Sunday, July 14, 2013

310 days on the run. 3000 Points to ponder. 36,000 feet up in the air.

In February 2010, I was in a cold leather seat in Satyam Cinemas, Chennai as I sat mesmerised by the world of Ryan Bingham. Who is this Ryan Bingham you say? He was a high flying specialist, on a mission that spanned the Length and breadth of the Stars and Stripes nation. A corporate downsizer, he lived the motto of 'What's in Your Backpack?'. That movie defined the world of a travelling professional to me. Living out of a quickly packed suitcase, quick reflex movements as you clear airport security and the plastic, oh the love for plastic. That was what I wanted to be.

Life interestingly gives you things in ways you don't expect. Oh, I'm not a Jet Set professional chalking up frequent flier miles as if they were bonus stars in a Nintendo game as I headed off to save the princess. Nor am I swiping plastic at every nook and corner buying Omega or Seville Row. Yet, in the last 10 months, starting from the 7th of September 2012, I have managed to live in five different cities/towns/villages, packed and unpacked a dozen times, met a million new people (made new interesting friends) taken every mode of transport known to man(Except a bullock cart perhaps) and slept in buses/friend's couches/in the comfort of home as well, all in the pursuit of that one elusive thing. What is that thing you may ask. 'I'm not exactly sure' would be the appropriate answer most of the time. 'I'm looking for a career opportunity' would be vaguely accurate, but not completely to the point.

I sit in the relative comforts of a jet turbine powered aluminium can, 36,000ft up in the air, Anoushka Shankar playing the role of invisible companion. I ask myself these questions as I head home, from another home 3000km away. What now? What I'm looking for is probably an answer. Obvious right? Are you sure? It's an answer to numerous questions that themselves are not sure what they should be asking, so how can you be sure that is what I'm looking for? Not sure of what to say? Yeah, I thought so.

To your right is an emergency exit. Please pull the cover open and then release the lever to open the hatch. Please keep the pathway clear at all times. The Silken Maiden in Green looked at me till I feigned understanding, then gave a quick smile and left, her orange tresses wavering. Where did that breeze come from just as she walked away gently caressing her hair? Inside a pressurised can that too. The instructions pre-flight come to mind as I spot the hatch by my side. I wonder if she'll disapprove if I did a mock drill while in mid air. Suppose she secretly did want me to. To end it all. Maybe that's why they're called Sirens. I look around, a pot belly deep in slumber. The hatch sounds more enticing. Another aisle down, a cherub is asleep cutely and comfortably. But perhaps, it's in everyone's best interests if I left the hatch alone. 

Another Orange Silken maiden strolls past, curious as to why I'm staring at the Smokey bowtie that lights up now and then in the sky above. The visual still remains a bit of a blur, but I'd have to guess tresses was not the Orange Maiden's thing. Back to that middling cursor that keeps blinking on screen. Nope, still no answer to those questions. The detour into Luka's view of the world did not help. Note to self. Consult Calvin's doctor before the black bag that I've comfortably had sat in the seat next to me and even buckled up during take-off starts talking to me. Just a second, he wants a blanket. Hmm, I might be a tad too late on the doctor front.

Oh well, enough pondering. Enough of your pseudo intellect and supposed knack for untold fiction. The Overlord called. He wants his contraption back. So, It's time to put the seatbacks upright and the trays back into position. it's time to land back to reality. And just to put the reader at ease then about my mental abilities, so, who am I and what should I be doing? Well all I know for now is, I am Aswin, and I shall just continue living the life I'm meant to live.

P.S. PFA a copy of my resume. Please review my profile and advise on any suitable vacancies that you may be hiring for. If you're not a part of the Human Resources team, please refer me to a suitable Human resource person. Your help is most appreciated.

P.P.S PFA-Please Find Attached - Tech Jargon is a necessity to enter the world of management. Or so they say....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Dream of Perfection

The Great Gatsby. The only thing on my mind after the movie, at home as I write this is, Lana Del Ray, the mist and a green light in the distance. 

A period movie set in the Jazz Age acording to Fitzgerald, it has this elegant combination of Old world charm vis-a-vis the settings and a modern era twist in term of music. This combination is a killer. It has dubstep party beats mixed to Jazz elements and... right, I'll stop here about the music. Credit to Jay Z and the various artists though.

If you've read the novel, you know what you're in for. A cinematic adaptation of what is probably one of your most favourite novels. Now wake up. The movie will never be as good as you expect it to be. Leonardo will be more understated than you expect and may not play the 'passionate, naive and in his own ideal world' Jay Gatsby as well as you want him to. This will definitely disappoint those ladies who go in expecting to come out in tears. But for the record, Jay did get some from the female fan base when I was in the theatre. Tears I mean. ;)

But walk in like me, a person who has heard of The Great Gastby but is as clueless as a, err clueless person can be about it, and you will come out overwhelmed. The movie tugs to your emotions as you hear, see and get to learn bit by bit, a little more about the Mysterious Jay. You know there is a deep dangerous past coming, you can see it in his eyes and when it does, boy does it take you away bit by bit of course. Like I mentioned earlier, Lana Del Ray definitely has something do to with it too. 'Young and beautiful' left my earlobes spent and wanting more. Again and again. 

The thing about this movie is that, they could have gone on and shown more of the 20's; Extravagant dancing, partying, wall street et all were there, but the director could have drooled on and on, romanticising the Era. But he didn't. They made it crisp and more about the characters, With DiCaprio's outwardly happy, hospitable but inwardly romanticising Jay, Carey's Daisy and even Tobey as Nick. Fitzgerald would probably have beeen proud of this piece of work. Gatsby's idea of perfection, his undevoted love and his dream/ambition of making the future can unnerve you. A little shiver down your spine as you wonder whether your orgastic future will be that.

Walk in. Get enchanted by Jay Gatsby.

Come out. Riveted by The Great Gatsby.

Oh, and what do I do when I'm depresssed?
I write.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upon Thames.....

The hunt for the neverending source of wealth resumes as I shift to glorious London in pursuit of a career. While I camp here, I've decided to revive my blog with some bits and pieces about the mini trips I make out here. To assist with that I've got two trusty assistants. First is my well known canon sx20is. The new addition is the Vertigo Rockface bicycle that I just bought second hand. At 35 quid it was a simple no brainer deal for a year old set of wheels. So keep watching this space for more!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Cocktail

You know how some movies just make so much sense, have perfect storylines and engage the audience to such an extent that they feel like they are part of the story as well? 

Well, this just isn't one of them. It had me almost bored in the first half but I saved myself from boredom by playing 'guess the next scene' for the second half. Guess what? It was my lucky day. I should have gone gambling in fact now that I think about it. Okay, back to the movie. 

Cocktail like it's name, supposedly has a melange of characters being thrown together into a glass that's called life. About the melange of characters; well they are a varied lot alright. Deepika is hot and spunky as usual, Diana is pretty and demure and Saif, umm, is just too old. To add to that you've got the support crew of Boman Irani and Dimple Kapadi who all play their roles quite well. Roles that are not new to Indian cinema though. 

The dialogues are too cheesy despite what other critics might tell you about how some of the dialogues are straight-forward and the characters are more open in thought of mind and speech; apparently a new realm in Indian Cinema. Seriously? You can kind of figure where the script is going and well, it's just regular bollywood fanfare.

The plus side? Good music. Hot Deepika(Drool). Pretty Diana. I can't really think of anything else and if you're a girl, nope. No hot bod's for you to drool at either ladies. :P

The Final Verdict??
It's perfectly fine as a timepass movie for the multiplexes of India (which if box office collections are to go by, stand true). But if you plan to spend something in the range of 7-8 GBP or 10 USD/AUD/SGD, be warned, you better have a good group of friends to go with or have someone treating you(like in my case :P)

P.S.: The UK isn't as awesome as they portray in the movie. Seriously.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Ode to Chilver 360!

Chilver 360 thy be named, 180 odd days of you a home I made.
Free from chaos and the insanity of the world, but limiting me to the gateway of LAN and CMA World.

Yet a home away from home you gave, oblivious to which, your keys, away I gave.

I choose a path that befuddles the grey,   

 From the green expanse of the West Road view, To the mystery maze of the Mitchell rue.

No more a self-catered kitchen to raid, it shall be only a BLD parade.

From the comforts of the Ensuite showers and few,  

to the communals of Mitchell Penitentiary with like crew,

It shall for sure be a downward trade , All in the name of saving I'm afraid.

Adieu my beloved Chilver block, as I vanish into the Bermuda that is Mitchell block.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I know, I know. it's been ages! before it dies out completely, I shall post something!

Oh wait. I just did. :D

Well whatever is left of my readership, I have some good news. I shall soon post something!!! Keep watching this space as I fight boredom, crazy weather and a busy MSc course to come up with witty content for my once flourishing space on the internet!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Varmans, their sandcastles and the French Colony.

 The Kingdom of Cambodia is little known to many. Terms like Khmer Rouge, Pol pot might sound familiar to some but despite its recent violent history, this nation has so much more to offer. Angkor Wat the world famous ancient Hindu Temple is located near Siem Reap in Cambodia.  Siem Reap is a small city in the North Eastern part of Cambodia and lies north of the Tonle Sap lake; One of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia that spans over and can span up to 12, during the rainy season.

Siem Reap

There is basically only one reason that you would want to visit Siem Reap; Angkor Wat. This is the 12th century ruin of a Hindu temple built by Jeyavarman. History will tell you that the Varmans are basically descendants of the Chola Empire after their conquests in Indonesia, hence the spread of Hinduism. The area has a dozen other such ruins all built around that time period from the 9th century till the 14th century. Below is a list of the notable places and in the order that I visited them. Buy a 3 day pass at 40 USD to make the best use of time. Most of the places below can be visited with the Pass. Tonle Sap Lake and Kulen mountains have separate entry charges.

Day 0 -- (5PM to 7PM)
01 Phom Bakeng(45 mins) - Sunset

Day 1 -- (9 A.M. to 8 P.M.)
01 Preah Khan(1 hour)
02 Neak Pean (15 mins)
03 Ta Som (1 hour)
04 East Mebon( 30 mins)
05 Pre Rup (30 mins)
06 Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan (30 mins)
07 Tonle Sap Lake(3 hours)

Day 2  --  (5 A.M. to 4 P.M.)
01 Angkor wat sunrise
02 Angkor Wat after breakfast(1.5 hours)
03 Angkor Thom (1.5 hours)
04 Ta Prohm (30 mins)
05 Thomannom (30 mins)
06 Chau Say Tevoda (30 mins)
07 Ta Keo (30 mins)

Day 3 -- (9 A.M. – 3 P.M.)
01.Banteay Srei (45 mins)
02 Kulen mountain (1 hour)
03 Banteay Samre (30 mins)
04 Roluos Group (30 mins)

* I’ve mentioned the time that was spent at each place beside it. These are rough figures and include time spent on taking pictures. Does not include travel time.

On day 1 we returned after nightfall as we saw the sunset from the lake. It’s a massive expanse of water and I imagine the sun set would have been spectacular. But dismal weather and the fact that we went during the end of the dry season meant that it was cloudy and the water was murky. The fishing village at the lake is an interesting place to visit. Imagine finding schools, shops, and even a restaurant all on water. Scenes of people cooking and living on water are a sight to see. There isn't much to say about the temples at Siem Reap actually. They are all similar and run down in many cases but magnificent in their architecture and the workmanship. Numerous restorations projects are on-going in an attempt to bring the temples back to their former glory. One thing that will definitely engulf you is that these majestic landmarks were all constructed centuries ago when there was no access to the modern construction technologies that we have today. Be prepared to do some heavy duty climbing if you want to see all the temples. They are worth the climb too. The sunsets and sun rises were much talked about, but we were rather disappointed on those counts. Blame the clouds for that.  Most of the places are a stone’s throw away from each other so getting around is quite easy. Some are really small and just require a quick walk around while some can be quite extensive. For example, this region was supposedly home to almost One Million people during the peak of the reign, so you can imagine the vastness of the area. On days 2 and 3 we returned back to the city by 3-4 in the afternoon. But of course we skipped breaking for lunch and survived on packed food so as to stay on the road continuously. A Lunch break would have definitely extended the itinerary well up to 5PM on both those days.

The town of Siem Reap is busy at night as all the tourists flock in. Pub Street is lined with restaurants and bars to unwind. The layout and architecture of the city is very quaint and has a European feel to it, if you ignore the weather that is. It’s a good place to go shopping and relax as well.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a bustling city but does not have much in store for the tourist. It is a great place for shopping as you can get great deals at the Russian markets and central market. Clothes and accessories are damn cheap but you have to haggle really hard. As a rule always start bargaining at 30 percent of the price they quote and finish at 50 percent. By the looks of it, I’d say they make a reasonable profit with that price too, but by our standards it’s a bargain anyway. But if you’re the kind that likes a good bargaining session where the other party gives up all hope in life, by all means, this will be your orgasmic zone!  One ‘to visit’ place is the killing fields south of Phnom Penh. A sad memory of a horrific past, this will open your eyes to a lot of historical events of the 1970’s and 80’s. In addition important attractions would include the Palace and National Museum. There apparently is another Museum at S21 but we decided we had had our fix of visiting sites of death and decided to skip it.

Getting around

Getting around anywhere in Cambodia is relatively easy. You just flag down one of the contraptions known as a Tuk tuk. These are basically motorbikes that have carriage trailers fitted. Rates start at 1 USD but given the size of the cities like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, you can pretty much get around with that 1 dollar. Full day charges vary from 18 to 25 dollars. Be prepared to haggle though. Moving from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh or anywhere around the country is reasonably easy too. There are numerous bus services that charge around 10 USD per person. If you have a group of 4 or 5, you can hire a car. That would cost around 50- 60USD in total and cut your travel time by an hour or two. I find Cambodians to be a very friendly lot. The people we met at Siem Reap were very polite, humble and hugely friendly. Most people can understand English if at least vaguely and reply in jumbled words. You will have to speak a little slowly though :P.

Money matters

The most interesting part about this country is that everything is quoted in USD. You can forget about going to the moneychanger for Cambodian Riel. Even if you did, be prepared to do some serious counting because the exchange rate is 4000 Cambodian Riel to 1 USD. Yep, no typo there! Everyone deals with USD and if the amount to be dealt with goes below a dollar, out come the 1000/2000/500 Riel notes. One advantage; no heavy currency to lug around.

Eating out in Cambodia

You may be surprised to hear this, but we found it rather easy to pick out vegetarian restaurants in Siem Reap. If you are vegetarian, the places that you should check out are Chamkar, Chusska and Peace Café. Chamkar is a Cambodian style vegetarian restaurant run by a French guy Very unique menu of traditional Cambodian fare. You will find this place located in an alleyway off Pub Street. Chusska is a vegetarian restaurant run by a Pakistani but it serves pretty good South Asian fare. Located near Pub Street as well. Peace Café on the other hand is across the river and away from the busy night crowds and hence exudes an atmosphere similar to Atmos(Coimbatore) or Amethyst(Chennai). Their menu focuses on all things vegetable and has a nice choice of vegetable based juices and snacks. But their food menu is good too. I will put up a separate post on all the restaurants on my ‘dying’ restaurant blog :D. For the foodie who loves good food along with a good drink, Siem Reap is no longer a temple town when dawn falls. It’s a night out haven.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same about Phnom Penh. It’s a larger city and hence one has to travel further. There are lots of Indian restaurants but I spent my dinner at the Pizza Company and came out completely satisfied. Thanks to the generous toppings unlike Pizza Hut in India.

To Wear

I would advise a good pair of sports shoes for the walking and climbing part. Sandals would be good too. Light clothes are best so you will a lot of shorts, short skirts and sun dresses being worn. Most people travel light and buy cheap clothes there.  That is a pretty good idea I’d say. Phnom Penh is a more regular city so seem less touristy, regular casual wear there is good. Again all that can be bought there at really good prices too. I picked up Jeans/pants for 15-20USD and Polo/Round Neck Tees for 4-5 USD. Buy ONLY bottled water. Keep lots of water handy because the sun tends to have an affinity for roasted people.

Tipping is not generally expected in Cambodia, but is most definitely appreciated. One guy looked like he might fall at my feet any moment and that just goes to signify how humble and friendly these folk are. For more info on Cambodia, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, well Google it. :P Or be nice to me and give me a call. For more detailed pictures watch my Facebook photos space. Coming Soon. :D