Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Wild on!!

Barely turned from the Indian Ocean into the Southern Ocean, and a dream comes true! The weather's indeed getting rough! With wind speeds soaring, I finally saw for myself that which I had been told, but had found difficult to believe: waves breaking so hard that they send spray over the helideck!!Went creeping around the super structure somewhat before dawn to see everything wet, the water on the helideck giving it a silvery sheen in the moonlight. And then, I felt more than saw a huge mist engulf the forward most part of the ship! I made my way down to the fo'csle deck and was heading for the usual cut out in the hull when I was stunned into freezing on my feet by a massive massive wave thrashing against and through the very space I was heading towards!! First time I've been given such a scare since I thought I was about to get run over by a car, when I was 10 :|. So I went up to the bridge instead, seemed like the only relatively safe place to be watching this fury from.
By this time the horizon was beginning to lighten up, unfortunately, I didn't have my cam with me, and common sense indicates you do not disturb your roommate during his hours off duty (yes I'm sharing my cabin :(). So having been mesmerised by waves that not only came above the height of the helideck, but on occasion even sprayed the windows of the bridge, I decided I'll go back after shift. When I did, I was promptly rewarded by one so high that it left the window looking like this :D!! (To figure out exactly how high up the bridge is, just look at the pic of the Trident I'd put up in the last post :D.)And the best part is, this is not even the worst!!! \:D/\:D/ This trip down to the Bass Strait is supposed to last another full four days, and I'm anticipating more spectacular dawns, which have nothing to do with the sun :D.

Feeling: ecstatic!!
Listening to: Vertical Horizon - You're a god

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The long way down to the ocean.

So Bangkok wasn't the only interesting thing this crew-change. Back in Perth, there was a ticket waiting for me to the Circus Oz!! That's right, and I think the last time I'd been to one had to be when I was around 5 or something :). It was great fun, though there were no animals :-<. Had to wake up early the next morning 'cos of a 7 am flight. Or so we thought. Found out at the airport that the flight was at 1 pm, and someone had neglected to mention this to us /:). Waiting for a cab to land up so we could head back, we watched the sky light up and the lights go out... Had a totally awesome breakfast of pancakes :D. Then of course it was back to the airport again and off to Geraldton. The Trident was alongside at the docks looking great is it's bright new paint :).And finally we were off again. With my sleep cycles completely screwed up over the last few days I ended up crashing directly after shift yesterday, something I have never done before. Ended up waking up too early :P. But it was nice, went out to the helideck (well actually, just poked my head out onto the helideck from the deck below :P) and watched the shimmering lights away on the port side. We were skirting quite close to land on our way down south along the west cast and have now turned past the southern tip of Western Australia, heading for the Bass Strait.

Adding to the spectacularly clear view of the Milky Way and a large low reddish moon, were a couple of lighthouses I managed to see, with their powerful beams sweeping by, regular as clockwork. And the distant but mighty flashes of lightning straight ahead. The weather promises to get rough :).

Currently: sleepy :)
Listening to: Massive Attack - Teardrop

Friday, 23 February 2007

Different strokes

This is going to be one of those 'written in pen on paper' things :). I did finish reading The Inheritance of Loss while still in Bangkok. I also started reading The Alchemist. However, three people from different continents conspired to keep me occupied for a significant enough length of time to allow me to ponder a while on one before plunging into the other.

I did get the rather strong feeling when I'd started with TIoL that you need a bit of space to allow for the difference in the worlds that each narrative conjures. To not put too fine a point on this, it took me a little bit of time to form some sort of opinion of Desai's book. To be honest, I did not like it entirely. I can't say I disliked it outright, but there were too many doubts. A little too much disclosed a little too early at times, a tad too little brought to light in the end at times.

In the end, to me, it did not tell a story. Instead, it dug into the soft earth of ordinary life in extraordinary times, and brought the wriggling, cringing worms unwillingly into the light. I was about to go into 'worms of...' when I caught myself getting a bit too grandiose :). Maybe it's the altitude of 37,000 ft.

So I started with Coelho in the airport, despite being advised by two of the aforementioned three people to begin with The Curious Incident... instead. And it was over dinner at Burger King's:|. I digress here to note that, tempted by a money changer who agreed to change ridiculously small amounts of currency, I asked for some Thai coins so I could add to my collection. I got some 5 new ones:D. The 100 Baht note I got along with the 38 Baht in coins (for $5, AU) was hardly enough for half a Whopper, unfortunately, so I had to repeat the transaction. Now Thai currency, especially coins, hardly have anything on them except Thai, so I actually had to ask the girl at the counter...This is taking a bit too long.

Getting back to books, the reason I did pick up The Alchemist was the thought that it might prove to be an interesting contrast. I finished reading it a little while back, before we crossed Jakarta. Most of the cabin seems to be asleep, and even I usually try to coax a few scattered, disturbed hours of sleep at this time. But I chose to bring out The Curious Incident... from the overhead locker instead. Then, before I started, had to get up again to get the notebook and pen I now keep with me.Bubbles of thought effervescing (not very unlike Disprin dissolving in water) is a difficult thing to manage, unless dealt with thoroughly.Why I cannot sleep in an aircraft cabin even though I could manage to do so with supreme ease on train rides, short or long, I am yet to figure out.

It struck me with considerable force, that Coelho, by stripping life to the bare fundamentals has made it fantastic, unreal. As with the other book of his that I've read, there is a strong preachy essence that I can tell, some might abhor. Desai, on the contrary, heaps on the layers and skins and wraps of reality, buries the simple idyllic world in a mudslide of everything human that is dark. (But isn't that what we do?)

Or is it that I am so afraid of hope (cynical, despite all my protests, or maybe afraid, cowering from the responsibilities that hope brings in it's wake)? I squirm at the one that shows me my own life too clearly, thought I calmly live it each day and night. And I am engrossed in the one that shows what could have (and maybe still can, =)) hope is a resilient thing) be mine, but one I will never reach out for in a million years...

On to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time then. I thought I actually recognised the voice of the kid reciting on the site I had linked. Brought all sorts of bright sunny images in my head out of the blue.

Currently: insomniac
Listening to: Radiohead - Karma police

Disclaimer: All contents generated in a rarefied atmosphere, fuelled by misdirected soul-searching and severe lack of sleep. I do not claim any of it to make any sense whatsoever, or to have any basis in any kind/version/reflection of truth or reality!

Lucky me!

Finally! :D I'm in Suvarnabhumi International, Bangkok, and I've managed to find a use for the USB Wi-Fi device I bought way back in November!!! That's right, it actually works, and so I've happily kicked off my long stopover with a post \:D/. (I'm so totally a slave to this ain't I? :P) Unfortunately, with no plug point in sight, I'll have to give it up soon, but still!! :D

Well, that's not quite the entire point of this post. So I was early at Kolkata international today, as usual. But this time it was 'cos dad was dropping me off, and he had to leave that early for work. Mum's driving licence has expired, so she couldn't drive me to the airport, and I was simply feeling too lazy to go get a cab :P. So I am sitting there, minding my own business, when I notice this security chap with an INSAS assault rifle slung over his shoulder. Nothing out of the ordinary, but then I notice the magazine, and it's actually see-through!! Got me wondering, in an actual combat situation, do you really want your opposition to know in case you're about to run out of bullets? Or maybe the said opposition would be too engrossed in the barrel to look past it till the magazine and notice the deficit...

I actually have something nice to say about the CCU immigration people this time! Chap actually took the trouble to fit in the stamp nicely in between a couple of big black Aussie stamps :D. Was sitting behind a very irritating chap in the flight to Bangkok, kept pestering the air-hostesses every chance he got. Managed to irritate one so bad she spilt most of the contents of a bottle of wine right on top of the chap next to me! Poor woman, you could tell this just wasn't her best day.

Anyway, I'd managed to finish a better part of Inheritance of Loss while waiting for my mum or grandpa at various parking lots over the last week so I did take another book in my backpack, the copy of The Alchemist I'd bought God knows when and never read. But I'm almost done with TIoL, and just now, while browsing in the bookshop, I came upon a book I've been looking for off and on for a while, but have never managed to find before: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time! And promptly bought it :|. (Oh, and please, please go to the link!! Found it by accident, and has to be the best page for a book I've seen, yet!) Let's see how much longer Coelho has to wait to be read...

Currently: very kicked with the Wi-Fi :D
Listening to: Oasis - Little by little

40 mins later: Found a socket!! And what's more, one of my adaptors works!! \:D/

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Anger management

I'm not the short tempered kind of person. Well, most of the time. But it's a very good thing I'm leaving tomorrow. One more drive through the city, one more retarded cab driver forcing his way in front of me with millimetres to spare, one more harebrained rickshaw driver cutting insanely through the traffic oblivious to the fact that there are in fact other vehicles who are using the road as well... or any of the many many insanities that Kolkata traffic throws your way every other microsecond, and I would have seriously lost it! (And I'm not even counting the potholes.) In my defence, a whopping 500+ kms of in-city driving in under 2 weeks is just too much! It strips you of sanity, tiny scratch by tiny scratch, till eventually your temper's like this sore fuming red swollen mass waiting for the least bit of provocation to just explode!! And of course when you're chauffeuring your mum and grandpa, giving vent to the constant stream of choice and colourful and sometimes rather ingenious expletives that suggest themselves to you is hardly an option :-<.

Right, now that that's out of the system :). I have yet another one-stop flight down to Perth. In fact till a couple of days back, I had two! (One-stop flights down to Perth, that is.) But the better option eventually got cancelled 'cos one of the flights refused to let me in from the wait list. So now I'm looking at a seven hour stopover in Bangkok, and memories of my fateful Dubai stopover are painfully resurfacing :(. Good thing is, I will get to spend a full day at Perth and then crew-change out of Geraldton harbour, instead of the usual chopper rides. Yep, those I've managed to get over. At least to the extent that I appreciate the occasional departure from the routine. And as far as I know, we'll be landing up for a nice long cruise down to the Bass Strait (at least about a week \:D/).

Also, I'm finally leaving behind my L1. The only time I've ever been on a flight before without it was the first time I flew, to KL in June '05 :).

Feeling: tired :-<
Listening to: Vertical Horizon - Finding me

Monday, 19 February 2007

Na naah naaah na naah na na

The thing to remember about Marwari weddings: if you land up on the actual wedding day wearing a kurta, be prepared to feel very out of place. (That's only for guys by the way, women can wear pretty much anything and get away with it.) It's probably a good thing when absolutely no one knows you though, land up, watch presents being handed over, eat, leave >:).

Yeah, another one of those community things where I feel out of place even without the 'outstanding' attire :-<. And of course no non-veg food :(. My Bong heart (stomach actually) cries out at the injustice, a wedding reception, and not even the slightest hint of the good stuff, tsk tsk. When it comes to us and food, if you are invited, beware, you will be fed no matter what! Upset stomach? No problem, we'll give you stuff to make you feel right, and then overfeed you :D. Never thought that of all people my mom would resort to such tactics though!! She's usually unnaturally sensible when it comes to food. Or maybe I was just too stubborn :|.

Feeling: cheated :(
Listening to: Jack Johnson - Fall line

Friday, 16 February 2007


Yes, that would be the Bengali version of your local marketplace. I realized today that I really love Bong market places. The overcrowded, but not jam-packed, busy, buzzing, suburban morning market place with vegetable and fruit sellers with their sheets spread out on what would have been the sidewalk in another country. There were even some with flowers spread out this morning.

The thing that really distinguishes Bengali bajaar's from any other for me is the fact that this is the only kind where I know for sure I can understand everything that is being said :). Growing up like I did in Asansol, almost on the border with (then) Bihar and with more than half the population actually non-Bengali, I actually pretty much caught on to Hindi quite early 'cos you had to know at least some to get around. (Couldn't speak it too well tho :P.) But in Kolkata, especially a suburb as far up north and away from the city proper as DumDum, you don't even need to know Hindi, much.

I think since I got to Mumbai, and to a greater extent while flitting in and out of KL and Oslo (oh and Japan!!) I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that a lot of the conversation in the background will remain indecipherable. But in these parts, everyone more or less gives the entire world and their aunt (plagiarism acknowledged :P) the implicit right to know every detail of their lives. I mean every one can hear everyone from like a mile away! And it's good fun to be walking along, tuning in and out from one bizarre crazy conversation onto the next...

Okay, so after having scared the crap out of myself by coming up with the above draft earlier, (I was pretty sure I hated all kinds of markets!! Though that might have something to do with my non-existent bargaining/haggling skills.) I ended up taking a trip down to Howrah. And there are some major qualifications to the above mentioned bajaar scenario. It has to be small enough so that no one living more than maybe half a kilometre away would bother to land up! Anything any bigger is a mess! I mean just take a look at central Kolkata! I hate that place!!

Anyway, what was good was the fact that I was on a teena bus. Usually I'm the one cursing and swearing from one of the tiny cars trying to get past the super slow load of junk that would royally stop in the middle of the road to drop off passengers, leaving a long line of drivers fuming on it's tail :P. Also, there's the sense of security, given that you're actually in the bus instead of anywhere in it's path. Till the driver bakes so hard you almost fall out of your seat that is.

Then of course the train I was waiting for got delayed by an hour and a half. And of course Howrah station provides no information on delayed trains. You just wait. So I ended up walking by the Wheeler's store a few times before picking up the book I've been avoiding for a while, just because of the title. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Does no one else feel just a teeny bit scared when they pick up a book called that? Now I hope it takes a while for the respective authors to come up with the last of the Inheritance and Game World trilogies :P.

Feeling: guilty :-S
Listening to: Norah Jones - Shoot the moon

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Life. . .

... is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away. No, I didn't just come up with that. Some Hollywood scriptwriter did, a few years back. But if you think about it, well actually, if I think about it, going by the above principle my life will end up being a hell of a lot of 'something like it' and a teeny bit of 'life'. So, grudgingly, I drag down the bar for the amount of breath that needs to get knocked out of me to officially define the moment as breath-taking. Then I notice a few things one might call the small joys of life, or maybe not.

1. It's been raining more or less all day. (Yes it is winter, but this is also Kolkata. It rains in winter, in summer and of course during the monsoons as well. Yay.)

2. Largely thanks to (1), it's gotten markedly colder, justifying to a minuscule extent the season being called winter.

3. I was watching Constantine today, and was reminded of a conversation with a friend, what seems like a long time back. About angels. I was adamant on being Gabriel and she on being Ariel. Came upon this link, and realized it was one I'd found the last time as well!

4. I've taken to listening to one album on repeat all day. Actually it was the full album at the start of the day, now it's down to four songs. And thus I discover my latest infatuation: Vertical Horizon.

Here in the light
It burns you up inside
Here in the shell of a sun
We echo on

Too much listening
Not enough living

And you say
What did... I say
What did... you say
We just
Go away
Go away
Go away

ps. 5. I can still kill mosquitoes the way I could six years back :D.

Feeling: numb-ish
Listening to: Vertical Horizon - You say

Sunday, 11 February 2007

An old obsession.

I've probably just had the busiest weekend at home in over five years :D. It was one of those things that I'd almost forgotten about myself, the fact that I happen to collect coins. Well, not quite forgotten, more like pushed it to the back of my mind and buried it under tons of other things/people/secrets/places/thoughts for so long that it's barely a conscious thing any more.

But a fifteen year old habit dies hard, so I automatically set aside any coin that looks even vaguely unfamiliar. And I still flip every coin I handle to check if it's a commemorative piece :P. But I have never actually done a comprehensive inventory of all my coins. And I can't even remember when was the last time I organised them in any proper way. So that's what I set out to do Friday night, and it's only now that I've finally finished! Turns out I have a little over a hundred different (non-Indian) coins from 31 countries, two of which have since ceased to exist. I actually have coins from every continent except South America (now I'm really dying for that Colombian job :-<). And of course, for the nth time I realised that Google and Wiki together combine the entire wisdom of the universe in the most accessible package possible :D. Thing is, I'd not gone through my coins in such a long time that I ended up staring at a few coins with no markings on them in any script that I understand, with absolutely no idea what countries they were from! In the bargain, I actually managed to figure out how to read Arabic numerals!! :D (And I still remember what 1, 2, 3, 5 and 0 look like!! :P) Trying to figure out how to organize my Indian coins was the more fun thing though! Especially with coins dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria (which looks exactly like the pic above, except that mine is dated 1897) and every British monarch since then, except Edward VIII, but then no coins were minted during his reign anyway. The history of Indian coinage is like a wilderness! But while trying to pick my way through it, I was back in a different time and place :). A time of summer holidays and homework left undone. A place were winters were spent under mountains of quilts and blankets...

Feeling: accomplished :D
Listening to: Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Is it any wonder

Friday, 9 February 2007

Winter blossom

It's a strange winter here. The cold isn't that cold at all. But as if to compensate, there's a heavy gloom. A fog like none I've seen before seems to be hell bent on holding the world at ransom. At 10 in the morning, the sun has still not managed to shine through, and if it has, there's merely a pale disc through the swirling white.
It's through this that I had to make my way to my grandpa's a couple of days back. The garden was blooming with all sorts of colours, but the occasion was sombre. It was all going well enough, till a sudden thunder shower chose to have some fun, and collapsed the roof of the temporary dining hall. It was quite impressive actually! The force of the water cracked one of the tables in half! Thankfully, this was before anyone actually sat down to eat.

Now I'm back home after another very foggy couple of hundred kms this morning. Looking forward to a very lazy week and a half or so :). Given my last 6 day stay here, it actually feels like I've been running around since October :-<.

Currently: sleepy :)
Listening to: Radiohead - Punchdrunk lovesick singalong

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Home sweet home

Things you begin to notice in airports and aircraft. Things you begin to notice after the whole novelty thing has worn off, and you aren't on high alert every time you pass through a security check. After you've gotten to the point where you could probably sleep-walk through any airport 'cos you have realised that they are, in fact, all the same. Like the fact that more faces on the album covers in the CD store look familiar 'cos you've seen them in some Idol/Rockstar hunt thing on TV. That more titles in the bookstore fiction racks have the word sex in them than a year back. That the chairs in the waiting area have been re-arranged.

I was on a two-flight plan back home after ages, and the Quantas one out of Perth was delayed by an hour and a half. Why? Because it took them 90 minutes to realise that they couldn't fix the in-flight entertainment system. So some people missed their connections, my changeover time in Singapore dropped to well under an hour (leaving absolutely no time for my customary mail-check at Changi :-<). And still no movies or music on a five hour flight. Thank God for my iPod and my book. At least things were working on the next flight and I quite enjoyed A Good Year! I love movies where everything works out like clockwork. It helps if it's funny.

Other things you begin to notice are how the eye colours and accents melt from one to another as you go hopping from one airport to another. (Skin/hair colours and languages should be obvious the very first time you travel :|.) And how the babble in the cabin gets louder every step you take towards BOM/CCU etc. And of course how procedures in airports get more and more time consuming. Till you get to Kolkata international and you get the distinct urge to nuke the place. Maybe then they'll work a little bit quicker.

After a few years or so you make your way out of the terminal and get dragged to a 'taxi'. Then a chap with obviously no right to have a licence for a bicycle (had there been such a thing) much less for a motor vehicle, takes you for a fun ride back home. On the way you watch helplessly as several people, dogs, cows, have near death experiences. And then of course the toothy smile that informs you that the change you are waiting for, you're never gonna get.

Currently: tired
Listening to: Jack Johnson - Dreams be dreams

Sunday, 4 February 2007

The Rottnest adventure!

A slightly delayed account of what was arguably the best day's outing in the recent past! (I know I keep saying that, but this has just been such an awesome, awesome time at Perth :D.) Right so this is Saturday, and with my brand new IXUS in tow, we went for a day's trip to Rottnest Island. It's a fairly large island, about 11 kms long and 4.5 kms across at the widest. What was forecast to be a boiling hot day turned to be somewhat milder, thanks to the brilliant sea breeze! As soon as we got to the island, we hired a couple of bikes and set off! The sky was clear, and the views were stunning! And I took this chance to try and get some stitched up panoramas! They're not perfect, but still pretty awesome :D.Somewhat at the centre of the island, at it's highest point, stands the Wadjemup Lighthouse. This, as far as I know, is one of the very few lighthouses that are open to the public, while in actual operation! We had to book a tour with a guide of course. (They were hardly going to allow us to run amok with the massive reflector floating around on the bed of Mercury and what not :P.) The ride to the lighthouse took quite a while! But once we got used to them, the axle braking bikes were pretty cool! Okay, so these do not have lever operated rear brakes, instead, you pedal backwards to apply brakes on the rear wheel! Caused a few scares, given my habit of freewheeling backwards while going downhill, but I managed to get over it :D.The top of the lighthouse was a really long way up (38m doesn't sound like too much, but it is, believe me), and while the views all around were really something, I could just not help wondering what it would feel like in case some unfortunate soul decided to take a plunge. Without base-jumping equipment that is.While cycling around the island we also came up on a rather interesting life form on the island, the Quokka. It looks rather like a tiny, fat kangaroo :D. I was quite surprised to realise that unlike most wild animals, these were not afraid of people at all! In fact, rather than shy away from us, a few of them came right up and peered curiously as we clicked furiously away.From the lighthouse we'd spied these awesome looking beaches, so afterwards we went biking around, looking for them. Pictures of perfection, sparkling blue and pure white dazzling in the sun. One of the things that rather surprised me though was the way a lot of the trees looked. Wind-slapped is probably the best description I can come up with :D.Once back at the settlement around the jetty, and with some time left, we went looking for the other lighthouse on the island, the Bathurst Lighthouse! This one wasn't as tall, or grand, neither was it open to the public, but this was the third one we'd been to in the day (the first one being the South Mole at Fremantle), and my lighthouse crazy flatmate was absolutely in heaven :D.Eventually we made our way back and settled for some very late lunch. Here we were once again entertained by some intrepid 'wild'life! The white bird had been eyeing my bag (or my sandwich) for some time, when this peacock came by to give us a closer look :D. Having had some not-so-nice experiences with peacocks as a kid, I was a bit apprehensive, but we survived :D.

At the end of the day we were pretty tired, but it was a nice kind of tired. Nodding off on the ferry on the way back, woken up by the splashing of the waves hitting the window, the sky still bright blue. And tomorrow I'm off, home for almost three weeks!!!

Feeling: almost perfectly happy :)
Listening to: Moby - Sunday (the day before my birthday)

More Rottnest pics here.

O M G!!

Anyone who has not yet seen The Departed, please go watch it!!! Went and watched it today, on a complete whim, and left the theatre totally blown away!! Scorsese is god, as are a whole bunch of those people who've acted in it. Especially Leo DeCaprio and Jack Nicholson. And so loved the soundtrack!! Wondering how I can lay my hands on it!! Anyone else got totally totally hooked on that piece playing in the 'get them off my tail' scene?!! I do understand if you have no idea what I'm talking about :D.

Currently: in awe!!
Listening to: Moby - Running

Saturday, 3 February 2007

The inevitable

I knew I would do it sometime, but I never seemed to be getting around to it... Eventually it took missed opportunities at the Australia Day fireworks and the aquarium visit, and today's planned trip to Rottnest Island for me to finally go get a successor to my much used, much abused, and very much loved Sony Cyber-shot DSC - L1. I did overshoot my target of 3500 clicks for retiring it, and I have to admit, I could not have asked for a better first camera :). But eventually the 3x optical, the tiny memory card that forced me to dump pics every chance I got, the absence of a stitch assist, and most importantly, the damage incurred during the small boat trip a few months ago all added up to a big enough reason.

The successor that I finally settled on to replace my L1 is the Canon IXUS 850IS. And critical as I am of an able substitute, since last night, it's shown promise. It helps of course, that it's actually smaller than the L1 in two dimensions which is no mean feat, manages to pack a 3.8x wide angle Canon lens system (with OIS), and is not that much heavier, and hence still fits in nicely in my pocket :). And yes, it's good to have two cams around so I don't have to resort to mirrors to get a decent picture of either :P.

Feeling: ecstatic (having just discovered the true powers of the stitch assist)
Listening to: Jack Johnson - Traffic in the sky