Monday, July 28, 2008

family rules

travel exposes you to feelings that you never imagine you are capable of experiencing or rather expressing, so they say. I was a non-believer till I wrote this blog entry.

Some time ago, Papaji left.

A long time ago- for four years- every day, when I was home from college, every single day, I would drive past the model town chatwallah, past ‘niku park’, past ‘my foot!’ to get my share of ‘patashas’- a sweet treat. Papaji got them from the gurudwara.

I shared more with him than I did with my ‘real’ grandfathers- his stories about the Indian partition, his sorrow over losing Biji with a simple hug and now, little did I know then, his family.

Because family is who you trust- for everything, without a second thought, completely.

For my family- I feel blessed to have you all in my life.
I love you all.

time of your life

"A moment later Stephen Kovalski had nothing but a smile to offer a young show-shine boy, who was circling around him. But a smile doesn’t fill an empty stomach."
"Daddah, you must be in a great hurry."
"Why do you think that?"
"Because you have a watch."

-from the City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

prime time

I unfold my memories
And take a good look
At the past
So vivid
Cloud my mind


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

stone temple pilots

Ruth and I decide to venture into the ‘wild east’, a world of tribal villages, waterfalls, elephants and, little did we know, bad, bad roads

We end up on the top of a pick-up (“outside” tickets!) for six hours, inching our way through a foot or more deep mud, before we were implored by the driver to get into the back seat ( because we could have easily slid off the top on that muddy road).
The pick-up, precariously balancing about a 1000 pounds of fish and about a 100 dozen eggs and 4 grown adults from the west (considerably larger frames than the average Cambodian) out on an adventure, slid sideways on the hills, barely moving at times. And then it got stuck and in an effort to get out of the mud, something snapped (I was told, the axle).

So there we were, in the midst of a wildlife sanctuary, miles away from the nearest village, crouched uncomfortably in the back seat in the pouring rain, with our driver and his assistant sitting under a tarp by the pick-up waiting- for I’m not sure what.
Meanwhile, other cars, SUVs, pick-ups went by- occasionally got stuck in the mud, and then, with a little push by our driver and assistant, accelerated uphill.

After an hour and a half of waiting for a miracle while, jokingly, taking stock of our supplies of food, water and flashlights, we decide to hitch a ride to a village in either direction- whatever came first.
After being refused by three fancy SUV owners (we were covered in mud), we finally made our way back to where we came from in the back of what seemed like an antique US Army jeep driven by two Cambodian policemen. Certainly the perfect vehicle for this kind of terrain- It cruised through uphills, downhills, mud, and everything else.

A few hours later, I lay on a mattress, something I didn’t think we would have for the night, cocooned in the luxury of my silk sleep sheet.

A brief stop in Phnom Penh and then we are off to soak the sun on the beaches of Cambodia at Sihanoukhville and that was some serious sun! For two days, I lay on the beach- reading, sleeping, getting $5 massages, and just relaxing.

Turns out we really needed that time off. The next stop was Angkor Wat.

Everyone mentions how amazing it is, but no one mentions how exhausted you are at the end of every day at Angkor Wat. I suppose, the beauty of the temples overshadows the fatigue you feel at the end of every day.

Six of the seven days we are in Siam Reap, we go to take in the splendor and perfection of the temples. There’s no rush better than cycling on the streets in Cambodia in rain water, sometimes a foot deep, amidst crazy mixed traffic (than maybe perhaps cycling in India ;) motos, cars, tuktuks, buses- all honking for attention.
When I wasn’t cycling to the tunes on my iPod, I was reading up on Angkor Wat, hanging out on Bar Street watching Apsara dances at a café with free wi-fi, or getting ready for an early next day.

Another dream fulfilled, early tomorrow morning, I am headed to Vietnam – a step closer to another dream (there are so many, after all) kickboxing at Shaolin Temple in China!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Only in Laos
- Does the bus stop for grocery shopping (driver or anyone else!) or if anyone wants to answer the call of nature
- Everyone says “No” when you ask them for directions and then point to some random direction, (which generally turns out to be the wrong one)
- Everyone says “Yes” to everything else
- There is no mail delivery service (and hence, no addresses? ) There are no street names in some cities (e.g. Attapeu)
- There are village parties on Tuesday at 2 PM, complete with communal rice liquor pot and dancing
- The songtaew driver has to be prodded to drive to your destination
- You have to struggle to get your check at the restaurant
- You can have awesome Tom Yum Paa (fish) for less than $3 and an excellent baguette sandwich for about 60 cents!
I will remember:
- Fun times with nadia- someone I know closely, someone who is family (this trip is a bit different, I suppose)!
- A village woman’s expressions as she tried an Icebreaker and listened to Bhangra Knights!
- Wonderful, friendly, honest, happy people
- Lazing, lazing, lazing
- My vow to never enter a cave again
- Wishing I find something other than noodle soup for one meal
Inspite of having been to most places easily accessible (relatively speaking), inspite of long, backbreaking bus and songtaew rides that test your patience and bladder capacity, Laos is one country I will visit again (and again)!

Monday, July 7, 2008

second thoughts

I didn’t have any expectations when I started out- none of self-discovery, self-realization (or self-anything). I haven’t had an epiphany (yet). I haven’t rediscovered myself and I feel, I haven’t even changed that much, except I am a lot more patient perhaps?

For the last 3.5 months, I have just lived life very different from the one I have had before , where I think about everything I do, decisions I make- no matter how trivial.

I have just lived a life without any expectations- from anyone, any place, anything- that’s what been different and that has made all the difference.

I feel fearless today. I feel like standing in an open field, arms raised to the blue skies, eyes closed, my sense of feeling enhanced, going around in circles, doing cartwheels (if only i could)- to go giddy- intentionally..

I remember, vividly, the moment I decided it was time that night in December. I thought out loud- What’s stopping me? A long silence followed. Me.
I was ready to let go.

Not a single day goes by when I don’t think of the ones I have loved, ones who have left me behind, ones I have left behind - not one.

It’s a great burden, it’s a great joy.
today, I choose to share it and multiply it with you all.

Friday, July 4, 2008

a day in the life

I have been experiencing Laos Withdrawal Syndrome (LWS). Its easy to feel that when the owner of the guesthouse feeds you corn, biscuits, carrot juice throughout the day.

On Don Khong, the biggest island of 4000 islands in Southern Laos, I relaxed, read, biked, ran, ate and slept.
For six days.
Then its time to move on and the island closest to the Cambodian border is Don Det, a party island (if you like partying with lizards and mosquitoes), with 2 hours of electricity every evening.

I like electricity. I like fans, laptops, music. I don’t like lizards! After a sleepless night, I cross over to Cambodia on the “backpacker’s mini bus”- aptly named so because its really "packed" (but it’s a mini-van.)

On the bus, I sit next to Ruth from Israel and, within moments of meeting, we shake hands and decide to travel together in Cambodia. Yet another country where I will end up staying longer than expected- but I'm not complaining at all!

I have been here for a few days now. Every day I have been here, I read in bed, anxious to finish my book so I can exchange it for another one that I saw in a bookshop. I read till it falls flat on my face a few times- it's been quite a few long days.

Come morning, I get dressed quickly (in two of the 8 clothes I have), rested after a good night sleep, have a wholesome breakfast of yogurt/fruit salad/muesli and then venture out to see Phnom Penh as a tourist.

Every day, I pass the tuk-tuk/moto drivers, shouting for business, offering a tuk-tuk/moto/weed/heroine and everything in between, the little girls and boys, tender shoulders crushed under the weight of photocopied books they sell, a rice cake vendor whose wares are to die for, men playing cards on the street, locals chatting up foreigners, giggling schoolgirls playing badminton on the street littered with fragrant frangipani- quietly taking in, and yet ignoring the >chaos that is Cambodia.
Just like India.

Today I get up feeling homesick and want to relive my past. So I get on a moto to a new-age café with the music and brownies and whole wheat bread, and the best bathroom I have seen in SE asia yet and sip on my first latte in two months- on a Friday afternoon of a long weekend.
Just like the Bay Area.

And I feel at home- right here, between the two countries I have called home.