Saturday, August 20, 2016

My cup of coffee

Had a long 2-leg travel from Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai  on Malindo Air 1950hrs Friday and connecting Mumbai to Dubai on Jet Airways 0155hrs. Landed Dubai Terminal 1 at 0315hrs Saturday. Both flights were uneventful, smooth and had good sleep.

As you might notice that it's a crazy loop when direct KL Dubai flights are available. That's right!!! Sometimes these crazy routing happens due to my travel logistics. This time it was because my incoming trip was via Mumbai and doing the outgoing on a different airline was going to cost a whole lot more. So comes this combination.

Of course the immigration at Mumbai was puzzled trying to analyse what illegal business requires this kind of camouflaged travel! He still looked puzzled after my pathetic explanation about my route but stamped my passport anyway since I am a "Overseas Citizen of India" with a handful innocent business trips in and out of various Indian airports.
And I had no time to waste as I had used up most of my 115 available transit minutes and I was on the last reserve of 18 minutes before the boarding closes!!

Glad to have arrived Ibis One Central near World Trade Centre in Dubai. Checked in at 0430hrs. Unpacked my cargo load of stuff as this is going to be "home" for the next 4 weeks. Now having coffee watching the garden and having the long awaited break.

Chattrapathi Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai... Malindo Air check in counter

First there is a sotta thalayan cutting the queue, rushing from the side and almost crashed the trolley onto the bum of another kannadi kaaran. Finally the airline staff got him back onto the line. He was just plain ignorant.

Then there is the middle aged cowboy with his elderly mom. Cowboy is a Indian guy with a huge tummy, spotting a bushy moustache like overgrown grass by the banks of Kaveri river, wearing a Dallas hat, with a white mobile phone tucked away in the back pocket of his faded jeans with a earphone wire going onto one ear like a FBI agent and wearing Nike!! In summary he looks like a clown out of a Amir Khan movie. And more so while he tries hard to take selfie while smiling broadly!!

The sotta thalayan now completed check in. Carefully packs his passport into a husky plastic bag, pushes it into the large front pocket of his brown bush jacket, puts on a black cap and is now loitering around the waiting area.

I have all this time because my ticket was booked using a Malaysian credit card and they need 30 mins to verify!! Another complicated Indian procedure to curb money laundering??

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sugoi Deira City Centre

Today I came to Sugoi at Deira for my lunch of teriyaki chicken and fried rice with miso soup... and my weekly people watching hobby.

There's a guy on the next table with a kid calling his mother in law and asking her to move her buts and get to the food court sometime today. His wife is sitting on another sofa table at a distance. They fought over the mother in law's punctuality??

And there are 2 Filipino guys handling 2 very young kids. One kid walking on the table between the plates of noodle from the Fujiyama stall. And another trying to play Pokemon around the food court. Third behaving well. Now one of the guys are trying to make milk!!

Ah and the mother in law just arrived. Now the wife is missing!! She must have gone to Carrefour.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Flight AI581

Today's eavesdropping on Air India flight AI581 from Mumbai to Kozhikodu. Mohan on seat 3A was excitedly speaking to his "buddy" on next seat about the freedom he enjoys in America.

Mohan is 73 yrs old. Went to USA in 1975 to complete his MBA in Ohio State University. And settled down there. He landed in Mumbai last night from New York via London while his baggage is still in transit somewhere!!

An aircraft engineer who used to work with Air India and has trained many pilots on aircraft mechanics. That's his glorious young days.

He was in St Petersburg, Russia last month. So now started reading about those who amassed wealth during the Soviet Union split. His story has slowly drifted to the Aryan invasion of India and how Andra Pradesh resisted the move south hence preserving the Dravidian culture in south!

His newfound buddy took some selfie after their vegetarian breakfast on flight.

As we landed in Kozhikodu and got on the bus at the tarmac, a lady of similar age started talking to him. Both were trying to figure out if they've met in Mumbai in the 70s!!! His old flame???

Friday, June 24, 2016

Culinary curses

Having my bfast at Ibis One Central.  A lovely morning with no excitement and the mind wanders... capturing a sight ahead of me.

There's a fat guy in front of me going on and on and on with bfast. Now he finished some fruits and is looking up the sky ... just like what my dad does in supermarkets!! Buffet closing in 10 mins. My front target is scratching his neck and planning his next plate... but there's no space on his esophagus to fill any more dry or fresh food.

Oops I said it too soon. He sprang up from his chair like a toy teddy bear and came back with another plate of croissant and butter!! Now he is sitting with folded arms. Looking outside. Constantly shaking his right leg like the flywheel of an old diesel generator. Sipped the last few milliliters of coffee left in the cup. And wondering about the next meal. . or as usual with fat guys, he must be regretting the intake and planning on going for a walk.

I am sure he will find ice cream during the walk and God will show him that one ice cream shop that's open during Ramadan!!!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Start of Ramadan in UAE

Today is the start of Ramadan 6 June 2016 and I woke up to the morning of silence outside the window. No pedestrian and no cars.

The Ibis World Trade Centre closes it's restaurants but breakfast for me was at the Novotel adjacent to the other entrance to World Trade Centre.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Today's notes from Deira City Centre

Having my long awaited lunch of One Rack Rib with BBQ sauce. On the table across the aisle, there are 3 ladies and one of them is a really chubby Hawaii girl... and I mean really really chubby.

Her meal was 4 pcs of mini kids burger. Arrrgh you can imagine how little it looks in her hands. And she went on completing the assault on the burgers, stuffed some fries in her mouth and continued talking with the fries dangling to the music of her speech.

As she completed the mulching and gulping her drinks she started yawning!! And now she is sitting looking bored waiting for the others who are leaner in size to finish their meals at the usual 70kg  human speed.

With a grrr look she has just ordered desert. I am losing my patience as I have finished my meal and I need to get to the theatre to catch the movie "Me before you" at 350pm. Seats are running out so I better run.

Exciting trail from Malappuram (Kerala) to Coimbatore (Tamilnadu)

Sometimes I decide to experiment new things during my travel ...and that includes the toddy shops of Kerala! Toddy shop ... in Kerala this is pronounced as "toddy shaap". Thanks to my equally adventurous friend Joseph Thomas from Kochi. Amazingly most of the shops I visited had very nice food.

Let me take you through one of my adventures ... near Pallakad en-route from Malappuram to Coimbatore. We just concluded our trip to some schools in North Kerala and were crossing over to Tamilnadu on this day. I had with me Kumara Raj (who was then the Sr Manager of INTI International University) and also my colleague Vikraman.
The toddy shop located near Pallakad

As usual this was one of those unassuming shops tucked away in the midst of some paddy fields and most of its patrons were locals wearing the standard "lungi" and topless .... or a singlet. When we arrived well over-dressed in our jeans and T-shirts we certainly attracted a lot of attention.

For a start we looked like we were some misplaced tourists! Joseph's native Malayalam saved the day as his greeting and explanation solved the mystery of the lost tourists in a local toddy shop! The owner understood that these are just some "monkeys" from Malaysia trying to experiment with his toddy.

As we started to lay out our food map ... we got ourselves into "baked tapioca" or probably it was more of boiled and then fried tapioca with fish curry. Oh wow ... that was indeed awesome and a definite favourite of Vik.

In combination with the tapioca the usual spicy fried chicken, pepper beef, mutton liver fry and toddy was available. Of course bottled water was NOT available ... it can be procured free from the nearby river according to the worker!

spicy food
The spicy presentation of the day

Digging through the spicy spread, we amused ourselves watching the locals drink toddy and munch on the food just like snacks. The positioning of food was as a compliment to the drink ... not as a meal.

Personally, I enjoyed every bit of the food. Took a sip of the toddy but was too worried of a possible "tornado" in my digestive tract so did not continue too far. Taste of the toddy was pretty neat and smooth ... I must say it was not at all stinky like how I was made to believe.

My grandpa from my dad's side was a toddy harvester and he took his trade all the way to Malaysia and harvested toddy at Wessington Estate in Johore ... now it is called Simpang Renggam Estate belonging to Sime Darby Plantations. He must have been one of the "culprits" who contributed to the many toddy drinker's economic problems by supplying toddy to the nearby shops.

Coming back to Pallakad, this was a licensed toddy shop  i.e. approved by the government and a license plate is hung outside the shop.

Kumara with the club members
Several "club members" trickled in, gazed at us a little suspiciously and soon smiled like old friends ... they must have known my grandpa!! The patron seated in the middle of the photo above is probably the most apt template of the toddy shop's frequent customer with the highest loyalty points. Many were like him ... no shoes (or sandals), half-way tied "lungi", unshaven, a headgear like a towel and with a look that says "whatever happens life goes on". The half way tied "lungi" has a reason according to my well verified sources in Kerala - it is supposedly the best style to provide sufficient air circulation "down-under", always on a "ready for battle" mode and easy to run for cover where needed. That is interesting ... it is an adaptable outfit with such diverse functions all in one.

Toddy was served in nice clay pots. Very much reminding me of some of the movies where the drunkard tosses the clay pot to the ground while giving his "strong advice to President Obama on global warming". We were not lucky enough to watch such scenes.

We had a short chat with the owner ... the license holder who must be the "current face" of my grandpa. This is how my grandpa would have been selling his toddy?? Yet to find his village and discover his past.

The owner was not at all amused whether we got there in necktie and coat ... or with a half tied "lungi" or even without any dress. To him all that matters was whether we drink ... and pay! He gave a mild smile to show his happiness that we have travelled some 2,508 kilometres to taste his toddy ... knowing very well that we may never come back regardless of whether the toddy was sweet, sour, spoilt or killed the friendly bacteria in our stomachs. He knew very well that we are just "guest actors" on our way.

The licensed owner of the shop
There were two helpers (workers who served the drinks) who took care of our needs very meticulously and enjoyed serving us. We enjoyed their overwhelming treatment as well. While we were washing our hands, the thinner looking guy, who was the most energetic and looked like a strong wind might blow him off, asked us "which movie are you going to use this location"??
So that nailed it ... he has been analysing our moves, checking our SLR cameras, noticing our smartphones and came to the conclusion that we are film-makers. He was very sure that we are surveying the location and we are keeping it a secret.

With that he wanted to be in a photo with us ... and there you go, a shot with the supporting artistes of the Pallakad Toddy Trail.

The two guys who were sure that we are film-makers out there to confirm the shooting location!
Toddy price list ... 1 litre costs 40 Indian Rupees (less than USD1.00 at that time)

The pricing seems fair given that this is a natural liquor without much processing. The "punch" may be the same as a  glass of Johnny Walker Black Label ... the ferment smell is 2 times stronger ... and the lingering "aroma" is far more lasting.

According to Vik, there is this thing called "Kall-Appam" ... the "kall(u)" here refers to toddy hence we deduced that "kallu" was used to ferment the flour mix before making the "appam" (somewhat like a pancake) eaten with fish curry. That is supposed to be the king of all "appams". We have not got to taste this yet as everywhere we ask for "kall-appam" we get "kal appam" ... "kal" meaning stone i.e. it is appam made by pouring the mix on flat hot stone.

Whatever said about the interior of the "kallu kada" (toddy shop), the surroundings beat all brilliant meanings of a green environment. What more to say ... natural liquor in a natural village! The village scenery is simply breath-taking. The toddy may confuse our nerves and deceive us into believing that we are care free for the moment ... relieving all stress. While ... just seeing the sprawling green fields, swaying coconut trees, workers bent on getting the job done, birds hopping around in search of grains and the breeze that sweeps across our faces ... that is a stress buster! Just sit there, do nothing and wait for the sun to set ... and we will forget the world.

A lady gathering her harvest of the day

Swaying coconut trees

Sprawling green fields far into the horizon

Paddy grains

Advisers of President Obama discussing "World Grain Price Index" with their "lungis" half tied.

The real contributors to the well being of the crop 
We concluded this day upon reaching Jenny's Residency Club in Coimbatore after having a long journey from Mallappuram. The sight, smell and sound of the journey still plays in my memory like an old video tape repeating itself. It was certainly one my best journeys in Kerala given the terrain full of green and such a pleasant view to the eye.

I would not mind taking the same drive again some other time in the future ... hoping that the same toddy shop is still there with our supporters waiting for the film to be shot in that location!

An awesome Malaysian dinner in Dubai ... Noodle Bowl

Thanks to Prof Abtar ... today's dinner at Noodle Bowl brought back all memories of Malaysian food from the chee cheong fun to carrot cake to bubur cha cha.

Chee cheong fun

My expectation was somewhat mediocre and I assumed that it would be a "usual" chinese dinner. But as the food came it was very Malaysian indeed. The taste, texture and serving was all "home".

Kam heong chicken ... i.e. chicken with curry leaves and some spicy paste

This was the best ... sambal sotong (spicy squid)

Loh mai kai ... wrapped chicken in glutinous rice ... again another favourite street food!

Those who joined the "party"

Egg plant fried with dried prawns 

Really close to home ... mee goreng (fried noodles with seafood) 

Not forgetting our desert

Friday, June 3, 2016

My perspective of Dubai

Ever since I first landed in Dubai in 2005, the place has been transforming at a rapid pace. Now that I am residing here for the last 1 year, I can see the inner society.

Pataans (Pakistanis) work hard, dress like Taliban and live in remote areas. You can find them in the deepest deserts of Dubai.

Construction workers who make things hapen

Banglas drive taxi n they think they are the movers of the economy.

Filipinos work at hotels, motels, cafes and brothels (?). They live in style. You can see them in Starbucks and they only use Gucci bags made in China!

Malayalees are everywhere on the road and in every coffee shop. All of them are advisors to Sheikh Mohamad and President Obama! They have answers and analysis of all world problems.

Tamils are somewhere hidden in the wild streams of society. They suddenly appear during Ponggal and buy all the sugar cane available in Dubai.
Other than these there are Russians, Egyptians and many more European who generally live in villas or condominiums in Marina.

I belong to the tiny minority who roam around like a foreign tourist, behave like a Indian and eat like a China man.

Window attractions @Elevation Burger, Dubai

The Filipino cleaner sprayed the nearby table and bent over to wipe. As he peeped through the window he saw 3 young Filipino girls trying to read the signage.

So now he switched from the half cleaned table to the window. Started wiping the window without spray. Only the hand working like a Nissan windshield wiper on intermittent mode... swinging one wipe every 5 seconds while watching the girls.

As the girls moved towards the door he too quickly switched his cleaning to the door. While the hand wipes the door the eye is waiting for the girls to walk in.

And now he opened the door gladly, smiling broadly and inviting them in! There is a long streak on the door glass - the dirt picked up from the window!!

The girls are here for a walk in interview. Now he is going to work overtime!! Or until the boss spot the dirt track on the door.

Lobby of Ibis One Central Dubai

I am listening to Guy A talking to a Guy B "I met Tina Turner on a flight. She is 75 and still dances. That flight had only economy and she was there on the other side of the aisle.
We land and of course she gets out first. And there is a limo waiting at the tarmac. And after some time we get out and there is a bus!"
Guy A is talking non stop and boring Guy B. He does not realise that he is entertaining me!!!
He is now talking about the times when he sold the first colour TV. He says he is same age as Bill Gates!!
He is now playing a song on a Bluetooth speaker and showing off to Guy B! The speaker is superb though.
And he says he keeps the speaker in a blue shopping bag because it is Bluetooth.
The hotel security just walked up and asked him to stop the unscheduled Tina Turner presentation!!