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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adventures of TinTin - To Gift or Not ?

Tintin has been my all time favorite comic..well till I ran into Calvin and Hobbes, the discovery of which left the dark corners of my craving soul divided. Bright colorful squares and rectangles packed into parallel strips where Tintin escapes from the poisonous arrows of a deadly assassin in Egypt to be captured by the Incas of South America to be sun fried. How I wished to grow up to be Tintin one day. The mystery, the excitement, the thrill of having escaped death yet again still gives me goosebumps. Not to mention his friends - the drunkard Captain Haddock whose family always has some hidden treasures in some depths of the world (how I prayed that my family had some too) and how his 'Blue Blistering Barnacles' left me feeling aghast; the absent-minded half-deaf Professor Cuthbert Calculus, whose pendulum always eventually found them the way (how I hoped to be geekish like him); I must confess that I did not have any particular affection towards snowy, who is Tintin's loyal dog or towards Mr. Thompson and Thomson, the twin policemen.

I was introduced to Tintin and his adventures in the year 1996, when a neighbor of mine developed a craze for it. Each comic cost Rs.80, which my parents would rather spend on groceries than on a silly comic of a red-head short man, who traveled the world. I would patiently wait for my neighbor to buy the new book and wait for a month or two for him to read to his heart's desire, before requesting him if I can borrow if for a day or two and those two days would be heaven.

It must have been the summer of 2005 and it was of course before I met 'Calvin & Hobbes'. It was my birthday. My friend at office met me at lunch and passed me a thin cuboid wrapped in a green gift wrap. I carefully opened it to find two VCDs of Tintin. My heart raced with excitement but it soon settled. I am an admirer of Tintin comics and not of the animation. The bright colors were what attracted me.  I gracefully thanked her and walked towards my work station. I took a left turn towards the corridor and at a distance I could see a not-so-friendly colleague of mine waving his hand towards me. My left eyebrow raised in suspicion. He came closer and said "Wait, I'll be back". I waited, just like the blue whale in 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to Galaxy' wondered about it's existence as it sank in to the vacuum.

Before my innocent mind drifted into the events of how the blue whale became a sperm whale and was called into existence, I was interrupted. There in front of me stood probably the entire collection of Tintin VCDs, all brand new, obviously leaving me very confused; last thing I expected from a not-so-friendly colleague. My forehead wrinkled in doubt. My not-so-friendly colleague probably soon realized that he was not supposed to express any form of camaraderie. He quickly took a step back and said " These are from a friend of mine. However, you can keep it for as long as you wish". 'Yeah, like for infinity- which dumb friend of yours cared to buy this whole collection and let go of it without watching it even once for infinite number of years', I wondered.

At this point I must add that I am naive at certain things and trust people easily. Thus, in spite of the above story being incredibly hard to believe for a person with average trust deficit, I actually believed it. With great care I opened the VCDs, watch some of them with great pain and returned it dutifully in few days time.

Years later I had the opportunity to visit this colleague's house briefly. And there on the table, I saw sitting dust ridden poor Tintin's VCD collection, not having had much of any adventure.  Looks like his rich friend got amnesia after he bought them. I think they were better off sleeping peacefully in my book self.

And a message to my not-so-friendly colleague - ' If you ever read this blog esp. around April time frame, I have moved on from Tintin to Calvin and don't mind receiving the entire collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics. This time I swear I will keep it for myself for infinity and ever after :)'

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A morning bike ride

People blame me for living in memories of the past. Below blog is an extract from the past, a memory from my pensieve so as to say (all my friends who appreciate Harry Potter would know what I mean).
It was a busy morning. It was probably a Monday, sometime in 2006. I had as usual missed my office bus. I closed my eyes and contemplated on what next.. an autorikshaw perhaps- I crossed the 6 lanes of road and reached the other side of the outer ring road and stopped a not too eager looking rikshaw driver. "Hundred", he said. My eyes popped out. "Hundred?!". I hate morning negotiations esp. the ones where I always fail. He roared the engine in an attempt to ignore me and move forward. I stopped him. "Eighty?" , I asked. He pretended that he couldn't see me. I took a deep breath; My eyes probed for any other rikshaws. None around. The buses ran over-packed, leaning to one side. I closed my eyes, taking air in as much as I can when I felt a soft tap on my left shoulder. I turned to my left and opened my eyes and there he was, hazel-eyed with a kind handsome face smiling at me.

"Rough day, eh ?" , he asked
"Yeah", I sighed.
"Want a lift?"

I remembered seeing him back in office, sitting in the same floor. Name, not very sure. I searched around him looking for a vehicle and couldn't find any. He pointed his finger to an old mirror-less Yamaha bike parked remotely 6 lanes across the road, right where I was standing before. 'And you crossed these six lanes in this traffic to ask me for a lift ?' , I thought.

"Sure", I said.

Eventually, I ended up spending more time on that bike than any other I can remember -  a friendship, that will forever remain close to my heart. Thanks for crossing those six lanes for me. It will always remain a fresh memory in my pensive.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Royal Mysore Walks - Tipu Sultan's Trail Part 2

So we started moving. Our Rolls Royce..sorry Willy's petrol jeep with WWII engine did not have any seat belts and I felt I was literally flying. It had no top , no back and no front (Faizan Baksh bend/dismantled the front portion to let "air" fly in as though there were no other means for air to fly in). Thankfully, there was a bottom to hold on to.

Ammu peacefully settled down at the back seat without putting up a fight and I held my front seat position firm and strong. For the first one hour of the tour, it sounded like we were giving the tour to Faizan. No man can ever compete with two women. Ammu and I have the skill to talk continuously about particularly nothing and on hindsight I am not sure if we ever gave poor Faizan enough opportunities to speak.

We vividly described Fort Kochi, Wellington Island, Boat rides (feeling nostalgic), Jewish synagogue, beaches, molestation of women in Ernakulam local buses and what not! I felt drenched in the memories of the roaring turbulent waves hitting against the wet sand, disappearing our sand castles; of the fishermen who delivered fresh fish in bicycles at Ernakulam early in the morning with their loud horns; of clams, mussles , crabs and prawns, thousands of whom I peacefully send to heaven without much thought or afterthought; of caravan ice cream parlor at M.G. Road/Broadway, which my sister and I with our brother visited as children; of the children's park next to marine drive with the broken children's jeep and scooters; and the best of all those boat rides with Mummy while she worked at wellington island. Home is where heart is and that's exactly where I go speechless and spellbound. Sigh! Millions of memories came rushing back. Faizan, I have no one but you to thank for this :)

After a short pit-stop at Pashchimavahini, we soon arrived at Srirangapatna. We were soon taken back to the 18th century. I could visualize Napolean's ships catching fire; the French revolution on one side and Anglo-Tipu wars on the other. The fort looked familiar , it was as though I had been there before. But when ? My neurons struggled to recollect. It sounded like the data stored in my genes were telling me something. What is it, I asked myself..but the answers would be revealed to me only much later. "Tipu sultan" .."Sultan Bathery".. "Feroke" ..strange voices haunted my head from deep within..

Seen above is the map of Mysore kingdom when Tipu Sultan was the ruler. Most of my friends and relatives should be able to identity with all the places we are from currently in the map above, including current Kochi, that was once part of Mysore. The primary part was Malabar district of course, which was given away to British East India company at the end of the third Anglo-Mysore war. This basically meant that for most of the period Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were the rulers of Mysore, Malabar district was part of their kingdom. I could now relate to all the voices in my head (Both of my parents are from Malabar region). Tipu's atrocities against Nairs of that region and him forcibly converting them to Islam is well known. The fort at Srirangapatna and at the ones at Bekal (Kannur) and Palakkad are similar. In fact, Bekal fort is much more beautiful with the beach on one side.

Coming back to the present, Faizan took us to Tipu's summer palace soon after and it was a fantastic work of art and architecture but both looked very trivial compared to the glory of the one and only Mysore Palace. In fact I liked Mysore Palace more than Taj Mahal ! We went to a mosque nearby where Faizan made us jump a lot in an effort to make it look like we were flying ?

The ride back in our Rolls Royce felt quick. We talked much lesser than the way to. A faint sense of sadness encompassed us because the tour had finally come to an end. Faizan finally left us at the Mylari dosa joint. The dosas were yummm... That concludes our 'Royal Mysore Walks' tours. Hopefully we run into them sooner or later.

It must have been sometime in 2009. I was at TK's wedding, when I was first presented with the business card of Royal Mysore Walks. It was a one man army then, probably the logo or emblem wasn't designed yet. I vaguely remember how it had Royal Mysore Walks written. I had promised to help with some publicity then but the treachery of a day profession clubbed with domesticity took over and there were only leftovers of guilt from a broken promise, which remained as a business card in my purse for years to come. With these three blogs, I have hopefully absolved myself of my guilt and sins. My soul can now rest in peace :)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Royal Mysore Walks - Tipu Sultan's Trail - Part 1

Ammu and I lay down on our hotel bed glaring at the mirror on the ceiling. The room was quaint and the reflection on the ceiling reminded us that we were together having a nice vacation. She gulped the orange M5 (Minute Maid Mixed with Magic Moments Vodka) and gave a glee. All the cells in our body were creaking with the morning 3 hours of cycle tour and 4 hours of Mysore Zoo. I handed over my glass of M5 to her because I had gotten my nose pierced that evening (Geever, forgive us - only Geever knows what to forgive us for and we leave our readers wondering who's Geever..) and wanted to avoid any mis-adventure. Thankfully the next day's tour wasn't going to start before 9 am. What a relief for the creaky muscles. We dreamed of gobbling up a lot of free continental breakfast (as Hotel Palace Plaza had advertised) before we hit Tipu Sultan's Trail.

The breakfast was horrible. So, there was nothing much in the stomach but our hearts were thrilled with the excitement of meeting Faizan Baksh (who was our tour coordinator as per the mail from Royal Mysore Walks). Ammu enthusiastically told me that she will sit in the front seat of the jeep if Faizon is young. I gladly agreed. I had to oblige to the wishes of a woman who was to be married the next month. I would have more opportunities; I pacified myself. We walked over to the clock tower and there standing at the far right end of the road was a young man with wind rustling through his curly flowing hair foreseeing a topless jeep. What a nice combo, my heart smiled for Ammu.

So from when do I know Faizan? Perhaps a little from the time he has been uploading his photographic creations onto RMW FB account. Not to mention all his work on the RMW website and the other few that can be found on the Gulliver travels website. His earthy creations create empathy because when one see his photos, the eyes get tricked and start feeling that we were there.

So where were we before we got distracted by Faizan Baksh? We were at the clock tower. Ammu's eyes giggled and she hopped on to the front seat. I clumsily took the back one. But we soon ran into some technical difficulties. The 1975 Mahindra Willy's petrol model was not built for women (or men) of height 5.8" or more. My head started bumping against the top iron bar. Ammu gracefully let go of her well-earned seat to let me take over. What a relief :)

We were soon on our way to Srirangapatna, sniffing Tipu's Trail.. Tipu sultan, here we come!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Royal Mysore Walks

I am not sure where I should start from. Perhaps we can do a flash black to 2009, when an ex-colleague of mine decided to quit and start off an entrepreneurial journey. It was the time people in the IT industry had started making enough money to afford affluent vacations; tourism was flourishing. When I got to know what he was up to, I had my own doubts; I felt it was too ambitious for someone to venture into an unknown path all by himself. We wouldn't know if it was a brave or foolish decision until much later. Back to the present.

Ammu and I hit the sack early enough the previous night. We kept wondering how it's going to be. We received a mail that night that had the name of the instructor. The name was rather strange. We had never heard of that name before. Ammu mischievously wondered if it was going to be a he or she. She giggled. The surname sounded familiar.

The next morning we hurried out of the hotel hoping to find a team of people, which we were going to be a part of. Impana was standing right there with 3 bicycles ready to greet us. She was warm and friendly. She helped us try our helmets and adjust the cycles. At 7 am on a Saturday morning we started our first experience with "Royal Mysore Walks". The cycles were all maroon and the tyres were much broader than of my cycle back home. I had just recovered from my cycle crash adventure that left me with 10 forehead stitches and multiple bruises all over. So, hopping on this maroon baby needed a bit of courage than usual. The only relief was that this time if it crash landed, I would at least have the helmet on.

We started peddling ; the cycle wouldn't move; 14 year old sedentary lifestyle or perhaps my cycle back home moves with much less friction ? It took a lot of effort to get this guy rolling; the more difficult the more calories burnt. We started off with the government house and Impana soon took us through the nook and corner of the city, telling us interesting stories about different monuments, streets, art and shops. I must admit that it's the very first time I was riding a cycle on the road ( I have owned only one cycle till now and that was bought by depositing ten rupees at random intervals in a school bank account till it grew to 1000 rupees over a period of more than a year.  My first blue BSA cycle; how my heart gleamed ).

I don't remember the exact places we went to but I remember my heart racing and a fresh feeling filling me up. It was a pleasure seeing young Impana explain through small stories confidentially. It felt like we knew her from long back. All three of us laughed , took selfies whenever we got a chance and we shared our stories with her over a cup of coffee and breakfast. At the end of almost 3 hours, the trip came to an end. Ammu and I did not realize time flying by and it felt a little sad that it had come to an end. The best thing was we had signed up for the Jeep Tour as well, which was coming up the next day.

I must say that it was one of the most enjoyable activity I have done in recent times. It was not just a cycle ride; It was a memory that will remain etched in Ammu and me for years to come and Impana had made it look so beautiful. Impana, thanks for the wonderful time !

We got into our hotel happy to have burnt some good number of calories. Right there was a framed photo of "Royal Mysore Walks". Well, I guess it wasn't a foolish entrepreneurial journey after all!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Everyday is a new war

I am re-posting a blog post that I had posted 10 years back. The title and the first line of the post belongs to a friend. This poem sounds relevant in light of my last post -Mid Life Crisis.

Everyday is a new war,
A war in armored disguises,
Here amour lights the lamps of eyes,
Abhorrence those of despises,
In here poses fear a brazen battle,
A land to callous carnage,
In here kins close to pride and pain,
Dig burrows to poignant passage.

Ever man fights a new war,
A war against secret tears,
When he speaks through eyes,
And sings from heart , the song that no one hears.
a battle of the brave,a battle so naive,
A battle for a man's share,
Of love and life, peace and price,
That shall he carry till his grave !

Mid Life Crisis

We have reached , not yet arrived,
In our thirties having left the sweet twenties behind;
Our eyes no longer glitter , our cheeks don't glow,
Our hearts are not those of the lover's, who sighs like a furnace from Shakespeare's ballad.

We are enacting the fourth age in the world' stage,
Soldiers with strange oath and woeful pride,
We have lost the luscious charm and a lot of the lustful vigor,
And have strangled ourselves with the melancholy of monotony.

Soon we will be with round bellies, which we with already are,
With severe eyes and ailing figures,
With love lost or sometimes regained,
And hopefully some time for life and mates.