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.

Flower arrangement at Novotel lobby

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!

Alexander Joseph with Ravindran Raghavan
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.

Sunrise at Creek, Dubai

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.

Photographer at sunrise

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

Sunrise view at Creek Dubai

Sunrise with building silhouette


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

Sunset in Dubai

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