Saturday, January 26, 2013

A journey into Thailand - Part 1

So, last Thursday when I got up in the morning (read afternoon), I did not even think in the least bit that I would be moving out of home that day, let alone the country. As was routine, I logged into Facebook and there was a message from my cousin bragging about his visiting Bangkok. We talked about it, one thing led to another, and there I was, scheduled to fly to Bangkok that evening. Yep, it was so damn simple. And inspite of all my misgivings of Tiger Airways, the one thing they are the best at - cheap airfares. It costed me hardly 250$ for a return ticket. So frantic few hours into deciding what clothes to wear, and running around to print out the ticket, there I was, finally, sitting in Changi Airport at 7 PM for a flight scheduled to fly out of the airport around 9 PM.

Two hours later (well, one hour, considering the time difference), there I was in Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The airport is bloody huge. Imagine this - I had to walk nearly a 750m from the gate to the immigration point and a further 350m to the Visa on Arrival counter.

Thankfully, I had exchanged dollars to Thai Bhat in Changi itself, so I could directly proceed to the immigration counter. But the VoA formalities took around a half hour, and the dumb immigration officer happily made a mistake - he stapled the departure card onto my passport. Cursing him mentally, I walked out to the exit to take a cab into the city. I was slated to stay with my cousin, who was crashing with his cousin. I gave the address to the cabbie, who simply stared at me. He couldn't read English. Some kind heart soul nearby wrote the address in Thai and gave it to him. And so we went. On and on and on.

I simply loved the highways of Bangkok. The city itself is so huge. And it boasts of tons and tons of superfast highways. Some of them which go on to three levels. Huge criscrossing junctions, but on the highways, traffic seemed so seamless. I so badly wanted to shoot a few pictures, but the cab was flying at such huge speeds, that it was absolutely impossible.

After what seemed like eternity and 600 Bhat of taxi fare, I reached the place. My cousin returned home shortly and we got to talking way into the night. And gradually slept off, having planned big for the day.

The Bangkok experience to continue on the part two of this post.....

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cravings for the past - what Chennai means to me

This post is part of the blog tag titled the CBC Tabog, where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club. About 35 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag; everyone will write about Chennai and what has attracted them here. Thanks to Muthiah Sriram for passing the buck on to me. Muthiah calls himself an amateur blogger, although a brief skimming through his blog makes me not want to agree with him.

But before I delve too much into why I am attached so much to Chennai (or Madras, as I prefer calling it), a small trivia. I was born in Madras on a fine evening of '88 and guess who was the nurse who delivered me? Don't we all know Nurse Nalini? Yes, the same lady. So, in a way, my birth itself is a bit of a controversy.

But back to the city. Whenever I think of Madras, a sense of warmth sweeps over me completely. Like the warmth an infant feels in a mother's arm. Yes, I am, but, one of the many children of Madras. And a proud one at that. An NRI child, who still craves to cling on to all the beautiful memories this (g)old city has bestowed upon me. How much ever people abuse the city, both verbally and otherwise, one cannot deny the fact that Madras gives back only love; only care. It embraces one and all, irrespective of caste, creed, color, race. To Madras, each one of us is equal. 

I still remember the good old days when I was a school kid. Back then, we lived in Kodambakkam, the Kollywood capital. Just a stone's throw away, Vairamuthu lived. In my own flat, some small time actor and his father lived. Memories of actually wanting to get even his autograph linger somewhere in the brain. Those days also formed the most happiest memories of my life. I am talking of a time when Satyam did not become so awesome, but was merely a theatre with four screens. At that time, watching a movie at the AVM theatre in Vadapalani was considered rich. Udayam theatre was the second best choice. Every weekend, my entire family (my parents, dad's brother and his family, my cousins) made it a routine to either catch up a movie at AVM, or hit the Marina beach followed by dinner in one of the star hotels back then. Uncle, being filthy rich, mostly treated us. The scores of times we have had awesome family time in the beach can never be forgotten. I look back at those days with such a heavy heart, now that we don't do it anymore. 

There was this one restaurant near Mandaveli bus terminus called Mela. They served the best Shahi Paneer in all of Chennai. My aunt used to take my cousin and me there every alternate weekend. At one point, the restaurant started giving us discount for being regular customers. The last time when I was in Chennai and went along that road, and that restaurant was not there. What a shame.

And then the new Satyam came in. Even as a school kid, I remember hanging so much at the theatre, that sometimes we used to watch three movies back to back. Thankfully, all our dads did not mind that. A walk along the road leads one to the Church Park convent. Need I say more? Everything back then seemed so simple, yet so memorable. Even today, although INOX, PVR and AGS have found a strong loyalty base, in my case, it is always Satyam. Watching a movie in Satyam is an experience in itself. And that's something non-Chennaiites would never understand, even though many other cities boast of far superior multiplexes. 

Studying in one of the finest schools of Chennai (and probably India) had its own merit. Yes, I am a proud alumnus of Padma Seshadri. What I am today, is because what PSBB gave me. Which takes me back to wonderful memories of friends from school, many of us now settled in various parts of the globe, but our roots still are stuck with Chennai and I am sure it always will.

I was not so lucky to experience the city as a college kid (both during my UG and now my Masters). Studying in a college outside Chennai had its disappointments, but I used to run back to Chennai at the tiniest of opportunity available. Every time when we took a bus from Trichy to Chennai, once the bus crossed the airport, I used to be wide awake. Just to enjoy the early morning beauty of the Kathipara flyover. The flyover is still one of awe, everytime I drive over it. How much the traffic used to suck around the area before the flyover was built. 

A walk along the Nanganallur market is a visual treat to anyone. All the Iyer mamis clad in their madisar 9 gajam is such a beauty to watch. And trust me, these mamis are unbeatable when it comes to bargaining. Such smart ones they are. The awesome puliyodharai and vadai from Anjaneyar temple is something to crave for. The unique taste can never be matched. 

Watching a match at the Chepauk stadium is always a thrill. I have watched matches both in the Pavilion and Pavilion terrace (once, even getting a close up look at the Master Blaster), as well as from the most cheapest of stands. But cheering on with other fanatics, especially during the much recent IPL matches, screaming voices out to support CSK, booing Delhi Daredevils once - wow, all that is just absolute bliss. After one particular IPL match in which Chennai won, we were so urged to drink, that we actually took the car all the way from Triplicane to the airport (Zaras), only to find that it was closed. And then we headed back to Thiruvanmiyur to a friend's place and got drunk all night over foreign scotch and local sarakku. And still managed to head to office the next morning

The beauty of Chennai is that it has retained a big part of its erstwhile Madras era even today. On the one hand, the south of the city has changed so much that you can mainly see glass covered tech parks and software companies. On the other side, there is still a big portion along the Mount Road, PH Road where the colonial look has still remained. Each of those 100 year old buildings near Ritchie Street are such grandeur structures.

Travelling in the first class compartment of the electric train from Pazhavanthangal station to Paranur to work is something I will both miss and not miss. True, it used to be so damn crowded, that I'd just want to jump off the train every day. But the fact that the first class compartment was right next to the ladies compartment made up for all the irritation. Both salwar clad techies of Mahindra City and the jean'ed girls of SRM University were just the best part of the one hour long journey. Each day brought in new experiences, new things to talk to, new people to look at. 

Yes, the city has its own limitations and problems. Traffic, pollution, heat, Cooum river - the list goes rather huge. Yet, all these are also a part of the legacy that's Chennai. Everything cannot be perfect. Something has to be wrong. What would be complain about, if everything was right? We have to learn to live among the imperfections, yet try to correct them unsuccessfully. The balance of good and the not-so-good should be retained. And, Chennai has done everything in its capacity to retain this balance. 

I perhaps have left out on the most obvious things about Chennai. But Chennai, as public as it might be, is also my personal pride. Naturally, whenever I think of the city, I would only look at it from a personal view. Chennai has given me so much, and I am sure it would give me much more. And I would be eternally grateful to the city for making me who I am today. True, I don’t live in the city now, and I don’t foresee my return (permanently) for a few years. But the reality is, I embarked on this journey of doing my Masters with just one sole purpose - to make enough money to actually purchase just one house in Chennai, so that I can get back to what would rightfully be mine, hopefully in a few years. A simple Chennaiite's dream. When I say this, I cannot fail to miss that one tiny drop of tear that's clinging on to my eye, which reminds me constantly that this is for the best and that I would be back soon. Back to my roots. Back to my base. Back to Madras.

This post would be succeeded by Rajiv Nagarajan, a Chennaiite who blogs on random stuff, often mokkai. I wouldn’t quite agree, but why don't you decide for yourself? He blogs at here

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012, as I saw it and 2013, as I hope to see it

So 2012 went off smoothly (perhaps not). Too many good and a lot more not so good things have happened the last year. The fag end of the year went off in all of us anguishing over the gangrape of an innocent 23 year old girl in Delhi and later an entire nation mourning her loss. Somehow, it is sad that a lot of these events were not something we could do anything about.

But, as I sit here and think of the past year, I am reminded of a few events that happened in my own personal life, some which I cherish and some, not so much. 2012 was a momentous year for me, because I finally got the balls to do something I wanted to do three years back. I decided to pursue my Masters degree. Thankfully, Singapore formed a natural choice, considering I was very particular about not going too far away from home, yet a place that offers excellent scope. The point about not going too far, was in a way driven by the fact that 2012 was the year when my parents completed 25 wonderful years of wedlock and I did not want to miss out on organizing something grand to commemorate the occasion. Thankfully, that went very well. It also gave me a shocking reminder that I am growing old, something I am still coming to terms with.

2012 was also the year when I completed a one year long relationship with my new gal. She's black, but brilliant. An amazing companion, knows what I always want, and bows down to every wish. She goes by the name Spark :) Yes, my own car, bought out of my own money (well, dad is now paying the EMI, but still). Also, this year, the first male cousin in my family got married and relatives are now behind my back, hinting at tying me down. Thankfully, Singapore gave me a helping hand, atleast for now.

That said, I hope 2013 would also be as momentous as 2012. For starters, I really hope I find a job soon so that I can once again get independent and not be tied down by the troubles of an international student. I hope to make certain important life decisions as well, and I hope things fall into place (for details, offline please). Lets see how that goes. And a couple of other wishes, all in due time.

But now, to the more important question of what I did on New Year's Eve. Although you might well have guessed, let me elaborate. The evening started off with spending time on Orchard Road (read this for more information) and hitting a pub there with two office colleagues (well, I am working with a company for a month) and then head to Marina Bay Sands (read this) to drop the jaws at all the decorations and then go back to this place called Clarke Quay, which is the booze capital of Singapore.

So once at CQ, we bought a couple of beer tins and found a spot for ourselves (this time, with my college friends). And trust me, we made the maximum noise in all of CQ, considering there were more than atleast a thousand people assembled (or much more). And one of the friends became the victim of all the sarakku abishegam. Two beer tins, a bottle each of Coke, Sprite etc. were swaha'ed on him. Poor chap.

All this done, we formed the usual train and ran around the whole place, making complete fools of ourselves, but not bothered in the least bit about it, wishing the most random people a Happy New Year, well and all that, till a few policemen came and asked us to shut up. So, there. The police factor is also in place. Some more time there and it was back home around 2 AM, completely drunk, but nonetheless, having the best of new year in recent times.

Happy 2013 :)