Sunday, November 14, 2021

Resident of a hotel

I had been a "long term resident" of Ibis One Central in Dubai over the past several years [2015 till 2019] where I stay for 1-2 months on each check-in cycle. Combining that with frequent visits to India (again staying in hotels) and my holidays with hotel stays, I would have clocked 310 days in hotels every year! My life had been as a resident of hotels.

After a short spell of being at home during the Covid lockdown, I am back again in Novotel World Trade Centre in Dubai for the last few months (since the end of July 2021).

That's a very unique experience ... not having a regular home. One of my most enjoyable positive factors of being a hotel resident is the ability to walk into a clean room every day without doing the cleaning myself. The housekeeping staff would have done my bed and cleaned the bathroom for my next day's use. Then there is the glory of going for breakfast and browsing through the choices, though it is boring sometimes, the ease of just getting there and having coffee without much effort is again a real comfort in the morning.

More than those, the people watching hobby is indeed therapeutic. At the Millenium hotel lobby, there is a Costa Coffee where I stop for breakfast on some days. Last week there was a father with a young kid (boy) and a toddler (girl) buying breakfast. The boy took an orange juice and joined the father at the counter, where the father was ordering his coffee, while the girl squeezes hesefl out of pram, walks to the fridge and takes an orange juice as well. She then slips, falls on the ground, makes a somersault of sorts while holding tight to the orange juice bottle ... walks like a drunk sailor towards the boy and gives a stare to the boy as if saying "if you want it, I too want it" while watching the father by the corner of her eye.

The father soon notices this and pays for that juice as well. All of them got to the table near mine, sat down, the father keeps his coffee out of reach, the boy started drinking his juice and the father now opened the orange juice bottle and hands it to the girl. Guess what she screams "No, I want chocolate!!!!!!!!!" ...

As the father was trying to get even with the "conflict", the boy was playing "papan gelongsor" (in Malay this means sliding plank) ... he was enjoying sliding under the table and sliding back up repeatedly ... enjoying the morning exercise!

As the daddy finished the diplomatic conversation with the girl, the boy gets stuck under the table and his hands were frantically trying to reach the table edge to inch himself up ... and the father reaches for his coffee and grabs it to avoid it spilling onto the boy's head!!

And the "stress management" session went on while I finished my breakfast and caught the train to office :-)

Friday, August 27, 2021

You know about all this, don't you, mom?

"I never say this to anyone ... but I am afraid of the dark, mom! I don't express it, but I care a lot about you mom ... you know about all this, don't you, mom?" from the movie Taare Zameen Par touched my friend so much that he cries when he hears this song. And I am not talking about a "kuchi bhai" scary friend, this is a grown friend who is a terror at his workplace and dares to speak to even the President of the United States if he needs to ... and that's not an overrated description, that's him!

When he narrated the gist of the movie and how some of its sentiments connect to his journey in a boarding school since 42 months old, that hit my soft spot. I couldn't resist watching the movie and by the time it reached this song, I could feel the emotions of the boy as I watched his act. The movie's slow progress into the boy's saga at the boarding school felt so real.

Getting sent to a boarding school at three and half year's old is not easy to digest. That is a "baby" just beginning to understand the world and getting ready with excitement to explore the possibilities ... with an eager mind seeing the colours and grasping the sounds of the earth within an infant heart trying to make sense of the sights, smell and sensations. That baby has not felt the boundless freedom of a child yet.

As he got ready to kick the ball, chase the cat and run with the dog, he is enrolled in a high calibre institution with a well-planned schedule of inducing academic content into human beings to shape the top brains of the country, called "boarding school". Before he tasted the opportunity to connect with the world and understand the emotions around him, he is in an envelope with strangers trying to make sense of each other's social abilities.

While I write this blog I can feel several dots of deep emotions that he must have gone through when his mom and dad left him there for the first time. A sudden gush of "I am here all by myself" as the song goes "Don't leave me alone in the crowds ... I won't be able to return home. Don't send me far away that you won't even remember me, mom". True to the words of the song, his boarding school was several hours away from his playground, far away in Kottayam (Kerala, India).

"Mom, you wanted the best for me, but all I wanted was to be with you when I was an eager child with an attention span of a puppy. You sent me on a journey of many miles that took me through the best schools and universities ... and it moulded me in the design that you chose just to deflect me many more miles away from home in search of a career ... I won the game as you planned for me, and I saw the world from a high altitude ... but now, after many miles and several thousand days since Kottayam, I yearn to be with you and hear your voice in person. I hope you would remember me when I get back in your arms"  

Fortunate for me, I left home only at 20 ... and that image of the day when I left home is still fresh in my mind. As I left on my dad's Honda C-70 motorcycle with one luggage bag and my backpack, mom was holding her emotions and waving at me. My sister and brother were just staring with no way of defining their feelings. We were one family with a full quorum at our daily dinner for many many years ... and we have clocked several thousand hours of conversations at the verandah. For the first time I was going to be "alone", and it took me a few months to come to terms with it. In contrast, my friend faced this complex emotional twine at an age when he could not explain it.

On the lighter side, as the days went by, I became acquainted with university life and started enjoying the high-speed train to freedom! It was like having my own world where I could design my days and my future the way I wanted. The emotions became easier to manage and the routine holiday travel back home became fun ... until I met my valentine ... and now the tide has turned, it was difficult to leave university during holidays as that meant being away from her! 

... and now, at 56, my journey away from home continues in Dubai.     

Monday, February 8, 2021

Sunset & sunrise in Dubai, UAE


The winter sunrise and sunsets in Dubai are spectacular views that require a lot of patience and good timing. On a clear day, from a high building, we can view all the way to the sea.

Buildings start to glisten in gold as the sun rises. The birds awaken and start their morning ritual of being early to catch the worm.

My photography partner, Rahul Hariyani, and I decided to get to the creekside as early as 5am to wait for the perfect moment.


As the sun sets west, the color scheme is more reddish and we could see the sun dipping under the horizon.

Buildings reflect the light on its surface and create a canvas of amber

Beautiful sights that are awesome and memorable!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The romance of Venice


Venice from above

The reality set in as soon as I landed at the Venice airport. There is no metro train or 4-wheeled taxi to take me to my hotel at Grand Canal. 

The address of the hotel says "Hotel Carlton at the Grand Canal" and I needed a boat to get there! 

As I travelled by boat into Venice, I could see why it is said to be a romantic place. For me and my wife, it was as if we were there on our honeymoon. It was indeed romantic.

The whole place, surrounded by water and waterways, was very soothing and walks along the corridors presented excellent opportunities for my photography. 

I clicked away happily and ended my first day with 1,236 photographs of the "streets", canals and boats.


In summary, it was our 3 days well spent and a whole experience that remains as a sweet memory

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Malaysian Indians like me ... translocated from Malabar to Malaya by Great Britain!

People use all kinds of justification to "establish the truth" about Indians being marginalized in Malaysia. In today's Malaysia and Singapore, all of us (who are products of the past immigrant Indians) do not accept the current immigrant Indians as equal. We call them "Ooris" or "Oorukaaran" or "Indian Indians" ... and we do not take them as equal to us. If their kids are given the same fees in school we fight to change the system.

So in this context, why are we expecting Malays to go back to history ... analyse the origin of roti canai ... and give us an award that we are equal to them? Those are bygone histories of Chola, Srivijaya and Majapahit kingdoms. They lost some war somewhere along the lines and they are no longer here. We came because the British wanted "slaves" (who had no rights), supervisors (who were half English speaking Indians) and middleman (who were recruiters) to manage their plantations, railways and roads. The British took land (in 100,000s acres) from the Malay rulers of the time. Just because we were British "slaves", helping Britain exploit the resources of the land and adding wealth to Queen Elizabeth's treasure trove it does not make us contributors of Malaysian economy. We were mere selfish beings enjoying the newfound opportunity to make a living. If our forefathers were anywhere near having a "good life"in their village in India, they would not have "fled" the country and landed here ... and soon became citizens.

By the time the Japanese landed on bicycles, the British fled! Notably the Japanese sank two British naval ships within days making the British abandon all their "slaves" and battalions of Indian soldiers. When the British came crawling back, the natives slowly rose to the occasion and wanted independence. By this time, we who helped the British change the whole landscape of the country and caused the Malays to lose their land in the name of plantations, wanted equal rights!! In what era is that a fair expectation?? Inadvertently, we also "helped" the British to push all Malay kampungs into the interior by developing vast lands around them.

In the entire process, by 1957 we were the "pitiful Indians" who were left with 888 active Tamil schools, 112,000 Hindu temples, 3 Tamil newspapers, 1 Radio Malaya Rangkaian Merah, 1 Minister, several MPs, 1 political party, many Gounder/Malayalee/Telegu sangams and numerous toddy shops. We were also given RM1 medical treatments and free schooling. Astonishingly, our Tamil schools with 104,600 enrollment by 1993 and was allocated government funding of RM27 million between 1990-1995 ... and we still could not "change" the fate of the remaining "pitiful Indians" of 1957!

I am unable to "connect" to the constant argument of trying to fight for equal rights when we have not utilised the given resources properly. If our teachers (in Tamil schools) wanted to genuinely uplift the lives of Indians, they had 100,000 students with them each year to do so. Was this not enough to make a change?

We do have complete freedom to run our own business. And yes, just like any other country in the world, some benefits are reserved for the natives.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

An important wedding

On my way to an important wedding in Singapore ... I thought I will pen a meaningful wish to the groom whom I know for long and is an excellent "partner-in-crime"!!

Here it goes ...

"I am writing this from Malindo lounge at KLIA2. Sitting here after missing my connection flight to Spore. The Mumbai flight delayed by 1 hr.

Reflecting on my norms, this is by far the most complex logistics that I am dealing with to attend a wedding. I am a stubborn character by norm (as vouched by my uncles, aunties and relatives). I only attend events that I want to provided it is convenient. I have missed a host of weddings, parties and ceremonies.

But this multi event of your wedding was too important to miss. The chemistry we share is valuable and your dad is one of the few with whom I can speak my mind without the fear of being judged. You are more like my friend than relative and I can be totally myself without any acting.

Hopefully this chemistry stretches through the next generation. I was eagerly looking forward to the tea ceremony and church wedding but looks like I have missed it. But I am glad that my troops are there representing my presence.

This is to wish you a blissful married life and many years of happiness. The only way out of conflicts is to walk through it and not around it. And the only words that count is usually "I am sorry" even if the mistake is hers!! But we are man, we hardly learn or remember anything!!

Trust I should get there in time for lunch. See you then."

Friday, November 24, 2017

My varied status in Dubai

I have been walking the streets and tourist spots of Dubai since Nov 2014 when I officially became a Dubai "resident visa" holder. My stay here has been a mix of studio apartment, serviced apartment, hotel apartment and hotel rooms. I must say I enjoy less space rather than a sprawling apartment ... the brain has less to process in a hotel room as everything is taken care of by housekeeping.

I realized that I am an expatriate, tourist and immigrant at different times.

Expatriate - when I am in the Gold Class cabin of the Metro, having bfast at Costa Coffee and dinner at Uno Grill.

Tourist - when I walk out of the hotel with my camera & water bottle, get excited about photography at the Burj Khalifa fountain and shop alone in Watson.

Immigrant - when I underestimate the weight of the laundry and walk with 12 hangers with pants, shirt, T shirt and 2 bags of unlisted items.