Backpacking across Asia part 1

Its been a week since we left home in UK seeking snippet views of a few handpicked countries in Asia that we have always fantasized about. Having covered 3 countries so far, living out of a backpack weighing 6.9kg or our inablity to verbally communicate were not the major challenges we encountered; the hardest challenge yet for me has been keeping up with the intensity of the experiences and the ‘moments’ each countries offer. For a person whose biggest insecurity is her memories, I find myself desperately trying to capture every corner of the places we visit through cameras and retrospectively record every feeling in my travel journal.

When planning our trip or hearing ‘this is once in a lifetime opportunity’ from family and friends when they eventually found out, I held my ground and kept my emotions in check. ‘My lack of enthusiasm’ may have confused a few but it wasn’t that I wasn’t enthused about the trip but rather my superstitious or anxious self took the better of me about not wanting to ‘jinx’ the trip (I know!) as it indeed was going to be a once-in-a-life-time trip.

When we go high and low looking for authentic places in each country, meet more kind people than unkind people on the way, indulge in delicious and sometimes unusual local delicacies; I find myself bargaining with time to give me one more second. Just one more second to soak it all in. But time is fair but unfair as some say. So I don’t get one more second. All I get is a camera to take pictures, a pen to write down the experiences and the heart to take in as much as I can.

The Japanese have a tradition that when they finish work, they go to the exit door, turn around and bow their head for a few seconds with utmost respect showing gratitude for their job. And Chinese believe that every person they meet are the ones they are destined to meet to bring something to their lives. As I enter each country, I will be on the lookout to meet kind faces that I’m destined to meet and as I exit, I will remember to bow my head in respect to say ‘thanks for this once in a life time opportunity’.

Can ‘Saibol’ fix the Kerala floods?

T & C-1

The resilience I’m blessed with or the deep appreciation I have for nature and its beauty probably stems from the first 10 years I spent in the most amazing place called Alappuzha. With her seductive backwaters, lagoons and canals, and plenty of other picturesque features no wonder Lord Curzon called Alappuzha the “Venice of the East”.

Our family, belonging to a middle-class Christian family, was settled in a place called ‘Chungom’. Our house overlooked our paddy fields and canals. I proudly bear the scars of my childhood – from climbing trees and falling repeatedly, running the fields bare-feet with friends during summer,and by getting stomped on by a vast amount of people during ‘Mullakkal Chireppu’ (local carnival) . My fathers pure passion for ‘vallam kali’ (Nehru Trophy Boat Race) and competing in the Nehru Trophy as a captain of their boat for one too many years also meant that Nehru trophy, ‘kuttanadan punchayille’ song, the competitiveness and the innate resilience from constantly losing the first place (Sorry daddy!) are all well inherited by me and my sisters.

There was one other thing that was a constant companion during these 10 years- ‘Saibol cream’. House built near acres of paddy fields meant that, during monsoon seasons fields flooded, and in no time, the water would be inside our houses. Us kids loved it- swimming and “trying” to catch fish, why would we mind it?!.

Even though we ‘loved’ it, every morning when you had to get out of bed or go to the bathroom, it took sheer amount of will power and a good couple of minutes before putting the feet down in the cold water. And at night, it itched like there’s no tomorrow.

We grew up with our Ammachi (grandmother) during these years. Shed be walking in the water all day running the house and at night, her toes would be itchy with all the bacteria and she would rub ‘Saibol’ in between her toes.

I experienced this for 10 years..my Ammachi may be for over 60 years after marrying into a family from Alappuzha in her early 20’s. She was accustomed to floods and water and stayed fearless…till this monsoon season. After fleeing her house, going to her oldest daughters and then to her youngest (due to her oldest daughters house being also flooded), at the age of 88, I heard fear in my Ammachis voice for the first time and I could do absolutely nothing about it.

My family house was rebuilt 10 years ago so high from the ground that they never had water inside the house for over a decade. Water still went inside. It was over knee high of my uncle who is 6 ft high. He had to abandon the house, sell all their much beloved animals who were their family members and take rescue.

Now the mentioning of the class again, this is a middle class family who were able to have their house built appropriately according to the area. Now, for those who were unable to afford that..I will leave it up to you to imagine where their house is now apart from pointing out the obvious that ‘Kuttanadu’, a part of Alappuzha, rich with culture, characteristics and Love is pretty much gone. If you were to visit a house is Kuttanadu or Alappuzha..you wouldn’t have gone back home without a full stomach and may be some ‘tharavu curry’ to take back with you.

And if you know anything about a Kerala curry, you know that its a perfect blend and balance of spices and ingredients that just makes the most amazing curry- an imbalance of any one ingredient can cause trouble for instance, chilli or salt.

In the past few days, people have been extremely kind, generous and helpful in Kerala and outside Kerala. Regardless of cultural, geographical, relihious or scoial boundaries, people came together, like a perfect mix. From a kind Sikh individual from Perth, Australia who raised £1000 to School and University students who have given up whatever little they had in order to save Kerala, I have enough to restore my faith in humanity.

And the next time you eat a tharavu curry from Alappuzha (and I any other delicious kerala curry as I dont eat duck), I hope you and I both be reminded of how all the perfect incredients came together and made a good curry during this crisis (if you know, you know).

One thing people of Kuttanadu, Alappuzha and Kerala are good at is working hard. Like them, I along with my fellow British Malayali youth, we will commit to raising even more funds, to help rebuild our homeland, Kerala, as I think ‘Saibol’ cream is just not going to be enough to able to fix the damages of this flood.

https://www.gofundme.com/sy6kg-kerala-flood-relief-fund

I’m more than his Alien!

He suggested that we watch Martian and that I’d like it. I agreed, rather reluctantly. Whilst watching the movie, I asked him if he’d ever like to go to Mars. He said yes, to which I asked him ‘then why don’t you?. He said he’d need immense amount of training and knowledge to be able to go there, to which I asked him ‘why don’t you?’. He took his eyes off the screen, looked at me and said ‘I’m actually happy on earth’. I smiled and said ‘because you’ve got your alien here! ‘You’re more than an alien’

Time and change

Before you know, it will be time to say good bye to 2016. How are the years flying, I still have no idea! Whilst every hour, every month and year is slipping away from your grip without your consent, I refused to believe that a part of me is leaving with time. Truth is though, whether I admit it or not, I’m getting old . So is everything and everyone else around me. We are changing, physically and emotionally, everyday.

My sisters have grown up and entering different phases in their lives;my parents are getting old even if i refuse to acknowledge any signs; my other-half is growing into a family man, my friends are getting married,having babies, getting separated  or moving away; and my grand parents, well i’m just grateful for every extra day that they get to see!

Change is inevitable! And it scares me, like everyone else!  Whilst I’m still stuck in the past, thinking of the ‘good-old’ times, time is moving forward and it is bringing in loads and loads of changes in everyone and everything. I’ve got two choices: a, be stuck in the past and be bitter about change; b, move forward with time.

I choose the latter, not with a lot of enthusiasm but with pain. I will move forward, taking my memories along with me and not losing track of the things that I were. I will also be reminded of the story of the eagle that transformed itself rather painfully when time plays it tricks on me.

He who loved the snow!

Photo Credit: Driveway Sledding by Jessie

dscn7219-2sm0I met you.. got to know you..got close to you. We were quite a pair. Staying up and talking all night was a tradition that we created for us. You used to stay in the bathroom to get a ‘good reception’ and you never failed to make me laugh with your wild jokes/statements. One of which was about the Arabic girls having really hairy legs. I have no idea what that was about but it always cracked me up.

You were there for me through thick and thin. When I was down, you were down. You were incapable of cheering me up. And I’m glad you never tried. You were really terrible at cheering someone up and lacked the ability to do so. You, however, knew how to be part of someone’s sadness or misery. You were always there to console others when things weren’t going so great.

You taught me to act confident even if I weren’t feeling confident. You told me that I was beautiful. The 16-year-old insecure me called you crazy. You laughed, I blushed!

dscn7232-2smAs we started pursuing our higher studies, dreams, and love life; the picture of ‘us’ started fading away. The space between us grew wider. It was when you phoned me up to tell me that you passed your driving test, I realised that we rarely had time for each other any more. We were growing up without each other. It was wrong. I should have called you up. I should have checked how things were going with your life. I should have told you about the amazing man I found for myself. I should have asked you about the girl/s you were dating at that time. But I didn’t. I didn’t call you up. I didn’t check up on you. And I regret that, more than anything else in this world.

When she phoned me up and said that you passed away, I did not believe her. How could I?! I convinced myself that it was another guy we knew who had the same name as you. I phoned her back. I asked her if it was that guy. All she said was ‘I’m so sorry’. I cried and cried and cried. I was helpless. Everything went wrong. Crying was the only thing I could do right.

People ask me what it is that I had with you. I don’t have an answer to give them. You were like a brother, a lover, a friend, and an enemy, all at once. How do I explain that to someone God only knows?! The night that I learnt about your departure from this world, my better half who never had a chance to meet you asked me to tell him about you. He wanted to know what you were like. And I said, ‘he was an annoying brat who made a lot of girls cry, who made racist jokes, someone who drove me and a lot of others crazy, he disliked dating ‘angelic girls’ but he loved the snow’

dscn7240-2smYou weren’t the perfect being on earth but you were the most care free person. You talked so freely, walked so freely, loved life and the snow.

3 years this week, but the memories I had with you stay as fresh as the snow. And when the snow does fall, I look up the sky, I imagine you looking down on me with a cheeky grin on your face. I still hate the snow I’ll have you know. But I hope you love it up there amongst the clouds, cunningly planning to send the snow down on me to annoy me, creating a lot of havoc for the heavenly members and dating a lot of not angelic girls but angels themselves.

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