The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Do Nothing




Many of those who are addicted to writing sometimes feel that there is a vacuum around  and nothing specific to write about. The situation is just the same as after having a very busy work schedule , sometimes one faces a situation that there is very little to do! Those who are workaholics find this particularly difficult to handle. Getting a subject to write about could at times be challenging! Many of you would wonder how this can be so, when there is so much happening around us. The country is in the midst of a national election and the leaders of different political hues are crying hoarse about how good they and their candidates, and deserve our votes! There is a plane which is lost for over a month with more than two hundred passengers on board, of which no concrete trace has been found till date! But all this is there on the news channels and we have bloggers who can take a dig at any politician in every post, outshining the previous one! There are experts who can write humor even on most mundane situations to tickle the ribs! Those who write poetry can churn out a rhyme on almost any subject.

For me a break from writing happens when I am too preoccupied in office which does happen once in a while or I am traveling leaving little time to express my thoughts in a post! There are times I feel doing nothing is also doing something which many wise people call as ‘wasting time’! Every machine designed by human needs to take a rest for maintenance and upkeep, to add longevity! We humans are no different. There are times when the body and mind just need to switch off and enjoy the peace around. Staring at the sky to watch the migratory birds in a flight, hearing the cuckoo heralding the onset of mango season soon, or just listening to an old melody can be really soothing! The state is sublime and free from worries!

It is said that an empty mind is a devil’s workshop but then for most of us the state of emptiness is transitory and not long drawn. So the likelihood of devil manipulating it is remote! Ernest Hemingway said ’I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.’

PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Elections Times


In this season of elections,
   It’s about making the best selections
The traders of votes
  Stoop to all tricks unworthy of quote
We seldom make fair choices
  Later cry crocodile tears and make noises
Give a thought and vote
    Don’ get carried away by notes
Make a conscience decision
   Best suited for worthy positions

PS : Image Kind courtesy Google

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Just for You

The sky was metallic grey and gust of cold wind was blowing. The city was  glittering in the neon lights and roads were crowded.  I was rushing through the weekend crowd to reach her apartment on 48th street, having walked from the Grand Central station, I walked past the Rockfeller Centre and climbed the lift.
The phone in the hotel rang on the previous day and I immediately recognized the voice at the other end.
‘Hey Alok, I just came to know that you arrived here yesterday for the training, come over to our place tomorrow for dinner, she sounded excited. Barkha was the Regional Manager of our company based in New York! I had arrived in New York two days earlier  for a month long training, and was staying in Long Island .
‘Sure Barkha, it will be a pleasure to meet you, as I jotted down her address’, feeling happy inwards that here I am in a new place and what a stroke of good luck to be invited for dinner on the very first weekend itself!

I pressed the bell and the door opened!  I was swept off my feet as I looked at her! Sparkling eyes, diamond trinkets, curled tresses, a soft shade of pink gloss and a striking yellow saree! She did not appear a day older than 30 years though she was mother of  two young girls aged 14 and 10! It seems that the time had stood still since I had  first met her in our  office canteen many years back. She was very popular and I had a crush for her!  Then one day she came and announced that she was getting engaged and I shook her hands and  congratulated her as my dreams  collapsed like a house of cards. She welcomed me, as if  was a member of her family. How time flew while chatting, eating and drinking, I did not realize. Her husband worked as a doctor in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in the New York City, and was a equally warm person.
While talking, she casually inquired, why I had not married? ‘
I joked,’ I could not find someone like you’.
‘Ha ha , I don’t have a younger sister, or else would have suggested to you’, she sportingly replied.
I thanked her and her husband who bid me good bye as I got up to catch the late evening train from Grand Central Penn station back to the Long Island. During my month long stay, I met them one more time.
Time elapsed and I got married to Tanvi who had almost similar features as Barka, a role model in my mind! Barkha too came to India and was posted in the same office as mine as a Senior Director now ! She had a  knack to make the team work like a clock-work mechanism, rarely loosing her cool. She would write letters to the wives of some of her co workers every year around the New Year time, conveying her thanks for support they indirectly gave in achieving the targets of the company. A very rare gesture  in today’s world! She treated the entire group as her extended family.
One day she came to the office and called for an urgent meeting with everyone. We assembled, about thirty odd employees, in a small conference room. ‘ I wanted to share a news with you all before you hear from others’. ‘ In two months time I am moving to our London office, my daughters are already there with my husband’ she continued. The meeting lasted for just fifteen minutes!
After two months she had moved to London on a promotion. Time went by! It was almost an year now, since she had gone. One day about ten of us got a mail from her, to join her with her family on the Silver Jubilee of their Wedding Anniversary in Dubai. We just had to pay for our tickets and rest of it was being taken care by her. When I broke the news to my wife, she was equally excited and the promise to see a new place was difficult to resist!  Within a week at least five of us replied to her in affirmative for a function about three months away!
The wait was over and we arrived in Dubai to be carted away to the Sheraton at Deira! Barka and her husband gave us  a warm reception after introducing us to her family . We felt refreshed after a long flight having remained awake for most of the night. The next three days of festivities, including a Desert Safari, a visit to the Gold Souk , Spice Market , and a visit to the tallest tower Burj Dubai became permanently etched in our memories! I do not recollect having so much fun ever and Tanvi too had never experienced such a royal reception earlier! What made it even more memorable was that Barkha was more than a family where some relations become special and get stronger even if not related by blood! All of us had traveled all the way from India just to meet her on this special occasion even though we do not attend many a functions  of our own relatives even when we stay in the same country!

PS: 1. Image Kind courtesy Google
 2. Story submitted for ‘Go further to Get Closer Contest’ by British Airways and Indiblogger.(http://bit.ly/1epU8Uj)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Malaysian Sojourn

I was just about a month old in the new job when I had the first interaction with a Malaysian, Nuramin Kok , short built with Chinese features and an ever smiling face. We were together for next two months discussing much besides the professional work! I could see a lot of Malaysia through his eyes and got a feel of the place. There are too many attractions in Malaysia yet the  five things I would like to  experience, are as follows:
Dataran Lang- Langkawi
  1. An experience of travel by road from Kualalumpur to Langkawi: This is a long trip of about 12 hours which can be done in a bus from Puduraya Bus Terminal at Jalan Pudu  in KL to Kedah. The ride is fairly cheap. The buses are comfortable, which provide an opportunity to see the lovely countryside, the rubber plantations en route and get the pulse of the place. From Kedah to Langkawi is a boat ride through the crystal blue waters till the sight of Dataran Lang- A huge Eagle ( The Langkawi’s biggest man made attraction) appears in sight!
    Bukit Bintang- Kualalumpur
  2. Shopping and Eating at Bukit Bintang : Bukit Bintang in Kualalumpur is a foodie’s paradise which offers a huge array of delectable foods. Barbecued meats, noodles and desserts are one of the best and cheapest in Jalan Alor a short walk from Bukit Bintang.  The other places where one can enjoy a very reasonably priced food to the classiest, are Sisters Crispy Popiah ; Teluk Intan Chee Cheung Fun , where Amy Ong serves a lovely oyster-and-peanut congee (rice porridge) and egg puddings; Stanley’s stall beside Amy’s serving delicious fish-head noodle soup sweetened with evaporated milk; and Bunn Choon for the creamy mini egg tarts .Dining in the Dark is a unique experience where only the aroma and taste of the food matter as focus is not on d├ęcor but the food and conversation around.
    Tioman Island
  3. A Brush with Nature: There is a galore of places ranging from Nature’s trails to Rainforests abounding Malaysia. Some of the finest beaches like Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi with miles of un- spoilt white sand stretch. An experience which I would surely love to experience is a childhood dream to live like Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island and this can be best fulfilled on the lovely Tioman Island. According to a legend this island is the resting place of a beautiful dragon princess who was on her way from China to visit her prince in Singapore. She was so enamored by the beauty of the place that she decided to discontinue her journey and take the shape of an island. The place is perfect to scuba dive and see some amazing coral reefs besides marine life
    Malacca
  4. Religious harmony of Malacca (or Melaka in Malay): The place is unique with a mix of population of Malay, Kristang (original Portuguese descendants), Chinese, Muslims, Dutch Eurasians ,Indians and a very small percentage of Sikhs too! Their places of worship coexist and they live in great harmony. There are museums and a Palace of Sultanate in the town. Besides Malacca, the Batu caves near Kualalumpur known for Lord Murugan’s statue and the annual festival of Thaipusam are well worth a visit.
    Georgetown-Penang
  5. Step back into history: A country with a rich history can be best seen through a kaleidoscope by visiting Georgetown in Penang. The place was founded by British East India Company and Fort Cornwallis was built here. It has now a large number of banks and other institutions and is considered to be one of the most live able places in Malaysia! A walk through the streets of Georgetown is an experience in going through an era of colonial past and grandeur! No wonder the city has been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Hawkers, Flea markets and malls dot all over the landscape. A Lovely Butterfly Park is unique to this city!
I realized that Malaysia is a true representative of Asia and is rightly tagged as ‘Truly Asia’ being a melting pot of different cultures and has become a power in its own right within the ASEAN region. It has its own unique identity starting with a very inviting airport which has a shuttle underground rail that takes through the airport main terminal to the departure/arrival, the famous Air Asia airlines, low cost airline hub at KLCC, a lovely network of Jalans (roads), sprawling markets, shopping centers and a huge number of tourist attractions, tasty national food, Nasi Lemak, and multi culture ethnicity. I long to visit this beautiful country!

PS 1. I am participating in the MalaysiaJao Blogathon Contest in association with BlogAdda.com.

     2. Images kind courtesy Google

Monday, March 10, 2014

Alluring Alaska

A Whale Sighting in Alaska!
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking; a whale has been sighted on the starboard side’. Those who would like to see may look out of portholes or upper deck, the loudhailer crackled. I shook my wife and we both rushed out of the gangway to the right (starboard) side and peered out as the door closed behind us. A sharp gust of cold wind sliced through the woolens as we saw a huge whale sending out a spout as it lay still in water! What an amazing sight, as after about a minute the whale dived while the fan like tail swayed and slowly disappeared into the water. The sky was deep blue with snow clad mountains at a distance. 
Vancouver
The ship was maneuvering through the Inside Passage, having left the shores of Vancouver the previous evening. The high rise neon festooned skyline receded in oblivion as the ship  gathered speed as it moved out of the harbor with a few boats also slowly disappearing from the sight. The day Two had started with a bang!
Inside Passage

Traveling is one of the most thrilling experiences and having seen the seas, climbed mountains, explored the jungles , trekked some arduous routes, paragliding, even a dive in submarine, it was time to experience something new! While going through the popular site of ‘Skyscanner’ I came across Vancouver! A little more rummaging through the literature and ‘Google ‘ search made me decide for an eight day cruise to Alaska! Un- spoilt landscapes, sight of grizzly bears, fjords, crystal blue lagoons, floating icebergs and a host of fun activities on board ship lay in store! I had set my heart for the new adventure.
The Route for the Cruise

The first part involved looking for the best connections at an affordable price for the flight aligned with the date of cruise. What better way to look for different options other than ’The Skyscanner? The site can also compare from other travel deals through multiple sites including the agents, give a ticker for the best deals. After spending some time finally I homed on to a low cost deal by China Southern Airlines through Guangzhou to Vancouver, the final destination. Next, the hotels were booked for the best deals available in Vancouver for two days before commencing the cruise.
Booking with the Skyscanner

The details of the journey were as follows:

Departure from Delhi to Vancouver via Guangzhou.
Arrive in Vancouver and spend 2 nights in the city of Vancouver, Canada

Details of Cruise( Eight Days)

Starting Port: Vancouver, Canada
Ending Port: Vancouver, Canada
Ports of Call: Cruising Alaska's Inside Passage, Cruising Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point Alaska, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver

Return to Delhi from Vancouver the next day.

The ship continued to sail past one of the most amazing natural sights of lush green valleys, mountains and flora and fauna, unsurpassed in beauty . During the day occasional sighting of a brown bear  devouring fish on the uninhabited beaches and sea otters playing in sunshine, besides huge albatross were the nature’s companions on this trip into quiet and wilderness! 
The companions- A Brown Bear and Hawks
The term "Inside Passage" is also often used to refer to the ocean and islands around the passage itself. There were people from different parts of the world who were our companions on this luxury vessel. We also sighted icebergs akin to the ones seen in the movie ‘The Titanac’! Amid eating drinking and merry making the day was over and night set in with giant sea and the grey sky and the ship tearing through the water leaving a wake behind!
Juneau
Next afternoon we reached Juneau, the capital of Alaska in the afternoon . The city is known for some amazing sights like Mendenhall glacier and Tracy Arm fjord which are a huge tourist attraction in the town besides some unique architecture like State Capitol building! One can find a large number of eating options of pizzas, burgers and even Sushi and Chinese food here! A boat from the harbor brought us back to the ship  that cast off for the next destination  Skagway by 10 PM

After a long day at Juneau we were lulled to sleep in the slow rocking of the ship as it cast off anchor !
Skagway Harbor
When we woke up the gangway was being erected by the ship side for berthing alongside Skagway harbor. The high mountains with snow clad peaks were inviting. The entire day was spent in exploring this beautiful city which is known for White Pass and Yukon Rail excursion, Lake Bennett, Gold Rush Cemetery, Reid Falls besides many other interesting places.The Red Onion Saloon and Brothel Museum is an unusual place and can be visited even in broad daylight ! By evening the ship had set sail for Tracy Arm Fjord
Tracy Arm Fjord
We slept like a log once again to be awakened by mesmerizing views of Tracy Arm Fjord, where amazing crystal clean waterfalls, mass of floating icebergs greeted us! A rubber dingy was lowered in the water from the ship where we took turns to have a closer look of these nature’s wonders in freezing cold!

We returned back to the ship later in the afternoon before sailing to Ketchikan!
Ketchikan
Ketchikan, one of Alaska's Southeastern cities, is the first stop for many cruises on their way to more Northern climes. A stay in Ketchikan itself can be rewarding.The city is the gateway to Misty Fjords National Monument about 35 miles away. The city has a 'fishy' history and is known for the fresh catch! Totem Bight Straight Park, and Lumberjack shows are other attractions not to be missed! By the evening we returned back to the ship for the last leg of our journey to Vancouver!
A grand dinner had been organised on the last night on board in the main banquet room. As we assembled , the MC announced that a guest speaker, Dr Deepak Chopra was on board to specially address the audience! This was an unexpected surprise as a loud cheer followed! Next forty five minutes  passed away in a whisker,on hearing this greater motivational orator! A feeling of satisfaction of having been so close to the wonders of nature, occupied the thoughts, as I rolled on my bed and fell asleep.

Suddenly, I heard a screeching sound and opened my eyes! The driver of my office cab was asking me to get down as I had been day dreaming not realizing that my stop had come! I had a dream which I now long to be fulfilled this year!

PS:1. Images Kind Courtesy Google

2. This post is submitted for Skyscanner and Indiblogger Contest 'Travel Smart with Skyscanner' (http://www.skyscanner.co.in)


Monday, March 3, 2014

Friendship



There is laughter there is  fun
   When you meet friends n just pun
A feeling of satifaction a life lived well
   Sharing joy and sorrow with abandon as well
A true friend is for a life time
   Standing like a rock in hard times
You cannot choose neighbors or relatives
   Yet have a choice of friends that are superlative
A good friend is a lustrous gem
    As  time flies greater sheen it spells

PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Seriously Funny

The stream of mourners were trickling in the room where a ‘Prayer Meeting ‘had been arranged for the departed soul. Most of them had solemn look and concern writ on their faces. Suddenly a group of ladies who were distantly acquainted appeared and broke down with copious tears flowing for a few minutes as they embraced the close members of the family. I looked from the corner of my eye at my young aunt who was a few years older to me who broke into a giggle, albeit softly. I instantly guessed the reason and later told her that on this serious occasion, she had me breaking into a giggle too, which with a great effort, I had managed to restrain. I am sure most of you too would have come across such mourners who come to pay respect, shed copious tears and in a matter of few minutes are back to normal, discussing weather, children’s progress in the school, an upcoming marriage or the changed weather.

During the school days I recollect having borne the brunt of breaking into laughter at a wrong time and paying heavy price. Once during the final examination in class seven, the English test was in progress and there was a misprint in the question paper which a few students noticed. They raised their hands and the English teacher came in the class with such a serious straight face that one of the class mates smiled and laughed softly while the teacher was clarifying! Suddenly, about a dozen of us too broke into peals of laughter! In a matter of minute that teacher boiled in rage and shouted and singled out all the offenders and gave us a beating in the class which I remember to this date! We later walked up to the principal with evidence of the beating we had got but after a patient hearing, were sent away!


There are a galore of instances to narrate where ‘condition  serious hai ’ became a subject of frivolity. Many years ago, I along with my younger brothers went out for a ride on my father’s bicycle, with one sitting on the front bar, myself pedaling and the youngest one saddled on the carrier at the back! Suddenly, a stone appeared and, I tried to avoid it. The bicycle hit it squarely and everything blanked out for a minute! The bike had broken, with the handle suspended like painting from the wall on the chassis of the once what looked like a bicycle! None of us was injured except minor bruises, and next minute we were laughing as if there could never have been funnier situation than this one! We carried the remains of the cycle with struggle back home fearing what would follow!
During the game of cards that we played with our grandmother and grandfather it would begin in all seriousness till my both younger brothers who had teamed together started winning game after game. Grandfather noticed that my youngest brother would stare intently towards his glasses the moment the cards were distributed! He let off the steam the moment he realized that the winning team had learnt what cards were held by him from the reflection from the lens of his glasses! A collection of such mischievous encounters of ‘serious ’ situations could make adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn pale before our deeds!

During final year of college, our first period commenced at 8.30 AM was taken by the principal who was very strict. One day a friend came about half an hour late and asked his permission to enter! He smiled and said’ you are too early for the next class’!


In case of more such ‘Serious Matters’ like someone falling, or giving condescending look , most often the first reaction of few like me is to laugh! It is said that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ but at times could be a reason for swallowing a bitter pill!

Never the less coming across ‘Condition Serious Hai’ situation and breaking into fits of laughter can be wholly satisfying and rewarding like having a bagful of Cadbury Five Star chocolates!

PS:
1.This blog post has been written for Indiblogger and Cadbury ‘Condition Serious Hai’ contest.( the Cadbury 5 Star Facebook page)

2. Pictures kind condition Google