Bar Brawl

By the time that the table had slid into another table and overturned a couple of benches there was enough impetus to start the night’s overdue brawl, especially since the big man had a few friends with him. Since no-one felt like attacking the ape, who had dreamily pulled a bottle from the shelf and smashed the bottom off on the counter, they hit whoever happened to be nearest, on general principles. This is absolutely correct etiquette for a tavern brawl.

That above is Terry Pratchett. I witnessed my first BAR BRAWL in the United States of America, on Cinco de Mayo. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bar brawl anywhere before. That makes it my FIRST bar brawl ever.

Cinco De Mayo is the Mexican celebration of the day the French Army, at that time the best in the world, undefeated for 50 years was defeated by the Mexican army at the battle of  Puebla, even though the Mexican army was much smaller in numbers and far less well equipped than the French.

Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for 5th of May.

Every bar around had special offers.

Given the significance of the day, we opted to go to a Mexican place for dinner. Since the place in question was next to  the Husband’s office, it had been tried and tested by him before. But, the carnival atmosphere when we got there was something that took him entirely by surprise.

Mid-way through our dinner, there was a sudden commotion and what do we see. Two men burst in from the outdoor area. Noise, loud voices, a small crowd. One guy runs crazily, pushing table out of his way. The other is being restrained by bouncers.  Bouncers let go of held guy, who moves menacingly towards his target. Some more tables are pushed. Bouncers take another step forward and dissipate the tension.

The party continues !!

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Discovery of America

The Husband’s parents are visiting and after a lot of deliberation between driving and taking a guided tour, we settled on a 6 day guided bus tour along the east coast. The tour covered Philadelphia, Washington, Niagara, Boston and NYC.

Despite all the research and reference, we somehow found ourselves on a tour bus where everyone other than us, including the tour guides, spoke Chinese. Or Mandarin, if you please. Phillip, our guide for the first 5 days, managed to communicate hilariously in English. He clearly did not hold American food in high opinion, dismissing it as “buffalo wings ..and all that“.  Our guide on the NYC tour, whose name Phillip had informed us was Yang, knew just about enough English to point out to the tourist attractions and tell us what they were.

For 5 days, we had Chinese buffet lunches and dinners, visited every Chinatown en-route, and heard enough Chinese to pick up a few words. I now know, Ni-how is a form of greeting.   Mostly Good-Morning or probably HelloChol (or Zholl) is the Chinese equivalent of the Hindi Chalo, which means Lets go.

Even the bus back, started from a stop in NYC’s Chinatown and dropped us off at an obscure bus stop next to a Chinese restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware. The bus, ofcourse, was again filled with people of Chinese ancestry.

Under the Husband’s disapproving, why-can-we-not-get-normal-food, I-will-NOT-eat-this eyes, I picked up some scallion buns at a little bakery in Chinatown. They taste very good with schezwan sauce. Or even butter.

On the way back, a thoroughly exasperated Husband says “I feel like I’ve crossed the border and reached CHINA!!” On being congratulated for accomplishing what Christopher Columbus set out to do, he asks “What has Columbus got to do with China?” I explained that Columbus set out to find India. He wanted to find a new trade route to India, China and the rest of the east. His coming to America was an accident. He thought he had found India, which is why he went around calling the Native Americans Indians.  A genuinely amused Husband then remarks  “So COLUMBUS didn’t discover America. The (American) INDIANS did!!”

Duh!!!

Raindrops on my Window

I generally prefer to keep my windows open when it rains. Sometimes I’m forced to close them out of consideration for fellow travelers. Sometimes there are no windows, just fixed glass. On times like this, I look at the water drops running across the glass and think to myself, ” They are like fish, racing across the glass, turning ever so slightly towards tinier drops and gobbling them up.”

There seems to exist for that brief spell, an alternate universe on my pane, where the little drops are alive! Continue reading

Pack your Towel

All inter-galactic travelers/hitch hikers know the importance of  carrying a towel.

What the strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

(from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)

My parents have never read the guide nor are they familiar with the intricacies of interstellar travel. They are however quite particular about always packing towels.

Never have they reminded me to carry my tooth brush, yet they always ask if I’ve remembered to pack a towel. Often going to the extent of putting an extra one in – just in case! As a result I’ve sometimes ended up at my destination with  2 towels but no tooth brush or night suit!!

Travel and Friendship

This trip to NYC was extra special. I met on one of  my BFFs after almost 2 years.

Actually no, we brought in the new year together this year. We eat, drank, went terrace hopping and generally made merry. The food  at Golconda Bowl in Bandra (Mumbai) was sumptuous. Something I thoroughly recommend.

nycComing back to NYC, what made it so special was that we hadn’t really planned this trip to meet up. She had planned something with her friends. I had cousins visiting and had planned this trip for them. It just so happened that our trips coincided and we could meet. Even if it was just for an hour, or perhaps less. It’s as though we were meant to see each other.

dubai

Somethings are just meant to be.

I met my other BFF by pure chance in Dubai a few years ago. I was flying to San Diego for Akash’s 1st birthday. My flight got delayed and I had a whole day in Dubai with a transit visa all courtesy Emirates  (airlines). She lives in Dubai, so needless to say, we had a blast. We hung around in all the shiney, palace-like, OTT-ly opulent malls, shopped a little and window shopped a lot, wow-ed at the dancing fountains, had our picture taken with the Burj Khalifa and never bought it….tried hard to figure out how to use those automatic metro ticket vending machines and finally bought tickets from the ticket window. We even rode Gold Class, just for kicks.

Dubai has a fantastic metro rail system. It will pick you up from inside one mall and drop you off inside another one. Now this may not be true for all malls, but there are some malls like that. If you take the train at night, you can see the city lit up like an Arabian fairytale. A frightful waste of energy, but a marvelous sight.

I have been planning to go meet some other friends in other parts of the world, but that’s all yet to happen. Chance meeting like these, keep me convinced that they will.

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And there’s no end of voyaging when once the voice is heard..

For the river calls and the road calls, and oh, the call of a bird!

– Gerald Gould

I learnt a new word today – Dromomania.

Dromomania is the technical term for wanderlust. Wikipedia says,people with this condition spontaneously depart from their routine, travel long distances and take up different identities and occupations. Months may pass before they return to their former identities.

I spend a lot of my free time, even at work, as a virtual tourist.

Most items on my  bucket list are travel related. It won’t simply say – Hot Air Ballooning. it will say, Hot air Ballooning over Cappadocia  or the Pushkar mela.

I don’t just look up interesting destinations and draw up itineraries ,  I zero down on places to stay, what to eat, where to shop, learn a few useful words in the local language…I travel. I plan so well, that I could easily GUIDE other tourists  and probably even LOCALS around.

I  steal vacation ideas from people’s FB photographs. I scour travel blogs. I read, and am inspired. I recently read Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia – and put archaeological excavations on my list. If not Mesopotamia, Mohenjodaro, or atleast Lothal. Lothal is an Indus valley civilization site an hour away from Ahmadabad. Only the bus driver’s expression and heartfelt concern that I would not find any proper transport to get back from Lothal, kept me from hopping off his bus on my way from Junagadh to Ahmadabad.

I don’t take up different identities, but I become a different person in different places. The Delhi me is not the same as the Kolkata me, who is not the same as the Bombay me, yet they are all still ME. I don’t instantly transform. Different places just add something new while something old fades into the background.

I would like nothing better than short assignments to different parts of the globe. Work of 3m-6m and to relax and travel some more for the next 2-3. I’m currently looking for an employer. I have an option now, and i would really like nothing better than to CHANGE my profession. Not because I don’t like what I do. It’s just that I’ve done this for 6 + years and there are a few other things that I would like to do.

I don’t suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, there is a DROMOMANIAC lurking somewhere somewhere deep inside me.

Pelhar Dam – Sometimes the Road is Less Traveled for a Reason

Khanabadooshiyon pe hi na jaane kyun Ilahi mera ji aaye aaye

Khanabadooshiyon pe hi na jaane kyun Ilahi mera ji aaye aaye

A few nights before I left Bombay, I met up with the Boys at Andy’s place. Sai, for a very long time has been trying to talk me into a night drive to Pelhar, a dam  and reservoir not too far from the city. This night, he managed to bulldoze a few us into doing it.

So somewhere in the middle of the night, we waved goodbye to those whose work and other commitments saved them from this craziness, and set off.

It took us an hour or so to reach there. I dozed off  and have no idea what way we went, except that we crossed the Dahisar check naka. At some point we  got off the main road and with reasonable doubt took the path pointed out by Sai and Amit. The tabelas in this place hold the biggest buffaloes I have ever seen. GIANT ones. The size of baby elephants.

When I have a toddler, my mum tells me, I pointed out to a herd of buffaloes and yelled “Look Amma, ELEPHANTS”. Must have been these. I don’t blame the little me at all for the confusion.

A short walk from the tabelas was our destination -> DARKNESS. Complete and absolute darkness.

Looking back, a little bit of light, a glorious full moon, a sky full of twinkling stars, a gentle sunrise accompanied by the chirping of birds would have made the place seem magical to us city dwellers. All the inky black silence did, was to prompt me to consider which of the following options was preferably –

a) being eaten by a leopard

b) being robbed and murdered by drunk, ruffian milkmen

c) being thrown in jail by cops for being found at a desolate spot where we really had no business being at that hour

* khanabadoshiyon pe hi na jaane kyun, Ilahi mera ji aaye aaye –  I don’t know why, my heart is always drawn to vagabond-like things