Tuesday, October 6, 2009

something stole the thunder off the biannual problem

What itch!
Ask for excitement and they send you a war.
Well war like were the last month and half…battling hospitals, fears, forms, presentations, work, weather, fever, travels, delays, doubts, worries, reports, heartbreaks, and dousing, others fears, franctic relatives, inconsolable friends, impatient clients, landlord, self doubts whew!
The lull after the storm although welcome, takes the wind out of the sail.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Biannual problem solution part 2

The itch had become chronic since the last time I wrote and required some desperate measures.

The initial spasms and attacks subsided when I decided to go on a trek by myself to har ki dun in Uttranchal. Having calmed down to it I saw anything and anyone as an enemy…work, fitness, clothes…. and I wasted no time and immediately checked out routes, maps, agents, guides...

Nothing in October…. 'oh yes things can be arranged’ …..that is if you are willing to pay Rs.37000 for a lone trek by myself…along with 5 porters, 6 mules and a guide.

Net result: nothing.

There was a bigger conspiracy here.

Right around this time my brother was planning to take off as well. Which meant my mom will be left alone. Which now meant more options given the trek to har ki dun wasn’t working out. Having been mesmerised by Spiti valley all my life, I decided nows the time. Its not a trek but a road trip, can be done in a week and will have company. And i will experience free range....endless mountains, vast cold lands, monastries and lamas, sheep and pastures...hmmmmm

So that’s the plan…have taken off the week before diwali and am planning as we speak.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A biannual problem

I am beginning to itch…it’s not a stranger to me. I know the beginnings. It starts with contentment, the very contentment causes discontentment.

It slowly creeps up my leg and messes with my head. I wait and watch…and wait and watch. But nothing out of the ordinary happens. No new challenge, obsession or curiosity comes around. No new troubles.

A sense of irritation starts to develop…things dull out, lose colour. Friends seem alien and unavailable. It’s me and the dry road…and I am not even travelling on it.

Nothing inspires me. I am unable to jump into the lives of the characters in the movies I watch. I invite delays, road jams, wrong meters, losing money and getting late... I’m no longer on top of things.

I am putting on weight…clothes don’t fit and in the last three weeks I am dressing to hide. Skirts, loose tops and jeans. I have morbid thoughts of turning into a sumo wrestler in my 40ies…unable to get into my brother’s car.

I do good work…in the last 2 weeks not because I want to but at times because I have to. I have become easy… at times cheat on myself. I think I am getting soft…and that scares me.
I am delaying my pleasure to avoid all fears. And the delay has become status quo in many things…I am getting comfortable in the delay.

I know I have to get out…but I am waiting for the water to go over.

I know what it is. I know what I have to do. But like sweet pain I keep poking it and feeling it but not healing it.

I have to go to the hills. Soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

missing parts

The people who fascinate you are those who you want to be.
They represent a part of you that is unexpressed…creative producer, writer, mountain traveler, free child, wildlife researcher, photographer, rockstar, army officer, sportsman, radio jockey, actor, doctor, chef etc. They dust the windows in your mind and show you the possibilities embodied through them .
But what happens once you have what they have?
Where do they go?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An ode to simplicity…

Some people love jargons,
it makes them sound so smart,
lending an air of importance to their ideas otherwise bland…

For none can fight with ‘strategize impactful paradigms’
or argue against ‘leveraging vertical vortals’
in a a ‘Kafaesque’ atmosphere
in a neo magical realism portal

It might ‘monetize global methodologies’
or ‘enhance best-of-breed eyeballs’
and ‘reintermediate interactive content’
to ‘repurpose synergistic community walls’

But can it help you make a cup of tea?
or describe a fresh dew drop
or how to get to Timbuktu
or even to the corner shop?

Can it inspire some passion,
or calm a troubled mind

So can we please have some good old English
the common sense kind?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

my quote

the biggest mistake a woman makes is to think that she is the only one... the biggest mistake a man makes is not knowing he is

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cambodia chronicles: Angkor Wat… who, when, where, why, how

22nd March 2009

Hidden in roots and lost in time
Haunting flutes and cowbell chimes
Blackstone sandstone crumbling structures
Come together with reason and rhyme

These are my thought as I think back of those temples; dating back to the 10th Century or more but still standing tall and stoic.

Angkor represents the Khmer empire's immense power and wealth as early as the 8th century. King Jayavarman II was the founder with his sons and nephews taking the glory forward. Staring off as a Hindu kingdom that primarily worshipped Shiva and Vishnu, over time the Buddhism influence grew much stronger. Therefore most temples have Shiv lingas along with images of Buddha.

We had to get a pass to visit the temples $20 for the day and $40 for 3 days. The temples are all far from each other and you will need at least 2 hours to just walk through each of them.

After an omelette breakfast we tuk tuk-ed for almost 2 hrs to Kbal Spean to see the 1000 lingas. It is up the Kulen Mountains and much glory was promised for the one who dared. It was a hot trek up meeting many on the way up and then down. Some kids offered me some boiled snails they were eating which I kind of refused. As always the journey was more fun than the destination as the lingas and the reclining Vishnu was not much to write home about. But we happily took pictures and came down…

On reaching back I went for a quick visit to the wildlife rehabilitation centre. I met Pok han Pokh a very enthusiastic and inspiring guy who showed me around the animals and birds…there were Brahminy kites, Serpent eagles, gibbons etc. He was really impressed with my knowledge of those birds…so I came off feeling all nice and special having made a good friend.

The next stop was Bantey Srei, a sandstone temple with the most intricate carvings ever. It means temple of the lady...yes in some cultures Sri means lady… It’s unbelievable how every stone, pillar, floor, window, door has the most beautiful carvings…and it’s withstood all the test of time.

By then it was late afternoon and we still had to catch the sunset at Angkor Wat. This is the largest of the temple complexes and was more like the royal residence with palatial ponds, monasteries, prayer halls, dancing halls, chambers etc in large architectural grandeur.

I liked the path leading up the back of the temple more than the temple complex itself. The evening sun was behind the temple and cast a halo effect and it looked and felt so lost in time. You can see the grandness of the temple a km away and as you walk closer it just looms larger. We were lucky there weren’t many people ahead of us.

As I wandered I wondered about all those people who would have walked the very same path…peasants, priests, monks, temple dancers and royalty. I might have been a monk or a dancer. Even as I write I feel trapped in that moment on that empty muddy road. 

We finally returned to our hotel legless and tired and decided to have our dinner there. One of the local specialities is ‘Amok’ which is a semi dry curry with local herbs like lemon grass, ginger, coconut, tamarind and others. You can have Amok fish, pork or chicken. I had decided to eat fish on this trip so that was it.

Night life there is good with nice restaurants and good food, and the famous beer here is Angkor. I always thought South East Asia was very crowded and claustrophobic… I was so wrong. It’s quite and yet people are there, very simple yet magical. Makes you want to stay back more to at least learn the language.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cambodia chronicles: Getting there

Bangkok 21st March 2009
Hua Lampong station was just waking up at 5.28 am when Jenny n I got off the taxi, dragged our bags bought our tickets (48 Bhats each) to Aranya Prathet and plonked for a nice tea coffee and croissants. People normally fly to Hanoi so this kind of rail / road trip to Cambodia was a bit unconventional by local standards (and also a bit uncomfortable). Anyone attempting this should know in advance that there is only one such train and it leaves Bangkok at 5.50 am with only 3rd class compartments with no ac and not much food options on the way.

We were soon rushing pell mell to platform # 6 and scrambled up into a 3rd class train compartment. Now everything I had seen so far in Bangkok had set my expectations really high so obviously I balked a little when the strong smell of fish oil hit me that early in the morning. But I had decided to accept all and experience everything, so did what I do best with discomfort - pretend it didn’t exist…and all in the name of adventure.

The seats were unreserved so we raced to grab them. Quite unnecessary because the people are very polite and un-interfering and wouldn’t sit or push if you have a seat. Apart from a few giggles because of a ‘fragile’ sticker that got transferred from my bag to my back the next five and half hours to the border went pretty uneventful.

The locals are extremely clean, dainty and proper, so much so that a guy was drinking beer off a can with a straw. Since we weren’t Thai, there was no concern for local propriety and we hungrily gobbled a mango in the most un-lady like manner (mangoes there are a different; neither sweet nor sour).

The countryside is very much like ours…a mix of rice fields, mango, jackfruit, coconut, cashew, tamarind, cows, buffalos, drongos, kingfishers and egrets… You get the picture?

The hours passed by chatting, gossiping, discussing friends, brands, guys, work, styles, new interests and reliving old stories.

From Aryana Prathet one has to take a tuk tuk ( 80 bhats) to Poipet and then it’s a bit of a walk to the immigration office and entry gates to Cambodia. Be sure to pack some food from Bangkok as there isn’t much of a choice till you reach. It’s also a brilliant idea to get visas in advance. We had our Cambodia visas in place (Jenny got it online) so it was easier…and I just had to get a reentry visa for Thailand.

The borders are like most borders…boring, dry, empty, lifeless and makes you wanna quickly choose sides and get there fast. Entering Cambodia the first thing that hit was everyone's talking in dollars. Water, chips, cabs et all. No one talks in Cambodian 'Real' other than for tips.

You can hire a 4 seater cab for $15/person or a full cab for $40 and we did just that to compensate for the 5 and half hour train journey. The roads were surprisingly good and without potholes despite reports that the roads in Cambodia are no better than those in interior India.

We were on our way to Siem Reap; the tourist town nearest to all the temples. This is where we stayed for the next few days. Siem Reap simply means Siam defeated (Thailand is Siam). The Thai Army was stopped short of this place in one of the conflicts.

It was a 2 and half hour journey and we often stopped to refresh, and go to the loo. The loos there are like the Indian style loos and very clean (thats VERY high on my list). The loos were somewhat elevated off the ground-as if even there you could feel truly honoured.

At Siem Reap we stayed at the Golden Temple hotel (rooms from $20/night - bigger room upto $40). There are a variety of accommodations in Siem Reap and you can go from $8 shoestring to luxury of $2000/night. Most hotels have free internet cafes and a restaurant attached with fresh local and continental food. Vegetarians will be fine in Cambodia.
On first glance the hotel was orange in colour, hidden from the road and unassuming; more a house off the street than a hotel. A couple of trees hid it well and only on entering the gate can you see its quite splendour. A huge sculpture of Vishnu greeted us followed by a smaller Ganesha and a Buddha seated in a small pond by the side.

All guests had to take off their shoes before entering the hotel and we were welcomed with a ‘welcome drink’ and a 20 min free Khmer massage that could be taken anytime during the first 2 days of stay (we took it the next day and it was totally worth it).

After stuffing ourselves with food we went out that night to check out the local night scene. It’s a proper tourist village with areas like ‘Pub Street’ that have restaurants, bars and curio shops. The night market is nearby and so are all the atms, online telephone booths (but bad connectivity so get ur phone on international roaming) and tuk tuk points.

We soaked in the night with a free temple dance show, couple of beers, an absorbing discussion and hit the sack. That night I had some very dramatic dreams of falling off the edge of the earth. After all the next day onwards we were going back in time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

zenned state

Last days at work are like a near death experience. For that matter last days anywhere, in a school, city, locality, relationship...

You are there, yet not there. Not participating just watching everyone go about their business. This Zen like state brings up a lot of stuff and also brings down your defences.
For starters the place seems not as bereft of the reasons for leaving it. The same qualities that first attracted you come alive again. The highs you shared come a-shining and everything seems soft and haloed. Everyone seems so much nicer and you suddenly make more friends and those big jobs and worries you sweated over seem less intense.

Sadly this omni vision is instantly erased from experience as soon as the working soul enters another work avatar and is left with only a faint lingering memory of what was and what could have been.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Late farewell dos on Wednesdays is a cakewalk for the advertising types

Yesterday Joyoti, a good friend of mines spent her last day in JWT and the usual suspects went out for a farewell dinner. The plan was to leave around 7-7.30 but given Bombay traffic and an added religious festival to the route, it took us more than an hour from our isle in Lower Parel to Bandra. You can't start a conversation about Bombay without complaining about the traffic..in that we are like the British who always have the weather to talk about. Shibani's upperclass instincts and great taste got us to agree to go to BONOBO (have no clue what it means) and it lived up to it. Low lighting, great ambiance good food and wine. Hmmm...

As the food and drinks went in the warmth in us came out...it thawd the uncomfortable, fused the distant, and glued our bunch together. The details are not relevant and too controversial to reveal, but what what was nice is the learning that despite all our masks, our defenses, and projections, deep down we all are the same. We all seek companionship, we all want to be recognised and approved and included, we all have the same hopes and dreams, and we all want to make it easy for each other.

Advertising is like the never land...nobody ever grows up. We are in it because we love the energy, the action the ideas and we are willing to work for the work itself (obviously there is no money...its been famed to be the NGO of ideas). Its this spirit of the industry that keeps all of us young, all of us going and pulsing..and happy as we drift away to sleep.

Ps. On a different day this post could have turned out differently.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

High adventure on a boring workday afternoon

A cat chanced upon me in the most unlikely place.
I wanted some alone-time at lunch break with no one to disturb me. So with a cup of tea, I made myself comfortable under a tree where those in high offices park their car. From the cat’s perspective I wasn’t a car and even less likely to be anyone holding a higher office.

Like all of the cat species she was clear what she wanted and was determined to get it….in this case it was to cross the car and go on her way. I am otherwise very accommodative to even spiders, ants and the occasional cockroach but her moves intrigued me and I decided to sit and watch.

The first trick out of her bag was the blank beautiful green eyed stare…arrogant and petulant. But I out-stared her. This defiance on my part drew the battle lines for her.

The next was the ‘quickly surprise and run by’ strategy and she edged her way forward…but then quickly retreated. She knew surprise wouldn’t work as I was looking, and her trigonometric calculations would have predicted a direct collision with me.

She then sat for a while under the car contemplating and hoping to outwait me.

What amazed me is how similar she seemed like the other felines …each of them prefers to walk in a path of least obstruction, avoiding so much as even a dead stick, and wisely avoiding wasteful or risky affairs…

True to her feline instincts she choose to turn away well knowing the difference between when to carry on, which battles to choose, when to turn back gracefully and forget about it.

Newton will be proud

We metamorphose, for better or for worse. Life does that to us. From happy to panic attack depressive to happy again I’ve seen it all in the last 10 years; well at least a lot of it. This only makes me believe more that our natural state is to be happy…therefore we seek it. Physics explains we are bundles of energy. And energy is constantly striving to attain equilibrium or balance.

We do that be giving out excess energy – when we stand we sit to feel better and lie down to feel better still. In lying down we are in equilibrium. When we carry doubts, hurts, baggage and expectations we are off keel…and the only way to balance ourselves is to give it up…curl up into a bundle of joy or lie flat in surrender, and let go.

Now what does letting go mean? You can’t actively let go…it takes its own time, but you can work towards it by letting yourself feel all the emotions and hurts and doubts. Then slowly as each hurt is felt, each emotion is experienced and each doubt is cleared, we transform. Always for better.