Monday, February 25, 2013

Chapter 10 : When fate wears a leather jacket

This is a chain love story as a part of CBC (Chennai Bloggers Club) chain story relay. 17 bloggers get to write a chapter each starting from 4th feb with the climax culminating on 20th March 2013. Thanks Vidhyasankar for introducing me in your post here. All the previous posts can be found here. Now, on to what I must do.

I was totally confused. My mind was in a complete disarray. The last few weeks had been much more than a roller coaster ride. 

Five weeks back
"Yes. Yes, of course I will marry you Guru" - I regretted saying this, the moment it came out. Saying yes was an impulse reaction. But what was said was said. I was stuck with Guru for eternity. Or wait, was I? Surely Guru wasn't the kind of person who would carry too much emotional baggage, if I tried to explain to him. But again, how can I be so sure. Making a mental note to talk to him later and explain my predicament, I hugged him tight. I was engaged.

As a to-be-married couple, Guru and I spent every waking moment possible together. He took care of my every single need. He had already started making wedding plans, even to the extent of which mantap in Chennai to book and who should play the fusion music. Well, that was my idea originally. Sometime back, I mentioned in passing that I would want a fusion music band at my wedding reception. Now, it was coming back to bite me. Guru behaved like an uncontrollable child. He came up with the most weird ideas at times, just to cheer me up. Try as I could, something disturbed me terribly. Perhaps it was the impending talk. "The Talk", to break off this engagement. Oh, but look at the beautiful engagement ring he had given. 

Gosh, Guru seems so perfect. Why am I not able to give something back to him? Is it because I love him too and want to get married. No, that can't be the case. Of course, I had said yes in a split second. But that is proving to be quite a bad idea. Well, bad is an understatement. God, please. Please give me the courage to talk to him. 

"Guru listen. I need to talk to you about something".

"Sure, my love. Tell me. Hey, you know what we should do? For the reception, instead of the typical us standing on stage and people come up with presents, why not have round tables so that you and I could walk around, meeting people. Doesn’t it sound cool?" - Guru was unstoppable.

"Hmm, that won't work Guru. But forget that. I really need to talk to you. I think….. I think I am not ready".

"Ready for what? The round table thing?" - he winked

"No Guru. You know that. I mean I am not ready for the wedding".

I could sense him turning a bit surprised. But not showing his reaction, he continued. "Of course Ahalya, you are not ready. No one is. But it just happens. Don't worry, I am here for you".

Perhaps I should bring it up another time. After all, we still had a lot of time. Or so I thought.
Three weeks back
I met him again at the museum. Rather, I was going down in the elevator, when a man entered at the third floor. As the lift started again, there was a sudden jerk and the lift stopped. "Damn", I muttered to myself. That's when I realized that the gentleman in the lift was none other than Varun. Her Varun. The Varun who was hers; until the day it all ended. It had been more than a year since we broke off, me having moved to Europe and having settled down. It was more of a shock, a sense of uneasiness to have him there, let alone be stuck in the elevator. As we got to arguing, Varun claims I was affected by some shitty Stockholm Syndrome. Cadswallup. What did he think he knew? Was he some goddamn God of Love? Idiot.
Finally the lift took off and we reached the ground floor. Varun walked out of the lift ahead of me, fiddling with his phone as he went. I went after him.

"Look Varun, I am engaged. That means, I have a fiancé who loves me more than anyone. One who respects me, understands me. I am happy with him. So…."

"Hey look, I respect that. I would never do anything to harm you in anyway. You ought to know that well" - Varun responded.

"That's not what I mean. I mean … you know … " - I  couldn't complete what I had to say. Somehow it proved to be hard. But why? Was it because I really did suffer from that syndrome? 

"I know what you mean Ahalya. I am happy for you. I really am. I had my chance and I blew it up. It was my mistake after all. But you really must know why. I think I do owe you the truth" - Varun said.

"The truth? What truth is that? I thought the reason why we broke up was very obvious" - I started to get impatient.

"Well yes, in a sense. But there's more. Now is not the time. Perhaps we could go to a coffee shop?" - he asked me.

"Look Varun, I already told you I am engaged. I don’t think us going out would be very appropriate".

"Hey hey, cool. I am not asking you out. It's just that I am craving for a coffee. Or atleast a caramel hot 
chocolate. I see a Starbucks there. Reckon we go there?" - Varun asked.

"No Varun, sorry. Atleast, not today. I am meeting my fiancé in a while and I really must rush".

"Of course. I understand. Well, if you are free Wednesday evening, lets try to make it for dinner. What say?" - he did not bother to stop.

"Uhmm, well ok. But just dinner. Just food. Nothing more, nothing less. Deal?" - I extended my hand.

"Deal" - he shook my hands.

"You should try their Ischoklad. It is really good" - Varun said.

"Isch what?" - I raised an eyebrow.

"Ischoklad. Its coconut oil mixed with chocolate"

"Eww, oil and chocolate? That's like … oil and chocolate. Pah, I don’t want"

"No Ahalya, you really should. It is really good" - Varun piped.

"Alright then. I will have it. Hey Varun listen, I must have mentioned this earlier. But I think my fiancé might 
join us later, for dessert" - I said.
"Oh is it? Well, I must meet this man who has changed you so well. Would love to meet the two of you" - 

That's when the phone rings.

"Hey honey, I am just walking towards the café. I should be there in about 3mins" - Guru spoke over the phone and cut the call.

"See, that was my fiancé. He is so considerate. He did not make any false promises. That's huge eh? 
Anyway look, let's forget all this. You wanted to talk right? Please go ahead"

"Well, you see Ahalya. The thing is…. I uhmm… well, I think I must not …. " before he could complete what he had to stay, he jumped out of his chair and waved over my head shouting "Guru, over here man" - with a huge smile on his face.

"You must meet this guy Ahalya. He is my colleague and good friend. Guru. Look, there he is" - Varun explained, still waving his hand. I turned around to see, and that's when it happened.

This post will be continued by Sowmya Swaminathan, a Commerce undergrad who blogs here. Good luck Sowmya 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A journey into Thailand - Part 4

So, part 3 is  here.

The next day started off with a finely brewed coffee from Starbucks. My cousin from India was a Starbucks virgin, so he badly wanted to go. I was only happy to oblige.

After the steaming hot coffee, we went to the bus stand to book a ticket to Pattaya. Luckily, there was a bus leaving in the next 15 minutes, so we got it. Now, the buses are all Volvo airconditioned, and certainly a zillion times better than our SETC A/C buses. But the bus stand largely reminded me of our very own CMBT. Well, atleast the shops and the surroundings.

It was a 2 hour bus journey to Pattaya and I dozed off the minute we got in. Well, the seats were too comfortable and there was ample leg space. Felt just like lying on mother's lap. After two hours, we were told we had reached Pattaya and the first thought was 'Where the hell is the beach'. Well, yeah we were in a bus stand. But outside, it looked nothing like a beach side city. And then the answer came to us. The bus stand was somewhere close to the city outskirts and we had to take a cab to the beach front.

There was a tourist information office right outside the bus stand and a fine looking Thai girl welcomed us. We spoke to her (well, flirted actually) for about 20 minutes and got all the information. The first thing she suggested we do was purchase tickets for the sex shows. Politely declining the tempting offer, we got a rough idea of what we wanted to do for rest of the day in Pattaya. Bear in mind we did not have an accomodation, so basically we were care-of-platform fellows till the next day. Well, but that turned out to be quite an experience, in itself.

So, we took the cab to the beach road, got down at the very start of that nearly 5km long road and thankfully found an Indian restaurant. A couple of parathas and subji later, we were ready. We started walking along the coast line, clicking just about anything and anyone we found interesting. Some people were too happy to pose, too.

The one word you hear anywhere in Pattaya is boom-boom. That typically means, do you want a girl to get laid. Every few metres away, there would be an "uncle" who would stop you to ask. And each time, we said no. On and on we walked, looking at a myriad different things, making humor out of anything possible, well until it got dark. And that's when the life in Pattaya starts.

The first thing we did was to get the traditional Thai massage. And it was legendary. Truly awesome. One hour and 200 Baht was truly worth every penny. After it, felt thoroughly refreshed. Atleast, for the next few hours. And on we went.

Walking street is the best part of Pattaya. A nearly 2.5 km street, where no vehicles are allowed, but only walking. And that's where just about everything imaginable is. Sex shows, strip clubs, booze, hookah, clubs, massage parlours etc.

We walked around this street nearly four times end to end, that when we go the next time, I will most certainly know where to head.

And then, later in the night at around 2 AM, we got some good foot massage for about an hour and some fish spa. Again, a much deserved thing for both of us. Following this, going with tradition, we decided to watch one of the sex shows, and almost paid for it. Thankfully, one Sardarji uncle whispered in my ear "Math jao bhaiya". Taking that as the cue, we just walked on. Sometimes, its hard to beat temptations, but well help would always be there. So we headed back to the beach, sat down and drank a bit. Till both of us were thoroughly exhausted.

Around 4.30, we took a bike taxi back, after bargaining with the driver that we would pay only 100 baht for two people (when he wanted 100 for one) and got back to the bus stand. Again, luckily, there was a bus starting in five minutes. We got into it, and dozed off all the way.

On reaching back to Bangkok, we took a cab back home and again dozed off. Later, in the afternoon, we went down to the pool to relax a bit. Followed by a good round of drinks at some sleazy place nearby

The next day, we visited some local places nearby, both of us being thoroughly exhausted out of the last few days. Later the evening, I headed back to the airport to fly back to Singapore.

Well, the journey in itself was impromptu in a lot of aspects. And each time, we explored something new, ate something unknown, tried to look at each place from the eyes of a local and not a tourist. That way, we saw a lot. True, we may not have visited the typical tourist places to take pictures, we may not have gone to a sex show. But we did what we thought was right, and that's just about it. At the end of it, we had fun and lots of good memories.

I hope you enjoyed reading through this self-claimed travelogue.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

A journey into Thailand - Part 3

Missed out on part two? Fret not. Here it is.

Ok, for a change, this part is going to be more of a photo journey with a two line description of each photo. Where I think necessary, I shall give a detailed write up. So bear with my unconventional form of writing a travelogue.

 A photo of the current king of Thailand
 This building served as a prison during the medieval times
 Something similar to our Arasa Maram concept

 Namesake meditation

So, the photo journey done for now, let me just write a bit about the experience of roaming around the Bangkok streets.

Only the tourist Bangkok seems nice, looks good. The real Bangkok is dirty, filthy and highly poor. And it reminded me a lot of Bangalore, for some reason (no offense of any sort to Bangaloreans). Somewhat highly unplanned, the city is. Traffic, pollution, honking - well you get the picture right? Having lived in Singapore for around six months, it was quite startling to actually see beggars on the streets. The bad old Indian story comes flooding back. Sadly.

Cutouts and banners of the Royal Family adorn every bit of Bangkok. And people respect the King so much. If you come across a banner and point out at it, the Thai people consider that disrespectful. To them, the King is everything. 
Bike taxis are another important aspect of Bangkok, and pretty much of Thailand. Bangkok literally lives on bike taxis. The picture above is also one of that, only we took a triples ride. That moment, I felt so damn proud of being Indian.

So, starting out at around 10 AM on day 1 of the trip, we covered pretty much a lot of Bangkok. We decided not to go into the Grand Palace, because of a sudden plan to visit Pattaya and we needed money for that. Consoling ourselves that we would visit Bangkok again once we start earning, we proceeded on. So, this walking journey of Bangkok ended around 7 in the evening and we returned to our room, to get ready for the next big thing, rather the most important thing - Cowboy Street - the strip club capital of Bangkok.
Now, considering the variety of audience and respecting all the womenfolk out there, I shall not get into the specifics of this leg of the journey. But, would gladly share experiences offline. 

Next post - Pattaya

Friday, February 1, 2013

A journey into Thailand - Part 2

So, lets continue the journey, shall we? I am sorry I couldn't post the second part soon. But if you had missed the first part, you can find it here

Well, the next morning we got up around 10 AM and headed out. We did not have any fixed idea in mind, no particular place to see. This, for two reasons - first being, to visit any typical tourist spot, you ought to have shit loads of money. We were short on that, being students. Secondly, both my cousin and I were particular about exploring the "real" Bangkok. So, having checked the maps first, we decided to go to the place where the Grand Palace was located. This was because the major tourist attractions were around the palace. So once we go there, we could always enquire at a tourist information centre about what things were not so expensive in Bangkok, and what to do off-beat.

We decided to take the local transport. Luckily, there was one BTS station close to the place where we stayed. BTS is basically the sky-train in Bangkok that goes, in a lot of places, between high raise buildings and is really creepy in a sense.
This picture is a bit blurred, but the text actually reads 'Please offer this seat to monks'. And we crib about offering the seats to the needy.

So we took the train and headed out to a station called Victory Monument. From there, we were supposed to take a bus. And we took the bus. Only then we realized we hadn't checked the bus stop where we were supposed to get down. And the conductor did not know English. Thankfully, a Thai Paati helped us out and spoke to the conductor. Now, the Thai buses are no different from our very own MTC buses, except that most of them are air conditioned. Apart from that, everything else was mostly same.

This picture is just a small sample of the Thai Language. Some of the characters resemble Hindi right?

So a half hour journey in the bus, we reached the stop. Opposite to us was the Bangkok National Museum. Our very own Ganesha welcomed us to the gates. Yes, was quite surprised to see a Ganesha poster outside the museum.
Right opposite to the museum was a small hawker centre, quite different from the ones I see here in Singapore. It was more of a roadside eat out kind of place, the Thai version of kayendhi bhavan
Outside the museum, we bumped into a tourist guide, who spoke amazing English. He was our tourist information centre for the day. We got all the details from him, as to what to do and where to go. He patiently gave us a schedule, even called one of the tuk-tuks, bargained a charge of 100 baht to cover some 4-5 places.

So what are tuk-tuks? Quite simply put, they are one of the two lifelines of Bangkok. Tuk tuks are the Thai autos. Only, a lot more spacious than our own autos.

And here's our tuk-tuk-wala. One helluva driver he was.

 So where did this guy take us? The next post would contain only the pictures and captions of all the places he took us. Until then.....