Smokin Travel

OK, the first thing you think when you consider a job travelling is, "Cool, I can get paid for full time, and most of it is just driving around or flying on a plane!" WRONG. Unfortunately, the first thing your boss thinks is, "Hey, my employee doesn't have anything better to do, I can just pile the work on, and make him work 168 hours a week (169 if travelling across a time zone)." Also, flying is a royal pain so dont let anyone tell you otherwise.

I think the terrorists' love the hijacks of planes and stuff, their greatest success is the millions of hours wasted every year by upgraded security, etc, at world airports. Add it up, I bet that the cost rebuilding the twin towers has nothing on millions of people spending hours in line hoping they're not the one getting the #*#* probe.

Next, hotels; If you have any say in the matter, try to stay in Sheraton affiliated hotels. The rooms, Suites, are comfortable and I wish they they could somehow merge personalized stuff all into one. As it is, Comfort suites have great bathrooms, but the lazy boy/ massage chairs are most awesome, The other good part is most of them won't let you smoke in them, and you have to light up ciggy in the hot muggy weather outside the main gates or in your hired car!

Talking about rented cars- they too now are all paranoid about taking it back to the rental place and having them smell it, so you just spray the hell out of it with air freshener; then you think that the guys at the rental place do this all the time, so they know what it means when a car comes in reeking of fake banana air freshener, so they'll get onto you about it, and charge you/company for you smoking in their car, then your boss calls you up and asks what this was all about, because he knows you don't smoke cigarettes, so you have to make up some story about picking up a friend and she lit up in the car, but your boss turns out to be a pentecostal preacher and insists that you don't do that in the future, or at least have her smoke in the hotel room where they charge you less, but you can't do that because the whole hotel will know you're smoking because you smell that stuff two states over, so now you're just messed up!

Dont let this whining get to you, its one of those whine days!


Travel & laptop!

Ah, the laptop. When you don't travel, a laptop is a status symbol, a neat toy to show off your position in the corporate hierarchy; Once you start travelling, you curse the day the damn things were ever invented. You just can't win; The three factors that are most important to you, low price, low weight, and large screen size, are mutually exclusive. Generally, low cost and large screen size win out, unless you're either rich or have much better eyes than I do, so you wind up lugging around an 5kg "phone book," which, after you add to it the charger, digital camera, paperwork (always in your laptop case), etc, you are carrying around 15kgs of trash, then you show up at the appointed office for your mtg, and it's the wrong gate to that office! You have to wind back 2kms around the large boundary wall, with this "heavy weight" hanging off your shoulder, trying to not get run over by VIPs riding around in those stupid cars. Add to this the uncomfortable hotel chairs,and your back is screwed, while you're hunched over the desk, trying to sit up so your back doesn't twinge and knock over your glass and spill it on this black beauty laptop keyborad with the litlte tiny keys, and you cant' type on the damn thing nomore! AARRGHH!


Travelling can be weird sometimes

I've gotten to a lot of far-away places I'd probably never have visited on my own (Russia, Cambodia, Lebanon) which is cool.
As for the wierd part, most of the time we just work ourselves silly, from morning to very late at night, sleep, and start over again.
On one particular trip we managed to get everything done early in the day, and had nothing to do by evening! So there I was with 2 colleagues trying to figure out how to entertain ourselves. The wierd part was that even though we spent countless hours together working, we had no idea how to socalize together. It was wierd, we were like junior high school kids "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you wanna do?":-)


Mistakes we make when travelling on work

Paper problems - Many of us, forget to keep adequate photocopies of important documents such as passport, or hotel booking confirmations while travelling. Some of these documents are important to validate your bookings or claims, lest your bags or originals get misplaced.

Burying it deep - We either are completely reckless about our documents or are extra cautious. I find that people dump their passports, etc, right at the bottom of the hand baggage fearing that it will get stolen. And then they have to dig through all that mess to pull it out at the immigration desk - now, how many times have you yourself witnessed this?!

Not confirming - Many rely heavily on agents or subordinates and assume that details like transport, etc, will be taken care of. Hence do not carry telephone numbers of the contact in that city, or detailed directions to the meeting place or hotel , not checking transport schedules or confirming meeting details before leaving can cause trouble

Flight trouble - Many arrive late for check-ins and end up with middle seats which are uncomfortable. Sometimes they even miss the flight

Forgetting essentials - Forgetting to carry enough business cards, and laptops and cell phone chargers or plug pin adaptors is a very common mistake people

Cheap thrills - People generally tend to go in for the cheapest hotel deals, airfare, packages... everything. Cheap deals usually offer substandard service, one can actually land up spending more in irritation and distance and time

Not tagging your luggage - These days luggage and other travel accessories have the same designs the world over, this can be very confusing. "On one of my trips I took off with someone else's bag that had the same initials, look and feel as mine. I realised this only after reaching the hotel, due to which I was late for a very important dinner meeting. Since then my luggage always has a ribbon on the handle and my business card in the tag

Carrying too much - Many people carry more baggage than they are able to handle. This does not allow you to roam around freely in immigration and security. Also they fail to confirm with the airlines about baggage restriction - Many people want to carry laptops, handbag and their blazers all at the same time... relax and keep your cabin luggage light

Roaming reckless - Many people forget to carry their credit cards. Even if they do, they carry only one, which may not work due to some reason. Some international credit cards require that you call up the bank and activate the roaming feature, failing to do which your card will not work in another country, people also forget to check if the card is valid and has enough credit left before setting out.

Homework not done - Inadequate research about office timings, holidays and weather conditions in your destination will leave you high and dry. Also not knowing about how much you will need to spend, and if your bank has branches and ATM networks in the place you are heading to, will leave you without money in a strange country or area. Travelling is a skill you need to perfect, especially if your job requires it. The more you travel, the better you'll get at it. Till then, PLAN your work trips better.


Architecture Thrives

I found myself narrating to a friend that I was most fascinated with the structures of buildings in America- and this friend said to me- anybody who is caught seen looking up in NYC is a tourist!J And I thought it would have been a camera that would be a dead giveaway!J

Well its true, I was fascinated with the architecture in NYC! I mean wow! Such fabulous looking unique from each other in design, buildings! Awesome

I discovered New York is home to the world’s first tall commercial buildings and has a heritage of skyscraper history like no other city.

Since the occupied Dutch days of America – the city of New York has not lost the aggressive, business-like spirit they planted there.

Tall, creative, unique, inspirational, wow are some words that I used oft when in NYC, looking up skywards, completely in admiration

Architecture Thrives -NYC

I found myself narrating to a friend that I was most fascinated with the structures of buildings in America- and this friend said to me- anybody who is caught seen looking up in NYC is a tourist!J And I thought it would have been a camera that would be a dead giveaway!J

Well its true, I was fascinated with the architecture in NYC! I mean wow! Such fabulous looking unique from each other in design, buildings! Awesome

I discovered New York is home to the world’s first tall commercial buildings and has a heritage of skyscraper history like no other city.

Since the occupied Dutch days of America – the city of New York has not lost the aggressive, business-like spirit they planted there.

Tall, creative, unique, inspirational, wow are some words that I used oft when in NYC, looking up skywards, completely in admiration


Call home from the other side of the world

Every morning I would wake – to tiny sun rays creeping through the windows, I would leave a wee little space open between the sheers and the heavy curtains – for a bit of light to streak into my room, so that I could wake up to Bombay evenings while in New York morning!

And surely the sun would wake me, then the cheery sound of my familys voice who would enquire most diligently as to how I was doing, my heart would be crying being away from them, my mouth would be telling them stories of everyday NY!

And thus would start my day in the bustling city of New York


Midtown Manhattan

An enviable address indeed!

The core of Midtown Manhattan is referred to as The Plaza district where I was staying while in NY. It is the most expensive real estate from a commercial perspective

Timesquare the epicenter of theatre culture , Fifth avenue, Hudson river, Central Park, Columbus circle, Diamond district, East river, MoMA, Carniege Hall, Times Warner center, Madison Square garden, Trump tower, Bloomigdales , Saks , Macys, Tiffany, Broadway, 34th and 42nd streets, Empire State Building, Rockefellar Building- phew I am out of breath- Midtown is THE place to be in!

Amidst this plush world there also exist Flea markets – these, once upon a time were a source of local color, There are so many of them now, that any sense of novelty is gone, and they create clogged streets and unbearable traffic. The worst part, however, is that they are uniformly bland. Though the five boroughs are filled with an incredible diversity of businesses and artists, the overwhelming majority of street markets seem to have the same few items for sale, such as tube socks, LP’s, old broken cupboards, knockoff purses and gyros

Amidst bustle: call it noise or call it energy, NY streets always flow with people in a rush, shoppers with their trolley bags – a concept I have seen only in NY: as if ready to catch the next flight! People are always shopping, eating or window gazing in this magnificent city.


Dinner in New York

Its early yet but its now close to 40+ hours without sleep and my god I want to now have a shuteye! And I honestly wanted some home food, tender care and a good bed to sleep in!

So our limo driver kindly drove us to a place, which converts to, a street full of bars and lounges by night and this far in the evening it was still quiet n peaceful. The same street at night is crawling with youth, music, beer, and much noise fun and laughter

Our limo driver took us to a Indian restaurant which looked more like an Irani dukkan minus the pav, and the white eggs on the counter of the shop owner! This shop had a giant fridge with all beverages and a open style buffet

The food looked Indian all right but tasted- not IndianL I was very disappointed as good food is my way to eventually fall asleep, well, anyway, had food, and moved back to the hotel.

The lobby of the hotel looked even more tinier, the corridors dark n a bit suspect, I snooped and looked around my room very carefully before I turned the locks on and almost wanted to get out n go back into the crowds for lack of me feeling safe here!

No sleep! So TV it was! Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Hollywood’s perfect men, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and more of the same- and at some point my eyes slowly started turning down and I distinctly remember seeing the clock just above the TV- 3 am! Definitely time to sleep!


Sweet Victoria’s Secret

I had the badly needed shower upon checking into the hotel room and was ready to fall asleep - imagine no sleep for over 30hours now! But boy I wasn’t going to let sleep come in the way of seeing this famed city, no ways! There would be time to sleep at night!

I struggled to keep awake, resented the doorbell and the TV sounds breaking the numbness setting in my brain after the shower. Almost napped away over a cuppa coffee - for lack of sleep!

It was 5 pm now and time to get ready to hit the streets – my first day in New York!
So after much debate with the ‘to-do’ list decided to drive around and stop somewhere not too noisy and nice! That’s an oxymoron if you know what I mean! Nothing in Manhattan is not noisy, its like an organized “aamchi Mumbai” – honest! The difference being sexy cars on the roads there, nicely maintained yellow cabs, people who maintained some respect for the law, lots of pavements to walk for pedestrians, hugely tall buildings that aimed to touch the sky, lots of food places, much haute couture too, lots of glitz yes!

And lo behold where do I make a stop ultimately? Victoria Secret- my first shopping stop! I keep reminding myself as I walk slowly checking all- from its interiors, to its beauty products to lingerie to everything that I need to go slow and not go berserk! Tough task I assure you! I wanted to buy everything! I had assured Anika that no beauty stuff for me from VS- but hey was she to know if I bought it?! J I was seriously totally awed by the huge size of this plush store, it stocked just about everything I wanted! I was a lot poorer when I came away from the store! And the lady at the cash counter wanted my email address and postal address because I had shopped so much I should have been a loyalty customer! But alas – I had to break her heart and tell her I live in India ( do you know where it is?), I dont live in the Big Apple. And for the time I was in USofA I got called by many nationalities but never and Indian- its probably my colour. Infact once a friend jokingly asked me if mum had an affair with a westerner ( because of the way I am) and I repeated that to my mum who was not amused then. So, coming back to ViSecret, between you and me for all the days I was there I went back again and again to VS I think about 4 times, Loyal and definitely poor now!

Arrival In New York

Gazing out of the limo into the streets of New York, what struck me instantaneously was how little of the sky one gets to see in NYC! But quickly that thought was pushed aside to seek the action – and I promise you there is a lot there!

Upon reaching the hotel which was booked for us, the tiny cramped lobby had receptionists who probably were not having their best day then – one of them very matter of fact-ly informed us that check-in was at 3 pm and that they cannot give us a room any earlier!

We decided to get our “to - do” list out and said, Best Buy - here I come! Within close distance we found a Best Buy, which Julian (a friend), had suggested for me to check out.

Did you know that Best Buy is a Fortune 100 company and the largest retailer in of consumer electronics in USA? Audio , cameras, music, movies, camcorders, games, toy, home appliances, software, phones…the list is endless!

Best Buy’s concept of customer centricity really works at minute details- it configures its stores to serve the needs of the particular customer segments that predominate in the area of that store, to a service, where you can pre book appointments to have a service attendant devoted completely to you. Best Buy building exteriors are usually light brown with the entrance in an area designed to look like a blue box emerging from the rest of the structure.

Definitely a must visit for anybody looking to buy any of the above in the USA , by now my legs and tummy both were talking to me – tme for a shower first for the weary traveller, then some food and rest before the evening beckoned us for more action soon! Found our way back to this strangely compact hotel and a hot shower was the need of the hour!

Landing in Newark Liberty International Airport

3 terminals, huge Continental parking bay with tens and tens of planes lined up, for either take off or service, I figured it was a large hub for Continental!

A hot bright warm day with the sun glistening off the tarmac and making me realize it’s just as bad as Bombay, this heat! What was I expected I chided myself.

In 2006 this airport handled 36million passengers! Newark is the 10th busiest airport in the United States, the 5th busiest international one, second being JFK.

Here’s an interesting story I was told by somebody at the bar- United Airlines Flight was ready to take off from gate A17 at 8:01 am, on its way from Newark to San Francisco International Airport on Sept 11, 2001

Two hours later it would crash into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
when passengers took over the plane from a team of hijackers. Based on the direction that the plane was flying at the time and information gathered afterwards, most observers believe that the hijackers intended to crash the plane into a target in Washington DC, In memory of this event, the airport's name was changed from Newark International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport. This name was chosen over the initial proposal, Liberty International Airport at Newark, and refers to the landmark Statue of Liberty, just 7 miles east of the airport. Despite the name change few locals call it by its new name. The name most often used by locals is "Newark Airport" or simply "Newark".

I found myself out of the terminal , sitting in the cab very robotically , mesmerized by the thought that - Hello! I was in America! In the cab I sat seeking the tall buildings of New York! - It took me a while to get there from New Jersey!:-)


Air route to New York City

Yes I was excited, this was to be my first ever visit to the States, and boy was I like a 4 yr old so happy with her candy!

I have traveled the world and nowhere in my travels have I had to go thru such scans. First the passport, then the ticket get scanned, then one goes to the boarding counter and gets a boarding card but not before they scan the passport all over again

Immigration has to scan and then the airplane people scan again- they should write somewhere "happy scanning, happy journey"!

Anyway, once I crossed all the metal detectors and the physical handling and the computers and the security- I was in my seat in the plane- looking around , absorbing all details- after all I was to be onboard nearly 17hrs!

I settled into my seat, worked the remotes and realized I had a in built massager in the seat that became a bed when you want it to be one. It had doors that could be pulled out and I could be seated in my private jet to NYC

I figured our domestic airlines are doing a good job flying international waters now- the comfort of home is splendid when in a plane you can understand their English, know the food, and know you will not be served non veg guised as veg when you ask for veg:-)

We took off on time, did a short stop in Brussels and landed on time in Newark. I saw 5 movies, some in fast forward mode- all trashy - don’t know which was worst from the other! Very sad choice of movies indeed. Jet should improve its library of movies most certainly!

The food was de-li-cious. The service was excellent, the lounges were comfortable, the plane ride was smooth n beautiful

Newark was barren, big and had a HUGE parking bay- omg our airport looks very sad in comparison - this airport had some 8 vertical and 4 horizontal runway strips if not more! Planes were taking off with efficiencies of every minute! And landing fairly close too.

And now into immigration and collection of bags. Did the immigration rote and was out to baggage claim, they screened bags to see if I was carrying any alien with me, heard cheery "how r ya's , and gawked at the signboard that read - baggage trolley US$3 ! Nope- I trolleyed my bag out without it

And the smooth journey continued - we were met by a friendly cab driver who was waiting for us patiently, he got his car around and we were whisked to Manhattan from New Jersey whr Newark airport is.

I was feeling my eyes hurt with lack of sleep, but my mind would not allow it to shut or rest as it was soaking in with great amount of determination the sights and sounds of the Big apple!

NYC here I am:-)

First trip to the States

I am like a little child all wonderous and excited about USA. At lunch we discuss the States, at home I discuss what to buy with my family who patiently allow me to talk till I am tired, and even with clients I am asking where to go, what to buy, where to eat, what to see ...non stop barrage of questions and plans keep brewing in my mind

I am a travel weary person who suddenly finds herself so looking forward to NYC. The Big apple- here I come.

So many of my friends travel to USA so often , I have yet to see somebody not happy when travelling there:-)

Why? I wonder dreamily- but I dont want to know the answer yet- I want to discover for myself when I get there


Jet from Delhi to Bombay

I travel a lot inside India and this was my 4th week, consecutive travel, from Delhi to Bombay. In Bombay it was raining and Delhi was boiling hot! Bombay doesn’t allow me time to step out, beyond meetings and Delhi I had to squeeze time out of meetings to catch some fried food that added more calories to me, in Bombay the roads frustrate me, in Delhi the roads are heavenly to drive on, Bombay despite the madness there is some sense and sensibility that prevails, in Delhi - the heat drives all sense and sensibility out of a human being!

I am, what they call, a frequent flier with Jet Airways in India- a platinum card holder- so I assume that comes with some benefits- but what do you know - the benefits don’t encompass food. I typically am a small but picky eater, who looks for food that is different and beckoning.

This time returning back from Delhi to Bombay- I honestly was working myself into eating dinner onboard- and I saw the menu- the same menu for the last 4 weeks! Now I don’t repeat the same food at home over any 2 days in a fortnight, so how could I deal with the same menu for the 4th week in this plane? Just the sight and look of the food was enough to put me off to sleep. But the hunger pangs grew and I stirred myself to wakefulness and saw a trolley being prepared with desserts, and I said to myself well...lets have this.

What do you know- the airhostess served all passengers in my row and ignored me. I felt very cheated and debated in my head- should I get angry and demand my right, should I tick her off, should I do this...or that- and finally shamelessly when a steward was passing by I asked for some bread pudding which he graciously got for me. One spoon of it and I was ready to throw up- really bad stuff, that. I repented having given way to Satan! I should have continued sleeping and should have been patient circling over Bombay 21st in the landing queue- and let the hunger be.

Did someone say a Delhi meeting again?


Destination, Distinction or disarray?

The Visa process has been bothersome for me, and the worldview was divided- "but it isn’t", "but it is"! And the opinions flew rapidly all around me with experts opining their knowledge on the visa procedures!

I firstly could not put the application form together immediately! Why? I had no idea where my education certificates were! I have never needed to show them as proof to anybody! My sister kindly volunteered to look for them and moved heaven n earth to find those papers- voila! Finally
I was equipped to apply with all armoury, Bless her!

The application was filled by the travel agent, I cursorily glanced through it, not really reading anything- and autographed it with a flourish, in my mind I was saying, “America, here I come”! And the form was submitted to the the US Embassy

Can anybody be so wrong as I was! That one mistake of not looking through all details had me anxious n stressed n agonized n...for ever! The information regarding my name, my address, my job details was so wrong! Who had filled this form? My travel agent. Who had signed this form? Mee! So who was to be blamed here for these mistakes - definitely Mee, because I didn’t take the pain to pour over it!

My interview was now about 12 hours away, and the Travel agent goes online and corrects the mistakes, and submits it all over again!

Morning dawns, I take a printout of the final submitted form, and bravely quell all the nervous ticks and frustration by outwardly expressing calm and being my normal self, I head to the Visa application office, from there get into a rickety, dirty, smelly, sweaty, tin trap called a bus that takes me to the consulate where I get a token and wait for my turn to be interviewed

Now all that angst n anxiety yday and day before and the day before – all of it has created a nervous churn in my tummy and I do my utmost to take my attention away from my nervousness by concentrating on the fellow Indians who are all patiently waiting their turn, some look grim, some nervous, the kids chirp normal and the parents look furtively around. All this stress for what, I ask! Too bad I will not get the Visa- their loss not mine I said bravely to myself. That’s when my nervousness’ stopped n calm returned, My name was called out, I went and cheerfully told them about the award and my trip for the 2 questions that were asked by a perfectly pleasant American lady, and I was outta there! Done! I still dont have a clue if I have got the visa or not, I will only know that when my passport eventually reaches me.

So what was the agony about, I ask myself? I think it all, now boils down to my burning desire, to see the USA- I have been all over the world even to some remote, less traveled paths abroad- but USA has always eluded me- as a client , Starbucks left before they came to India, Mary Kay is here but has an Indian managing the affairs, so what were my chances of getting to the States. You might ask why did I so badly wanted to go there? I am not sure...!

America's marketing of itself has been too effective I think. Schoolchildren can recite its claims to democracy, liberty and equal opportunity as readily as they can associate McDonald's with family fun and Nike with athletic prowess.

On the other hand - much anger too is directed at the U.S. it stems from a belief--voiced as readily in Argentina as in France, in India as in Saudi Arabia--that the U.S. already demands far too much "consistency and discipline" from other nations; that beneath its stated commitment to democracy and sovereignty, it is deeply intolerant of deviations from the economic model known as the "the Washington Consensus."

To my mind the strongest "brand attribute," that shines for the States is its embrace of diversity. Like Bush argued, "in a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife."

Not sure if I wanted to close this with a Bushism, but as it turns out , it does capture it for me!

India to England with dadagiri?

Dada has always been my favorite player, and I was happy to see him help us win yday. So if he did do a little dadagiri, it got him and the country some badly needed joy. His spell as captain of India may have been overshadowed towards the end of his tenure by a series of rows with then-coach Greg Chappell but Ganguly's self-confident approach, and refusal to be intimidated by opponents, helped stiffen the resolve of the team as a whole.

Dada's reputation enhanced as a 'golden arm', capable of taking important wickets.
First he had Matt Prior stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and then had danger-man Ian Bell well caught by Dhoni.

India cut England’s lead to 3-2 now! England’s hopes of sealing the series dented definitely , till the next play. It will be nice going to London now.

A Journey, with back to the wall

The frustration of losing the last match, particularly after having England on the mat at 114 for 7, weighs heavy on the mind

I honestly had given up on cricket after the World Cup debacle - but Jim (who is now back home in London), with his sms’s and mails never let me forget that he was enjoying the match at Old Trafford! While I, was grinding my teeth. Then Howard (who also is from London) started saying o me how well England was doing! That was enough of a red flag for me to go back to watching cricket, and the stupid optimism was back, in a team which is so badly looking to find form!

If they don’t go into the game tomorrow with a positive attitude, they can come back home and resign the series to England!

Are we capable of winning, are we capable of turning on the heat, will we fix the No. 3 position soon enough...make me almost, not want to, watch the journey of India’s cricket team today at Headingley!


By lane to main road

Weekend dawns and it is a sign of reducing the throttle and speed of life and cruising the slope on neutral

So with much difficulty I roused myself from laziness and moved outdoors to run errands for home - weekend is all about home isn’t it.

Slid into my swanky clean just washed car and it purred awake with a light touch and we were ready to meet tar now. On my way out from the car park to the lane outside the building, we were in gear 1 and doing just fine, many walkers who took to this lane did so for lack of pavements and rainwater puddles in which one could swim!

Making way, staying away from the cab driver mentality of honking incessantly, I made my way to the main road. All well thus far.

Managing to weave my way from pesty auto rickshaws and the black n yellows who could happily bump into cars with no loss to them, I was well into the main highway now and cruising in 5th gear with much rain pelting the windscreen – the feeling was “ no , not again, I don’t want streets clogging n flooding again’, and for a brief second a good positive feeling too crossed my brain- the rains actually cleanses and makes Bombay look better than reality, the sky looks large and expansive and BKC looks deserted and wide open.

The radio belted top Bollywood songs and I was now driving on auto on the highway - many steps ahead in my mind,already at the laundry and at Patel’s wanting to be done with the chores.

And Bam! A Dumper rammed into a Honda Civic right next to my lane and cars behind screeched, honked in anger for being rudely stopped midtrack. The Dumper driver jumped out and ran for his dear life, and the crestfallen car driver’s door had jammed because of the terrible crush, the damage to front bender and the door, was much, from where I could see. Of course many fine words flew in the air and pandemonium had swung the mood into total alert. I sat there in the car for well over 30mins, the best picture that describes this situation is with my mob camera, and, finally the cops arrived, the roads opened up once again and I was on my way all over again- the rain harder now.


Malaysia bytes

I have been to Malaysia before many years ago and last week I was there again. It is a wonderfully clean, organized, buzzing with action city- Kuala Lumpur.

What strikes most, is after a half a century of stability and development, Malaysia has transformed a poor disjointed nation into an economic success story.

It is celebrating its independence day and this anniversary has prompted some soul-searching about Malaysia's widening racial and religious divide.

Islam has taken a more conservative and assertive form, with Sharia courts challenging the country's secular constitution. The large Indian and Chinese minorities are becoming increasingly angry about a much-abused quota system that restricts their access to education and jobs.

If you put this aside and view the nation from a rank outsider i.e. Mee's perspective, it has a lot of culture that jumps at you ever so nicely, lovely mosques when lit at night beckon you with the tranquility, their architecture almost hypnotizing you into flashback mode, an ever polite people who always were courteous and smiling.

The night markets and streets are abuzz with activity, there are night diners spoilt for choice, but a vegetarian like me may have a wee bit of trouble finding home like food, I was lucky enough to find a couple of Indian restaurants which became my regular adda for dinner at least.

You name the brand - big , small, boutique, limited edition- all of it is available in KL - this city is a shoppers paradise.

What touched me most about the city KL was its honesty- I lost my Blackberry and Laptop and 2 separate days and both days I found them back and my relief was palpable . the only other city that I can think of in this space- where nobody ever returns lost goods is Goa where my holiday- money laden wallet was returned to me after being lost! So I am eternally grateful to KL and its people who are so honest- it has left an indelible expression on my mind.