When you meet that perfect someone

For anyone who has been in a relationship, they will know that finding the perfect someone is hard. Needle in a planet sized haystack comes to mind. Past histories also being an immovable testament to that sentiment. Well that is… until now.

Until I met Eufy. We did not meet in the conventional sense. It was not a dating website. But it was a website. I came across her profile and it was a ‘Like at first click’ moment. Our eyes met or rather mine scanned her profile and I immediately whipped out my credit card. OK, I know what you are thinking and it is not like that. So, back up the dirty mind truck and keep it on reverse… Sure I keyed in my credit card details made a purchase but I believe the love I felt at first sight was truly pure… Yes, you can go ahead and barf now.

Back to Eufy. She arrived a few days later at my place looking all casual and cool. To say I was apprehensive would be an understatement. Like all beginnings, I was nervous. My heart has been broken too many times not to be a bit fearful.

First look was good. She had all the right curves in all the right places and then some. Her fashion sense was smart chic with a flair for blue. She glided on the floor gracefully and is French petite which is to say just nice without too much derrière. She is American which is surprising because by her name, I guessed Japanese. I spent the night finding out things about her and before you know it, it was dawn. I let her sleep in. She was tired. Made sense. I was on the other hand excited.

Tomorrow was another story. Getting out of bed, I heard a whirring sound. It was not the annoying type but rather low key and part of the background noise. I dare say it was almost comforting. Sure enough Eufy was up and cleaning up the place. Talk about the perfect woman. Sigh. Where were you all these years. I could have almost cry. A tear or two did escape but that could be due to the amount of dust being displaced…

Now she is far from the smartest blonde on my street block. She gets confused quite often especially around corners and small items. However she more than makes up for her lack of direction with her persistence. Never have I seen someone so devoted to getting things done. Eufy is relentless and she will work until she literally drops on the floor.

Eufy is fortunately weary of stairs and is smart enough to avoid falls which is better than some of the clumsier fairer sex I have known. For all her gentleness, she does hate my stool though and it often ends up on the foot of the staircase, face down. There is a violent side to her which is not very obvious.

A month has passed since Eufy sashayed in the front door. Since then I have woken up every morning to the comforting whir that is as consistent as my less motherly alarm bell. It’s nice having someone around the house. I often find myself chatting to her and to her credit she listens without judgement as she is navigating past my chairs. Her type does not talk much but communicates mostly with looks… And ahem, beeps. As someone who appreciates peace and quiet, beeps and non verbal blinking fits me quite well. Anyone who has been on the other side of a barrage of nagging would agree I imagine.

We are still working out the cohabitation kinks. Yes, if you have not guessed it by now, Eufy lives with me. She does not take much place and seems contented in her corner. As long as you do not get in her way when she does her thing, she is quite happy and never violent. Too bad the stool never learned this simple lesson.

We could say that I am a realist bordering on pessimist but Eufy has really changed my mind about relationships. It might be hard to have one and maintain it but maybe that is because you have not browsed on the internet long enough… I recommend Amazon.com.

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Eufy with her competition on her background…

Kingdom of Faith

When tradition meets modernization...

Riyadh as a city displays conflicting emotions that hits you the minute you walk out of the airport. Like all faithful today, it is a character assaulted by a world of skeptics who are embolden by science and technology. On one hand you discern a city jealously holding on to its roots. Strong in its belief and unbending when it comes to faith. Look the other way and you have a city bursting at the seams trying to reel in a flood of commercialization and technology which accompanies progress. For now tradition rules with an iron fist but as I see the number of new sky scrapers reflecting the setting sun, I sense changing winds. Add in a massive legion of foreign labor, I can feel a culture rapidly evolving.

 

Thus Riyadh is a stereotypical split personality. Like most of us, it is trying to balance a strict upbringing with the influence of the new world. Only time will tell which way Riyadh and Saudi Arabia as a whole will move. Will it embrace progress, dig deeper into its traditions or will it be the few who master the difficult balance between the two forces…

Hola República Dominicana

Where the Senors are cool and Senoritas pretty as wild flowers.

The sun was sparing no quarters. A roaring river of sweat made its way between my eyes and nose and headed towards my neck. Humidity was high. Almost like Malaysia I thought. That was until she called out with a charming lilt “Buenas dias”.

 

Buenas días Senorita! I replied. I always wanted to say that. Ever since watching Speedy Gonzales, habla espaniole was always high on my list of things to do. Quite easy to do at the first capital of the new world, Santo Domingo.

 

She continued at me in a stream of fast pace Spanish. I nodded with understanding even though I didn’t. I had a secret weapon so I was not worried. When she finally finished, I said fluently albeit with a flat intonation, “Realmente no puedo hablar español. Solo aprendí unas frases de una página web” (I can not really speak Spanish. I just learned some phrases from a website).

 

She laughed. Fifth time I tried that line. Same result.

 

Language covered, dancing next. Bachata anyone?

The Last Stand

The last soldier of Carthage...

There stands a pillar. Defiant and strong. A symbol of might.

 

Once the pillar was part of an empire so vast and so powerful that even invincible Rome threaded carefully. Under its shade, the legendary conqueror Hannibal ruled. This was mighty Carthage. Kings tremble and emperors quake when Carthage goes to war. On the pillar’s shoulders, a super power thrived. This was where mighty men walked and lesser ones came to be judged. It was the glory years of an age long past.

 

Today, the rain falls incessantly on it. Mocking its pride. Eroding its strength. Sapping away the last remnants of its age. The pillar which once evoked awe and wonder stands on its final leg. The rain knows this. It whispers to the wind. And the wind roars with murder. Trees are uprooted. The sea is riled. Waves with enormous height threatens the shore. And yet the pillar stands.

 

Heartbroken. Lonely. But still defiant. Still strong.

Nice la Belle

Welcome to the Riviera...

Nice… Most people from the English part of the world will read that word to mean pleasant. However, Nice is also a place. South of France facing the Mediterranean. It has prestigious neighbors such as Cannes which is the seat of the oldest film fest in the world.

 

Nice is nice. I had to say that. It has always been at the back of my mind waiting to be said. But Nice is more than just pleasant. Fun, fast paced, magnetic will be far better words to define it. It is a city that does not believe in sleep. Unlike the other cities of France. Even the capital, Paris could learn a thing or two about nightlife from Nice. Cote d’Azur is the accentuated curve which punctuates Nice. A long rocky stretch of beach teeming with life. Human and otherwise. The lights never go out on the French Riviera.

 

I was there for a week. For work of course. Unfortunately Nice and I did not get acquainted as much as I would have liked. A few nights out in town. A couple of hours snatched here. A few glances there. A short fling was all we could manage. Work was all consuming. I knew she deserves so much more than just a few shots. There was so much to be discovered. I will come back. I know that for fact. Cote d’Azur made me promise. It was an easy one to make. Suffice to say Nice is not a taste easily forgotten or a promise made to be broken. She is after all a girl and a very beautiful one at that…

The day Air France lost my Life

An online system designed to drive you nuts!

The carousel went round and round. It was empty. I was alone. Where is it? I asked myself for the thousandth time. The carousel finally comes to a grinding stop. No bag in sight. My heart sinks. It can’t be. The guard beckons me to the baggage counter. I can’t believe my luck… My bag is gone. I am lost.

 

No sir. Your bag is not lost. It is just late. Just call that number and they will tell you where it is. She made it sound so easy. Easy for her. Her life was not packed in a suitcase. A suitcase misplaced and probably feeling as lonely I am.

 

I called the number. It answered. She was an interactive voice system. Apparently she spoke only Arabic. English? She continued in Arabic! Click. I hung up. Now, I am in trouble…

 

5 days passed and I hit F5 again. For non-geeks, F5 is the refresh button for the Internet Explorer. It is usually located along the first line of buttons on your keyboard. Somewhere in the middle. For the past few days, I have come to know this button intimately….

 

The luggage claim status page stares back at me. Still tracing reads the message on screen. Where are thou my beautiful bag I wonder. My trusty tripod which my 30D pins for, my clean toothbrush and its minty flavored hubby, my freshly pressed office shirts who so lovingly hide away all my excesses? Where are you my shorts and undies who live only to protect and serve? My poor maggie mee packets always ready in 2 minutes to fight off famine on a cold day. Where are you guys? Who is holding you?!

 

Refresh! Still tracing. Refresh, refresh… Refresh! Still tracing. Son of a Camel!

 

This is unbearable. I need to speak to a human. This time I wait. She continues in French. That’s progress I think because before she only spoke Arabic. The IVR has flipped to another language. I wait a while longer with my fingers crossed. Toes as well. “Please wait a moment while we transfer your call to a call center”. What!? She speaks English now! No way…

 

Yes way! “Good evening Sir, how can we help you?”. “Well my bag is lost and here is my reference number” I stammer away. Finally a warm body to speak to. Someone with blood cursing through his veins as opposed to current. Silence. I am praying he is NOT hitting the same refresh button as  I am. “Is your name Vijaiiii sir?”. That’s right, my name is Vijay. That is with a Y at the end.

 

“Yes sir. Mr. Vijaiiiii, your bag is here with us.” I was smiling. Some people say you can hear a smile on the phone. I hope he heard mine. “You mean I can come and collect it now?” I was shouting but I didn’t care. “As you wish sir”. I felt like kissing him but only just controlled myself! I squeaked out a thank you instead.

 

The feeling of being adrift faded. My bag is found and along with it, my life…

Heaven on Earth

Paradise central...

Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take you,
To Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama…

Hard to believe but the Beach Boys really did stumble upon heaven on earth. They tried to tell everyone. It is right there in their song.

Apr 5, 12.00 AM: Welcome to hell!
Cramped, stuffy and claustrophobic.

13 hours flight puctuated with a 9 hours standby giving way to another 7 hours of slow and painful torture. Staying still is my weakness. I almost ran out of the plane when it touched down. Of course it didn’t end there. Immigration kept me in for 2 hours. My vacation cover story didn’t fly. It was getting out of hand. The shouting was scary. The threat of being deported was real. I couldn’t take it anymore. No place could be worth this pain. No place I know off.

Apr 6, 6.40 PM: Welcome to Bermuda!
The only place where the pain is worthwhile.

The island which was part of the infamous song. Talked about being overhyped. I was skeptical about this place. The hype around it is unbelivable. Like most people I have been dissapointed by hype. Stopped believing in it. Phuket and Bali compares. Therefore, I arrived a skeptic. After all, if you seen one beach, you seen them all…. Or so I thought.

Apr 6, 9.00 PM: Welcome to Coco Reef!
I have not seen it all. Not by a long shot.

Driving along the road, the ocean never leaves your sight even when you are deep inland. You can smell it. The intoxicating mix of laughter, holding hands and stunning sunsets was heavy in the air. Everywhere you look, people just broke into smiles. I thought Malaysians were friendly. Bermudians are something else. This was not about being friendly. They were genuinely happy. The morning after I found out why.

Apr 7, 7.00 AM: Welcome to heaven!
Waking up to a garden of white sand and an ocean which displays emotion in glorious shades of blue, the words to describe it all slip by me. For the first time in years, I found my language not powerful enough to capture the moment. It came out all jumbled. I stopped trying. Instead, I just lay back and let it all slide. This was no hype.

The Beach Boys used Bermuda to rock the world. There was a reason to it. They sang about heaven on earth. They sang about Bermuda.

The Angel of Kolkata

When you pray for an angel...

We often pray for angels but when they are among us, we just can’t seem to see them. Mother Teresa was an angel. Yes, she was a mortal. She was tiny. She had no divine powers like the Gods of old. However, she had incredible spirit. Kind, giving and caring. She set right so many lives that it is a wonder why we still look skywards for angels.

Arriving at her former house, I imagine a mansion worthy of her reputation. I expected big! But true to her nature, her abode was a simple affair. Material wealth had no place in this temple. Walking into her residence, you are enveloped by this blanket of peace. What was odd was the feeling of selflessness that comes with that peace. By nature, I am as selfish as the next rat in our never ending race. Fortune, fame and reputation are parts of a life where respect is accorded to the type of suit you tailor. But in the mother’s house, the pillars that held my selfish life together crumbled. I was initially alarmed as I felt adrift. Lost in contemplation. But instead of breaking apart, I felt immense support. It was strange and unnerving. Looking around, I realized that I was not the only one. Other visitors seem to feel it too. Many cried. Some fidgeted. A few huddled in hushed whispers. Most were just quiet… Soaking it all up. Figuring it out. I came away dissatisfied and disturbed.

It took me a while to unravel it. I recognize what it was now. What I felt was charity. It was the influence from a nobler cause than mine. A selfless love emanating from a powerful will to help people. It left me confused with difficult questions to answer about my own life.

Looking back now, I know what happened. I had a brush with an angel. I just refused to see her.

Blue Doors and White Walls

Designed to make you knock.

And there was another one. The whole place is full of them. Doors. Blue. Intricately crafted. Sturdy, bolted and blue. Why blue? That was the question. It was like going into another dimension. A realm where even zebras have blue stripes. Blue doors painted on white walls. Blue windows drilled into white bricks. Blue gates connecting white fences. Why blue?

Looking around you could almost believe that once a long time ago, a house owner with an obsession for the sky did the unthinkable. He painted his whole house in blue. Unknown to him while he slept, the white clouds above conspired. Jealous of the homage paid to their blue father, they gathered their immense strength and poured over the blue house. Such was the torrent, the blue was completely washed away. Except, for the door. Unlike the smooth walls, the wooden door absorbed the color and stayed loyal to its master design. Thus the first blue on white house was born.

When the neighbors woke up, they could not take their eyes off the white house with the daring blue door. Never have they seen something so simple and yet so artistic. Even before the sky obsessed man woke up, all the houses along his street were repainted with white walls and blue doors. Thus it begun. Before the season turned, all the houses in the town were repainted with white walls and blue doors.

Now, if you find yourself on endless streets filled with blue doors and matching white walls, do not be alarmed. There is only one place in the world where you can be. Welcome to Sidi Bou Said. A child of Tunisia and a tribute to the Mediterranean sky above.

Capital of India’s Intellectuals

Chaotic, confusing and tumultuous.

I usually like to imagine the cities I have been to as ladies. Each a woman with sensuous appeal that attracts and repels but eventually entangles your heart. Not Kolkata however. Calling it a woman will be like calling Margaret Thatcher sexy. Kolkata is anything but a woman. It is a brawler. A shark which will eat you alive without blinking an eyelid. Rough, tough and harsh. You will do well to stay clear of its temper. Blending in will be the only way to stay alive. Admittedly, it will be difficult for anyone born in a color other than a shade of brown.

Of course, that wasn’t a problem for me. With Indian blood cursing through my veins albeit 2 generations diluted, I was as local as you can get. The shark that is Kolkata never knew I was there. I paved the streets and sat in its taxis without rousing any attention. That was until I opened my mouth. Because in my accent, lay the seeds that blew my camouflage. The shark smelled blood and there was no escape. Swim as I may, Kolkata takes no prisoners. I was eaten.

I found myself in a belly full of confusion and chaos. There I contemplated my demise. With clarity only Buddhist monks in Tibet experience, one distinctive thought bubbled to the surface. Look at this mess screamed my mind. I looked. And found it beautiful…

She is a woman after all.