against a visiting team? Even if they weren’t British Citizens – they are people who live in England and they should respect the feelings of the British people. Doing such acts only brings on hatred against the Indians living abroad. Respect others and you shall get some in return.

Learn to applaud a great performance. End of the day cricket should be the winner. I am so sad to say that the behavior of the Indian fans was shameful.

“We came off the Nursery and we got booed and I think that hurt a few ­people," Collingwood said. "It was a bit strange because obviously we were on our home ground, the home of cricket, and we were getting booed. I thought our performance showed how much we wanted it from there. It was good because it meant we didn't have to make any kind of motivational speech before we went out, it pretty much did it for us."Paul Collingwood the English Captain after the match.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Indecent Exposure !

It was the holy month of Ramadan and I was returning home to Sharjah after a tennis session in Dubai. I was driving back in my sportswear. Unfortunately I met with an accident and had to wait for the traffic police and register the accident and get a no objection letter for my motor insurance. After the necessary formalities were done the officer refused to hand over my driver’s license and asked me to follow him to the police station while the other party was allowed to drive off. I got no reply for my questions as to why I had to come to the police station. Once there he told me that he was going to charge me for dressing appropriately in public. My first thought that went through my mind was “WTF – you have got to be kidding me.” So I politely commented – but I AM dressed appropriately. He told me that it was the month holy of Ramadan and that no provocative outfits should be worn outside! I immediately knew there was no point in arguing with this narrow minded Gaylord! So I asked him if he can just keep my license and come back later etc.. to which he said that the only way I can get released was to ask someone to bring some covered clothing to cover my legs. I could'nt believe a 50 year old man would find my legs provocative.. It is a very scary thought more than anything else.

So I managed to get one of my friends to drive to the station with a pair of jeans and got me out without getting charged. Sharjah claims to be the nations “cultural” capital with strict rules against alcohol consumption and entertainment options. But what happened to me was probably the height of “cultural” beliefs.

Rise and Fall

Dubai thought it would be the center of the world in three years time.. Even made a lot of people think so with the advertisements and future planning and future projects. Although I did not believe that everything would go as per plan, deep inside I wanted it all to be true. Having spent a good part of my life here including my childhood – Dubai is more like a home to me, even though I still need a work visa to enter this place.. oh well!

On my drive back from Abu Dhabi after a client visit – I noticed a billboard advertising a certain development that is being planned in Dubai. It sounded very ambitious and intimidating. But will it ever take place? If so when?

Considering the fact that the same developer is finding it tough to complete studio apartments and deliver it on time as promised, a city the twice size of Hong Kong sounds a bit too far fetched. Fat Hopes.

Dubai was boasting of real estate prices comparable to NY and London. All bogus. I feel it was all just a hype to get attention. Now with buyers losing confidence and with no concrete rules on foreign ownership and developers having the right to hike up the maintenance fees according to their interests, the future of the real estate market in Dubai looks bleak. True Dubai was growing faster than it could handle. It will take a lot to buy back the end users confidence. Finally Dubai has realised that Rome was not built in a day.

Dubai I think is going through a correction phase where everything is being brought back to realistic levels. Also hopefully the corruption phase is over too where many developers had run off with end users cash..

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It’s just a matter of accepting it!

During my occasional visits to Kuwait the drive from our staff house to the clients is only 10 mins with moderate traffic. But it would take me a good half hour to 45mins due to traffic. And it completely stresses me out - not that I am not used to traffic (anyone who has driven around downtown Dubai will find traffic in Kuwait very minimal). What gets on my nerves is the style of driving here especially the local Kuwaitis. They are just maniacs with their 5.7 liter suburban’s who refuse to acknowledge a 1.2 liter Toyota Yaris which is also trying to inch forward.

They would just ignore you, cut in front of you, tail gate you, yell and honk at you when they pass by you over the footpath...you name it. Even then this is a lot more civilized than driving back home through a busy street in Cochin – where there are no rules. But somehow driving there doesn’t stress me out. So I did some thinking as to why does the Kuwaiti animals get me all worked up. I think it is due to the fact that I have accepted the fact that driving in India sucks - that the car next to you is going to cut in front of you, and the car behind is going to honk till you go faster and the auto in front will do a right turn without indicating. So I am all set and prepared to expect the unexpected so there is no element of surprise. A country as rich as Kuwait ought to be better – this just goes to prove that money does not bring class. Anyway so here I am trying to accept that things are bad here and the sooner I do that the more relaxed I would be when I start my day at the office.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Palm

Having lived only a 10 minutes drive away from the Palm Jumeirah for the past 5 years – friends and extended family find it hard to believe that my parents have never visited the man made islands.. so I thought of taking them to see what all the hype was about. As usual dad wasn’t interested and mum kinda agreed to come along. So off we went to the palm islands – it was a Saturday evening and since it was weekend, we expected to see a lot of crowd and traffic – but the place looked deserted. There were a lot of apartment buildings that were either not completed or unoccupied. There were loads of “fronds” villas that were being built and for some reason they were all eerily lit up. And at the end of center of the crescent was the mighty Atlantis hotel which is basically a copy of the Atlantis of the Bahamas (without the casinos of course).

Me: Hey amma – this is the Atlantis – pretty neat huh?

Mum: Yeah ? okay. * looks in the opposite direction out in to the sea almost immediately*

Me: Aren’t you in “awe” ?

Mum: Naah !! Atlantis doesn’t appeal to me much – but the sea does :-). I like the sound of it – soothes the mind – may be if I see the original at the Bahamas I might be in awe.

Me: Must be the old age :-P

Coming to think of it if they are spending millions on building a landmark hotel – why can’t it be original? Why are they (Dubai) planning to build an Eiffel tower that is taller than the real one – and pyramids larger than the original? I don’t see a point – get real – get original. But having said that have to agree that the whole concept of the palm islands is pretty innovative.

The atlantis at the palm Jumeirah.

View of Dubai Marina from the Palm

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I believe there is a Chris McCandless within every one of us – but not so prominent in some as much as the others. The urge to travel away from civilization and the go off the beaten path, to find peace and live off the land - Into the wild.

Although I admire McCandless’ guts and his determination to do his own thing, I hated that fact that he hurt the ones he loved – by running away from their lives – just like that. I have to say he was selfish in his own ways not caring about the ones who brought him up and gave him education which eventually made him capable of having a mind of his own.

I hated the fact the he wouldn’t accept a graduation gift from his parents. It’s a gift from someone who loves him – he should just accept it. Period. Yet his sister defends him by saying that no one understands him – I say there is nothing to understand. He is just plain simple stubborn.

I hated the fact that he wouldn’t call home for months and let them know that he is safe and sound – or whatever. Regardless of the fact that they would try and convince him to come home – he should have written or called often. He owed them that much (atleast).

I felt no sympathy for him when he died of his own stupidity but I do feel bad for his loved ones who were so anxious to hear about him and who kept hoping that one day he would come home.

I read the book and also watched the movie and have to say that I enjoyed the movie more than the book. Might even watch it again as living in the wild is something I always dreamt of doing – but stuck in this rat race of work-home-work-home I am not sure if it will ever materialize.

To McCandless…. Salut!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Am I socially responsible?

“sir,madaame you waan dvdee??” I hear the familiar voice at the office reception and soon the receptionist alerts the rest of us that the DVDs are here. The vendor is a tiny chinese lady with four bags each almost her size – full of pirated DVDs. Soon half the employees are going through her bags which has a well organised collection of new releases, foreign films, comdey, action and even a porn section.

Does it actually make a big difference to the film industry if we start buying pirated movies ? or does it just eat a wee bit into the millions the film industry makes ? Are we harming the society in any way? Is there a fine line that divides the right and wrong ? Although I have stopped buying pirated movies and music CDs etc I am still to make a decision on illegal mp3 downloads. I mean where do I draw the line?

For now – I recycle waste, minimise plastic usage and have stopped buying pirated CDs. I like to think I am doing my part in being responsible. The part I totally fall behind is burning black gold. I have a decent size engine and I love giving it the berries each time I hit the road.. and fuel being dirt cheap here in Dubai doesn’t make me think twice before filling that tank up with Unleaded 98 Octane. Very Criminal Like ??

Monday, April 6, 2009


“Hi – I am XXX and I am your waiter today. I will do my best to make sure you enjoy your meal at our place”… and they mean what they say in majority of the places. So after we are happy with their service – we tip them. Everyone is happy.

But what if you get crappy service from a grumpy waiter/waitress and the food sucks? You decide that this guy isn’t getting your appreciation of any sort.. So you just want to pay up the bill and leave. Then comes the bill with 15% service charge along with a blank space for the tip. Huh? WTF? Service charge?Tip? Hello..???

Here in the middle east every deli has its own rules – there are no standard rules for the country – some plug in a tax along with a service charge and then expect us to tip the waiter etc.. This is so unfair. As far as I am concerned service charge is a token of appreciation that cannot be demanded. Period. So I have officially stopped tipping if there is a service charge. Also I do not charge the tip to the credit card as it will eventually end up in the owner’s pocket. So I tip the waiter with cash, that way there is a better chance of it ending up with the right people.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Most people I know who travel a lot buy something typical related to the country they visit for taking back home.. Like if you go to Darjeeling you end up buying a packet of Darjeeling Tea.. you got to Yemen and bring back a jambiya ( traditional arabic knife ) and if you go to Scotland you bring back a Scottish kilt or a miniature statue of William Wallace or even collect currencies or T shirts and what not.. but not me.. I bring back fridge magnets :-). That’s a habit I picked up ten year ago after my first overseas trip. And now my fridge has no more space left.. :-( So I am thinking of something else – may be hang up a notice board in my bedroom where I can pin on random thumbnail pictures etc that will remind me of the my stay in a hotel or some random people I meet or may be even the picture of a coffee shop I visit. Hmmm…

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

to laugh often and much,

to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch... to know even one little life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded! - Emerson.

picked it off a fridge magnet I had bought a long time ago...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Damn ! Got me ..

March 31st 22:30

Ring……. Ring……..Ri

Me: Hello

S: Hey – Quick get up – I left something for you outside your house.. *sounding all urgent and all*

Me: Oh okay hold on.. let me go have a look

S: I left it right behind the bush right outside your house..

Me: Okay – *I start looking under the bushes*.. “I don’t find anything

S: Oh look again – I left it right there.. keep loooking

Me: I have looked all over and I don’t find anything..

S: That’s okay “happy april fools day - in advance

Me: Oh Blast it.. wait till I get my hands on you...

Monday, March 30, 2009

more cairo

Uncool Cigarette Packs

These are the most effective cigarette warnings I have seen so far and the Egyptian govt. are in no means shy about being graphical about it. Just looking at the pack definitely would make any casual smoker uneasy. Also the packs look so uncool and it would look stupid to have it anywhere around you. Great job Cairo!!!

Taxi Meters

I found some of the most battered taxis in Cairo and they beat some of the Fiats you find on the streets of Mumbai. The charge meters installed in them are made in India and called Ashoka meters. And in one of the taxis it actually worked. Amazing – it could be easily 40 years old. Mind you the Taxi drivers are some of the most polite ones that I have come across although there is nothing polite about the way they drive:-P


I ended up in one of the Egyptian households and they served me coffee in a mug with King Khans picture on it. Apparently he is quite popular there along with Big B. But he is known as “Sharoocan” which I found very amusing.. viva bollywood !!!


What I also realized is that Cairo is a very normal city where you find leaves on the streets, water puddles, kids playing in the streets.. cars double parked etc. It’s like a lived-in place unlike Dubai which looks very artificial where there are too many rules to follow and what not and the roads are all spic and span.. almost unreal. Also one can find “chembatrathy” poovu in Cairo which is in abundance back home in Kerala. I was amazed to see one just outside our staff house. Don’t know what the English name for it is.

And I might even be going back next week.. YAY.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Roads of Cairo through a D880

Last two days we had to go downtown to Giza to meet clients etc. It was a good forty mins drive from where we are across the Nile. We had a battered old Hyundai come and pick us up along with our driver Gallal “Schummy” Sabry. Schummy was the name he acquired due to his F1 style driving during rush hour.

I was brave enough to sit in the front seat and keep my eyes open for the complete ride. I would tug on my seat belt every now and then just to make sure they would do their job when the need arises :-P . Since the dash board was all scratched up – I had to strain my eyes to see if it had “SRS Airbag” etched on it. I tried to match up the various scratches to convince myself that it vaguely read “airbag” :-P As far as Schummy was concerned he wanted to keep the business with us and his way of getting the nod from us was to drive as fast as possible, drive through one ways in the wrong direction, cut in on other drivers and swear at anyone who even gives him the look.. He was quite a character.

By the second day I was used to his reckless driving and I took some pictures using my D880 Samsung mobile which has crappy resolution.

Kids hanging on to back of truck..

Rush hour at Giza

Brokendown buildings in Giza

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tomato Juice with Pepper ©

A colleague of mine introduced me to this combo on the flight to Houston last year and it has become my flight drink ever since. I used to be a wine guy on the flight but that leaves me dehydrated and slightly hung over (it doesnt take much for me) when we land :-P. This is perfect to sip on while listening to some good music or chatting with the person next to you..

I have made it a point to pass on the “TJ with pepper ©” tradition to other co-passengers each time I fly. This time on my way to Cairo it was an Aussie lady who was my victim – I think she has taken a liking to it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

yemen calling..

We used to dread going to yemen or at least that’s the general vibe we used have in the office. But I used to secretly enjoy my time there due to reasons of my own.. but hated admitting it to prevent them from cutting down our hardship allowance for Yemen :-P So yea every time I used to get picked to visit Yemen – I would put on this long face in the office as if it’s the end of the world, although I would get home, punch the air and go “YES”.

a village in seyuun

It was a really interesting to go to Yemen. We used to arrive in Sanaa and then we get on the next flight to Seyuun – which is small town with an air field that is closest to the oil fields. Sanna is just a boring dead city which is polluted and corrupt and hectic. The only place worth seeing is “old sanaa” where you can only walk as no cars or bikes are allowed.. any way I will write about it later. But yea Seyyun was this little air field from where we would get picked up to go to the camps. There would be body guards who escort us because the co I used to work for was “Amrikie” which was Arabic for American and there are chances ( one a zillion ) of getting kidnapped etc.. Body guards aren’t exactly the black cats that you find in the movies but anyone who knows to pull the trigger of an AK-47 and not shoot himself on his foot would qualify.

the yemeni bodyguard..

I would carry a few bottles of whiskey and boxes of chocolates all paid by the company to bribe the officials at the check posts to let us pass without hassles.. Most of the time our journey would be interesting with occasional stops for a few shots of whiskey. On a few trips the body guard let me fire a few rounds of the AK-47 into air.. that was fun. So after we reach the camp the body guards depart with another bottle of whiskey and a box of candies for their kids.

Work is sort of boring and tiring as its usually 30 – 40 hrs long without much sleep. During that week or so in some remote location, we have no contact with the outside world except through Thuraya phones. I used read a lot of books write stuff and at night go on top of a hill with people we meet there and share experiences over a few cans of beer.

an oil rig in yemen

The return journey to the airport usually has a stop at one of the traditional shabby restaurants in the middle of nowhere for a feast which would be on me as a token of appreciation for their help during my stay. The guys would disappear to the back of the cattle shed and come out holding a lamb by the ears in each hand saying “this ones for you you and this ones for us” I really cant eat them as I feel sad for the lamb but I am perfectly okay to order lamb while dining out back home in Dubai :-P They are so yum.

Our next stop would be at a the “gaath” shop. Gaath is a herb that is an intoxicant – it’s a tradition there that most men folk flollow. They chew gaath all day long and by evening they are all on a high. Most of them have this bulge on the side of their cheeks as they refuse to spit out the old bunch – they just add on every hour or so till night fall. Even though the gaath looks all filthy a good quality bunch could cost up to 75 USD. Personally I have never tried Gaath just because it looks dirty ( I have tried weed on a few occasions and hated that :-P ).

yemenis at a gath shop ( the tiny bunch he has in his hand caused a 50 USD damage )

Farewell would be hugs and nose rubs ( seriously – we touch each other with the tip of our noses and rub thrice). It sounds totally gay but I do it lest I piss off my body guard and he decides to put an extra hole in me.

And finally I fly back with some serious beans, ready to bitch and moan to our boss about how hostile yemen was and how we almost got kidnapped.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

here I go again..

Email from boss –
You're cranking to Cairo next week (sorry about the short notice) can you sort out a visa today pls.

This has become a part of my life – short notice trips to not-so-exciting places. But it has become not-so-exciting only after I went there last year and did the usual touristy stuff etc.. :-P Why cant it be like “you are cranking to NZ for a week.. or may be California or Maldives..” but NO it has to be some sorry, sad, war torn place. I guess oil is found in the nastiest of places – either in the burning deserts of Middle East or the jungles of Brazil or in freezing oil sands of Canada or in chilly Norway..

Anyway this time I am looking forward to the trip – hoping to get out of Cairo and go to the mountains if I am there for the weekend or may be I can take a few days off and explore the countryside.. hmm now where did I leave my lonely planet..

Friday, March 13, 2009


Things were happening so fast –and I never got a chance to think about how 2008 went by.. Now I have a lot of free time in hand ( a bit too much I would say ).. let me recap.

The divorce finally came through – no hassles and that was a big relief as I was expecting frantic trips to Kerala to meet lawyers and running around family courts, having to bribe the clerks to get things done etc... none of that. Just had to pay one lawyer and he took care of the rest. Very efficient.

Traveled quite a bit this year – Houston, Kerala, Turkey, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Dallas, California and Bali in that order.

Flew every week to Kuwait and back for the full 52 weeks while I was working and came to the point where the airport staff and cabin crew were beginning to look familiar (scary). Sick and tired of the traveling job and looking for a change.

Cut down on alcohol and glad that I am not an addict but had to get some home made rum (over worked dates – as someone had put it) while in Kuwait. Btw Kuwait is a dry country. Bali and Vegas were different though as I was high on spirits (literally) throughout.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wimployee of the year..?? NOT

I had always been a hard worker, dedicated and a “yes sir” type at work. But no I wouldn’t consider myself a kiss asser. Although some people might argue that point and to them I will show the four warning letters that I picked over six years. The first one was for rolling over the company Land Cruiser in the desert – completely my fault and still regretting going too fast. I was lucky to come out of it alive and so were two of my colleagues. So yea a guardian angel does exist. I was half expecting to get fired and had already started looking into appointment times. I survived the crash and the job..

The second was for use of abusive language on my boss. I deserved this one too but so did my boss (obviously he didn’t get one) for asking me to break procedures. It was one of those days when things were going horribly wrong due to some equipment malfunction and my boss tried to get me to pass the blame on to the clients with his usual bull. I refused point blank. And when he got really pushy (this is after 30 hrs of non-stop work on the oil rigs in the middle of the desert at 45 deg C), I lost it and gave him a piece of my mind which included but not limited to the extensive use of the F word. So finally when I got back to the office I had a two page warning letter and a bonus cut waiting for me. Nothing that depressing which downing a few beers couldn’t help me get over.

The third was a routine one for missing a flight to go to Yemen – not that I was really excited to go to Yemen but I didn’t try really hard to catch the flight. So the counter closed a while before I got there. It was a short notice trip and I could have refused but I obliged and then messed up.

Fourth was again for abusive language, this time on a client. He started it off and so I countered and I won as his vocabulary was limited – so that was my fourth after a strong recommendation from the client. Which again I deserved... but on the other hand my boss gave me a hike in pay because he thought I didn’t deserve that one :-)

And btw I am usually not as abusive and reckless as I sound .. just that when you are tired and knackered after hours and hours of work without sleep or proper food or shower the tolerance level kinda drops.. so the Jekyll in me comes out. But it’s been years (actually three) since I got cautioned so I think its time I got commended for good behavior *angelic smile*

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Just booked dad on a flight to India for the weekend – he wants to go to Sabarimala – it’s a temple on top of a hill and he just decided couple of days ago that he is going.. yea he is very organized that way. As it is his legs hurt even while climbing regular stairs, thanks to old age and a free kick gone wrong ( I think he managed to uproot a good patch of lawn along with the ball - *ouch* ). Anyway so here I am telling him that it’s not a great idea to go climbing mountains by himself and his justification is that that he might get more punyam if he does it while he is hurt. Mum agrees with him too. So I let my case rest. Then they asked ME to go along with him and that’s when I thought I heard my phone ring in my room.. “Oh that must be my boss calling.. be right back”


Monday, March 9, 2009

oh .. am I in your way ?

Yesterday I started reading a book on general etiquette, it was dead boring and I dumped it along with the rest of the books that I need to take back to the second hand shop.

There are some things that really puts me off (as would loads of other people) like jumping the queue, rash driving, littering public places etc.. but there is this one thing I just cannot put up with and it happens a lot in places where I have to be for various reasons – that is invading the personal airspace. I mean I don’t get it – imagine you waiting in a queue and the person behind you just tries to jack you up from behind – you are shocked and turn around and the person behind you gives you a look as if you did something to offend him. I try and ignore him and inch forward a bit – and guess what he is right behind you with his groin on my bum and his chin literally on my shoulder. For a person watching from outside it would look like a chain of men, each trying to plug into the guy in front – filthy. Okay may be I exaggerated a bit, but there is always that someone who wants to maintain body contact with you just to emphasize that he is next in line. I found a way around it by having a backpack over my shoulder most of the time – but then the continuous taping on my bag makes me uncomfortable as I am worried now that he might be trying to nick something from it. And even if I finally learn to put up with it, they wont give up till they inch me towards the person in front and I make contact – This I refuse to do and on more than one occasion I have had to talk down the guy at the back who will give me a confused irritated look…

I have learnt to ignore a lot of unpleasant behavior but I haven’t gotten around to learning to ignore this one.. and I don’t even want to try.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

the first

Over the years I have had loads of friends who have been blogging and it has been a pleasant experience for them and so I have decided to have a go.

I used to keep a dairy on my PC for a while – like the old Doogie Howser MD types and finally one day I just erased it all (dont ask me why) and have been regretting it ever since.