Friday, June 11, 2010

A tryst with Nature's beauty.

June 5th 2010

Oman was witness to Cyclone Peth...People did panic because it was reminiscent of the Gonu cyclone of 2007 which devastated Oman . All super markets had empty shelves. Fortunately I had stocked enough food for the week on Wednesday evening as is my usual weekly routine.

I didn’t move my ass from my home for over 48 hours. I spent time trying out new dishes from chicken korma to fish fry to dum alu and feasted with friends who had come over to spend time with me.

As a country Oman is not designed to tackle heavy rains. Its drainage system and provision for rain water exit is so poor that even a short downpour can flood the city in a matter of minutes.. Muscat is a city developed or born between mountains on its three sides and the sea on the other side with lot of wadis. Wadi is a dried up river bed found in the mountain valleys . Wadis come into their own after heavy rains, when the rivers start running again during rain. The Gulf of Oman is in the north of Muscat city and the western Al Hajar Mountains run through the northern coastline of the city. It will look like Muscat city rests between mountains and sea .This stretch of land offers a panoramic view only if one is adventurous enough to climb any of the mountains. This is not usually done unless it’s by trekkers or nature explorers.

I have climbed these mountains thrice to view the beauty of the city I live in. Basically the archeologists say, Muscat is a city that was formed when the sea receded. These mountains are not like the mountains you see in India . These are different, more porous like the rocks of the sea. One can see the same kind of dry barren mountains if one travels beyond Rishikesh or further above towards Mansarovar. I haven’t done that journey yet but have seen them through the photographs captured by my father when he climbed Mount Kailash last year. Many mountains have layers that are formed out of sea currents. The mountains also looks like formed from volcanic lava. It also resembles the mountains that are formed when two continental plates collide. When rain hits (which is rare and once in a blue moon) Muscat gets flooded.

I was witness to Cyclone Peth for the last three days and I had the opportunity to glimpse a wonderful feast of nature. Rains in Muscat look strange. I have seen rains here many times, not rain as such but more like a sudden shower that happens less than a minute or two. This time it was rare as rains were continuous. The climate in Oman was beautifully pleasant. It was not like the 2007 Gonu cyclone that created havoc in Oman. At the same time it was not a mere brief drizzle that does occur once in a blue moon. We had mild rain for 48 hours and was wonderful to watch it. It brought back to me nostalgic feelings of the rainy season of Madras .

On the third day today the clouds are still grey and overcast and to me they seem like a woman who is having mood swings. The sun seems like the cloud's lover as if unsure if he should come out while his lover still showing an attitude like a woman in her “PMS”. The romantic hues to this rain immediately made me long for my woman besides me, just to enjoy this climate together, touching each other and making each other warm under the blanket. A hot tea with biscuits or a plate of “chilli bhajji’ as our snack would have made the moment complete for me. And we would watch the rain gently fall down through the window. I should have made ‘chilli bajji’ Nothing like a plate of piping hot “chilli bajji” and a cup of tea in the rains but of course if it was along with a woman the whole experience would have been sublime.

These rain filled moments that I have enjoyed have been a rare feast of nature. The mountain of Oman had all reason to be happy. He had a special visitor this season-his lover, his erratic and transient lover. The lover who he rarely gets to meet-the clouds. Normally clouds hover over most mountains across the earth-either snow or water bearing clouds. The mountains of Oman do not have such dark clouds hovering over them. It is rare when one sees dark clouds over the mountain tops, like a graceful lover descending down to communicate with her strong lover. Like a lover who makes a brief visit to make passionate love for a short span of time. No permanent union, just a beautiful moment to be cherished for that time and for the years to come, or maybe never ever again in the future, by both of them.

He welcoming and waiting, she moody and playing "hard toget’ playing a ‘wooing game; with her lover. Finally their feelings overwhelm them and like lost lovers meeting after many moons, they unite in a passionate and fulfilling union. He meets her once in a blue moon but that doesn’t matter. When they meet, their union is such that it is memorable and passionate and spent in mindfulness of each other. The clouds then go back to where they came from gently wafting away, unwilling to part from their lover. They live the rest of their lives in the memories of those moments. Those moments when they met, communicated and created beauty in Earth through rains. No one can underestimate the strength of a mountain or the gentle yet firm resilience of the cloud.

The dark clouds had cleared the sky by the end of the day. They have now gone back to where they belong and the mountains in Oman are looking happy, content and very beautiful. He will continue to live and wait patiently for that rare moment again when his lover deigns to visit him or he is never to meet her again. Yet he remains satisfied with what he has. So am I, satisfied after experiencing the rare and beautiful rain and pleasant weather in Muscat

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Delhi is not far away.

30th April 10

When I reached Delhi in the wee hours of the morning she was still sleeping. She hadn’t woken up from the sleep and the weather was cooler than I had expected. Thanks to the previous day's storm, weather was better that morning. The last time I had been in Delhi was in the summer of 2006. Since my growing up  in Villupuram ,a developed village 180 km south of Madras, Delhi always held a fascination for me. It is the capital and power house of India with full of show off that amuse me. My first job gave ample opportunity to travel to Delhi and every time I visited her, she made the visit memorable. Delhi became close to my heart, especially after reading the book ‘Delhi is not far away’ by Ruskin Bond. Delhi also played a significant role in the search of the unknown me as the girl I met from Delhi helped me in glimpsing the unknown me for the first time. Her relationship helped me to see myself from a different perspective and since then the quest to find the unknown me was afire. After giving life to my electronic pet (mobile) with a local contact number ‘walk while you talk’ fame, Idea, I took a stroll on the familiar roads around New Delhi railway station. India is fast changing and so is Delhi.  Every time I see her, she has something new. This time Delhi had the Metro rail system very similar to the one in Singapore. After enjoying an hour travel in Delhi Metro, I met my friend whom I was wanting to meet for years for one more ( last??) time. Meeting her and her family was a great moment of realization of how much I had mellowed and changed over the years. The journey started on a good note as meeting her gave another glimpse of unknown me in an entirely different manner and this was most essential for my growing up and finding the unknown me. She succeeded in that once again. While parting from her, my wandering feelings for her found anchor. I was not sure if there will be another occasion to meeting her.  This time I didn’t part her with a a parting words , ‘we will meet again’  that  used to be her sentiment. I left her residence as a man with no clue what lay ahead of me. Travel always holds surprises and some wise man said life is a journey. A travel.

Monday, May 31, 2010


( April 29-2010)
As it is said, every search commences with an obstacle. The same was with me. My journey began with missing the flight to Delhi, India. It definitely is a herculean task to leave pending work behind at work and taking a break seemed next to impossible for me. To add to this stress, during the late night emailing to clients, the laptop showed hints of crashing when the flight was scheduled at 10.45 am the next day. I had a fear of losing all the emails and relevant data, so I started the back-up activity at 23.00 hrs which continued till 9.20 hrs of next morning giving me a short cushion till check-in in time. As I reached the airport the check-in counter was closed forcing me to miss the flight. It was the last flight to New Delhi from Muscat during the day and the next flight was at mid night, the same day by Indian airlines which had no seats available. Option of flying next day was ruled out as the connecting train and other schedules would jeopardize the whole trip with a monetary loss as well. So I decided to secure a waiting list ticket to New Delhi in Indian Airlines and with an extra payment, managed to confirm it. Dad’s mantra of paisa pheko tamasha dheko “throw money; have fun” worked out during this time of dire need. Next, a verbal war started with Oman air to cancel the unused ticket and in the process I learnt a new rule that the return segment of the ticket cannot be used if a passenger didn’t use the outbound ( To) ticket. A new one way return ticket had to be secured before cancelling the return tickets. This unexpected change required me to post pone my check-in time with the hotel at New Delhi and re arrange the airport pick up from noon to early morning of next day. The consequence of missing the flight was to lose my precious sleep for third night in a row. The loss of money didn’t matter as much the loss of my precious sleep. What mattered the most was, I didn’t want to miss a meeting planned the next day which I had been waiting and longing for years. The meeting was my first point of glimpsing unknown me this summer. Experience of missing train is not new to me but missing a flight was. Looking back now, it was a fun experience.

Friday, May 21, 2010

In search of ‘Unknown’ self

I am not overtly religious about any particular religion that has evolved. I dont accept totally the faith and truths that religion reveals or is supposed to reveal. I am aware of the mysteries of the universe that is beyond my comprehension but that doesn’t make me worship or become a follower of that mystery. I defy forms of worship of mythological characters and icons or those men who are considered to have got the revelation or be it a formless, nameless or anything else under that category. I do not believe that it is important to worship in the name of religion and worship. However i know that there are the mysteries of the Universe that i do not understand at all although i do have awareness. I am neither an atheist nor a theist. I prefer to coexist with the greater mystery without gratifying it. I am part of the mystery and so is every one. At times, I am a mystery to myself. I call it my unknown self, one of the mysteries of the greater mystery that I simply don’t comprehend. . I realized I need to understand myself before trying to understand the greater mystery. That thought urges me to pursue the search of something about me. A search - a soul searching journey. I know I have to start the search in me but am lost as to where to start and how and been struggling with it since many years. This urge has made me undertake few journeys which I call as self soul searching journeys without getting associated with any of the known religious beliefs. Detachment from the regular way of life during these journeys to places where people go on pilgrimage helps in cleansing me of regular materialist thoughts beyond the known me to get a glimpse of the unknown me. Those glimpses make me feel I am getting closer to the revelation which many mystics attained with ease. I believe every mystic commenced his or her search
from self-knowledge before comprehending the spiritual truths that are beyond the understanding of common men.

One such journey that has helped me glimpse my unknown self has just ended-a trek to Vaishnov Devi mountain  in Jammu & Kashmir, the sensitive state of India. I was there last when I was a babe in arms of 2 year old and now I finally managed to make a journey after 30 years to trek the moutain  I was named after as  a part of a journey ,in search of unknown self.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Credit card experience from Oman

One might have read in magazines or heard from someone about credit card frauds or would have read through forwarded email about it. For a change I had a firsthand experience last week.

Yes I am the victim of credit card frauds from the land of Sindbad. Oman always gave me first time different experience and this is one of its kind. I use Visa card issued by HSBC – Oman. Infact the service was the best of all the credit card providers I experienced both in terms of good and bad. For first time I had the opportunity to understand how high tech fraud that I had only heard happening to someone whom I never knew take place.. I believed it is all exaggerated and impossible unless someone is careless or miss the card to get misused. When it happened to me I realized one need not lose a credit card to become a victim of credit card fraud. Here is my experience to be aware and to be careful.

I was out of country on vacation to India from July 17- August 25th. As I resumed duty a credit card statement awaited to welcome me with a bid broad cunning smile. On first glance it didn’t strike . Infact I casually kept the statement aside to check the payment details after lunch. After lunch everyone at work heard me going aloud in despair . When you get your eyes glued on the credit payment due as Omr 2,085 ( INR 2.75 lakh) with a penalty fee for exceeding the credit limit for a month when you never used the card, how would you expect one to react ? Believe me the fraudster used my card ( duplicate) to eat 3 times in Burger king, bought drugs thrice a day and flew from manila to another place in Philippines, repaired his car , relished wonderful dinners ( mostly with his/her partner) in flavors of china and bought a laptop too. I am sure he/she had good moments using my card details.

For a moment I did get my eyes blue and took few moments to realize that my credit card is being misused. The most weird thing to notice is, all the transaction ( around 40 ) were made in Philippines. Card was safe getting warmed up in my wallet along with me in India yet a whooping bill of OMR 2085 . Trust me, the anguish, the despair, the shock can’t be expressed. Now I have disputed with the bank on those transaction but I do know the investigation and settlement takes its own sweet time.
With my limited knowledge on high tech fraud , still wondering and struggling to comprehend how someone can duplicate a credit card to use it in Philippines while the original card is still under my possession.

This type of fraud is called ‘skimming’ or ‘white plastic fraud’. In short my card was skimmed that is the details on the magnetic strip were stolen and copied on the white plastic card. The fraudster used the card in other country and had a Christmas party.
As far as I know, as long as you had reported the matter to the bank on time and that the card was in your possession whilst it was supposedly being used elsewhere in another country where you have never visited, the bank will investigate the matter and in the meantime reverse the charges and expenses incurred on your card. In 99.9% of the cases, customer ends up getting back his money and the bank bears the loss as ‘fraud loss’.

Wanted to let people know about the fraud so one can be careful but honestly I have no clue how to be careful. May be Pay pal, prepaid credit cards are the better choice.
I believe the bank don’t charge me for these bogus transaction. Insha allah!. ( influence of living in Middle east.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Biker from Belarus

Today saw this biker, Vladimir, down my office while returning from my lunch. He was lost and was looking for some help at Harley Davidson Bike show room. He arrived the place just after it was closed for lunch. His bike is an exhibition to attract any one and it did attract me. I had to switch to the sign languages and learnt quite a good deal about him through sign language and from his album. He is deaf and dumb. I was lucky to have met him . He is a man of determination and strength that a common man lacks.

Vladimir A. Yaretsa at 64 seriously believes his personality will be by right honor in the Guinness Book of world records. Vladimir is the first deaf person to have found determination and courage and set into a round-the-world trip on a motorbike. Currently he has traveled through more than 40 countries and covered the total distance exceeding 120,000 miles and at present riding through Sultanate of Oman.

Lucky BMW bike seeing the world

A sticker on the bikes says he started his adventure on started on the 27th of May 2000, in Minsk ,Republic of Belarus. ( I checked Google to find where this country is. It was part of old USSR) . Got to admire his guts and spirit of adventure. Can't imagine an Indian going around the world in his bike or car, leaving off his warm nest. His disability to talk and hear is certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem to him.

With Oman road map. Next Destination Abu Dhabi

All the best Mr. Vladimir. Am glad I met you

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Small gesture with a difference

It was 1.30 pm and mercury was soaring like never before on a Wednesday noon . Anyone who standing under the burning sun would have had a sun stroke.

I had a meeting with an operating company Occidental just 10 km away from my office. In Muscat all settlement whether residential or commercials are clustered only on the sides of Dubai High way. All other roads are called service roads. With Gulf of Arabia on one side and sedimentary muddy mountains stretching in a circular fashion ,it seem Muscat city is in a valley. It is like a enclosed enclave with sea and mountains on its sides.

I was waiting for a taxi on one of the service road near my office in AL khuwair , one of the recently developed modern Muscat city. I felt irritated with the hot air burning my skin and nostrils. One Toyota corolla slowed down and stopped near me A Omani sitting in drivers seat dressed in traditional omani style asked me with a smile ' Where do you want to go ?'. Omanies e wear their traditional dress for all seasons. It is a pure white cotton gown covering from neck to toes that is very similar to the nighty , Indian women’s nightwear. Young Omanis do wear shiny gown in plain brown or other attractive colors in evenings. Some wear a funny turban or just the Muslim cap ( thopi) . It didn’t take me much time to realize it was not a taxi and was hesitant to even talk.

I said “ salammalakum , I am waiting for a taxi sir”
He gestured to get in and said , ‘I will drop you on the way’

I was surprised and was hesitant to get in. I asked ‘ Sir Are you running a taxi. I need to go to Gala “

Gala is the industrial estate. He smiled and said he was not a taxi driver but want to help me since am stupid to stand under the hot sun at a wrong place and at wrong time for a taxi. I really felt stupid as well as couldn’t believe someone would be so considerate to help a stranger.

He reassured that he will drop me in a place where I can get taxi easily. It was a mixed feeling. I was uncomfortable and uneasy yet was happy that someone is helping me. I did doubt his genuine concern on a stranger. After all I am an ordinary human who don’t have courage to trust even the angles.

With an half mind ,I got in and moment I engaged the seat belt he asked if I am from Madras. I was amused as mostly people refer the place by its new name ‘Chennai’ rather Madras to which I relate more easily . He gave me the initial comfort yet I was doubting his deed. I am always a devil’s advocate. He advised never to stand under the soaring sun at noon and enquired where I work and if I were new to the place. I was overwhelmed by his kind gesture and kept thanking him for being so kind and nice. He dropped me at a place which was more like a taxi stand. I showed my gratitude in a typical Japanese way by bending down and attempted to flatter him saying Omanis are warm and kind to strangers. He made a sarcastic remark “ Young man , most Omanis are nice compared to Indians here” .

I just blushed as I knew he spoke nothing but the truth. I wanted to defend my fellow Indians but before his kind gesture felt any defense would be of no use The truth is Indians do have their reservation to help their own race. You can realize it at any of the Indian consulates who are supposed to help their fellow people. Their infamous reputation presides everywhere.

His small gesture made a great impression about Oman and her people.

It is small gestures and deeds that make a great difference in world.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Unlucky Disciple

‘I don’t think he should go ‘ said my grandmother .

‘He is too small and he should not while his father is alive’, concurred Chachu patti my granny’s best friend in the village. ‘And you know it is against the norms for children to visit a funeral house.’

I said nothing. I sat on the footsteps of Mitham, a part of the long stretching traditional house. I preferred to conceal what I was thinking and kept my face straight. My Vedic guru and friend lay dead a few houses away across the street. I cribbed going to his house on any other day to learn Ruthram & Chamakam– hymns in praise of Lord Ruthra. Every day I had to sacrifice my evening play and was unhappy with my father for forcing me to take lessons in Vedic chants. He was my third teacher. But today I wanted to visit him to pay my last respect. I didn’t have classes for a week since he fell sick and was very happy to play kiti pul, a local game, in evenings after returning from school.

I was determined to visit the funeral house. Some had tried to fuss over me but had been discouraged by my silence and aloofness. The more understanding of them, my mother, kept her distance. My father who was supposed to reject the idea said no word. Guru was my late grandfather’s friend who struggled hard to make ends meet after his son moved to city. I think my father felt some closeness with him and wanted to give him a monthly pocket money in some form hence he forced me to be his only disciple in the village. He was happy to teach me and eagerly waited every evening for me. He was always seen alone on the sit out or in the temple and I enjoyed the chit chat we had after the lessons. Every evening without fail, he sat on the sit out outside his house with eyes glued on bus stand to confirm if I had returned from school. I never knew if he had any grandchildren. None visited him during summer. At times fondly he would recall the mischief he and my grandfather did during their young days as well as how mischievous my father was. It was exciting to hear the stories about my grandfather and father but I never shared it with any one at home.

As I walked with my mother to the funeral house with a curiosity and respect to see my guru’s dead body, I heard scattered words of condolences passed back and forth ‘ such a strategy!... Has his son arrived…… None realized how serious it was….’ The house was full of people. I felt that everyone who mattered in the village was present. For first time I saw his son, daughter in law and grand children. Every one stared at me and murmured as I went to a funeral house breaking the orthodox convention of the village.

His mannerisms were funny and all boys made fun of him while he came to the river for a bath. He was dark and bulky with heavy breathing like an elephant. He carried plenty of nick names but he was never annoyed when made fun with any of those. A humorous man with jokes and stories to tell was lying dead in the hall. I didn’t feel sad on the death of other two teachers. He was not just a master but a friend to me. Together we used to chant Rudram and chammakam in the temple during pooja time and at times we had bath together in river on holidays. It was he who taught me the basics of swimming. Many commented on our friendship, a friendship between an old man of 70’s and a young boy of 7 years. I stood silent beside his wife without knowing how to mourn for her loss as well as mine. She pulled me to her lap and tried to console me ‘You should not cry, your guru is with God and will be your guardian angel’. I felt she reassured herself by telling this.

Some of the able-bodied men lifted the body over the open sarcophagus and carried it to the grave yard for the final rituals. As I walked out with my mother, I heard a few women screaming violently and that scared me. It was neither a cry nor a shouting. It was violent and scaring. I didn’t know where the burial ground was located in the village and wanted to go to which my father did not agree. It was one prohibited place for children to visit. I stared from the corner of street as the small procession passing through the street silently and quickly carrying my friend and guru’s body. I was curious to know what they did in the burial ground. I knew the dead will be burnt to ashes but wanted to see how they did it. I was almost ready to sneak my way to the burial ground but was frightened by the horror stories I had heard about the grave yard.
I waited until everyone had gone, and then left to join my mother at the river for a bath. While walking back home half dried and half wet, I stared at the funeral house which remained in grave silence. I felt sadness creeping within me. I didn’t find my guru sitting in sit out calling me this time. I knew his wife will also leave the village to live with her son far away in city and may never return. It dawned on me that I wouldn’t have any more lessons from him and there would be no one to tell me the stories about my grandfather and father.

I came back home sad and sick. As I walked to the back yard to wash my legs, Chachu patti was still there telling my grandmother ‘Your grandson is unlucky. Whoever teaches him rudram attains the feet of god’. On realizing I was behind her she turned compassionate and told ‘ you are brave, don’t worry we will find you a new teacher’

‘I don’t want to learn rudram from any one any more ‘I said fiercely and ran with tears rolling down my cheeks that I had been withholding till then.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Theater plays

I saw an advertisement in the free edition of weekly news paper ‘The week’ about ‘Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra’ conducted by Patrick Bailey. I don’t know what symphony is all about although I have listened and enjoyed a couple of symphony orchestra including maestro Ilayaraja’s Thiruvasagam. Its week end and I am getting used to accept Thursdays and Fridays as weekends. I am now slowly gearing up to explore the life in Muscat. To start with I surfed the paper to find if any plays running in Muscat but in vain. I enjoy going to theater plays than music concerts

My father is very fond of theater plays but every where theater plays are slowly dying. Thirty or forty years before, it was more popular in India. He always had information about whose play is running in then called Madras and where. He is a fan of Manohar, YG Parthasarthy, Maouli, even the later generation SV Sekar, Crazy Mohan and Khathadi Ramamurthy. When, in late 1980’s cinema was in peak of its helm in Kollyhood, although theater play did not prove popular with cinema audience it went down very well. There was selected audience who enjoyed it more than cinema like my father and eventually I. My favorite are plays directed and acted by Manohar who revolutionized the drama in South India. My father took me to watch some of these in small saba in then called Madras and I became a great fan of Manohar and Maouli who made it big in Kollyhood and appeared in many movies. Latter even directed some good humorous movies in late 1980s.

Manohar’s stage and art direction in particular appealed to me and his overacting facial expression and body language which I tried to imitate before mirror. I even attempted to direct few mimes in school and college to get a name for myself from the inspiration I got watching his stage plays. The lesser known but very humorous stage play director and actor is Maouli. Forgotten now, few of his dramas and then his movies were quite a hit in its time. He quickly withdrew from the field before he could reach the mass in a grand manner. Latter the stage was occupied by YG Mahendran, SV Sekar and Crazy Mohan who are still popular among Tamil audience.

I have always been drawn to late Manohar, the director, actor, stage play writer, art director and the person. He for some reason ended up as a popular villain actor rather a character artist in Tamil cinema and I still wonder why? Well my child hood happiness I enjoyed while going with my father holding his hand to these stage play had long since disappeared. Its years I been to a theater play. Last time I went was to an amateur play ‘ Electra’ at Francis of alliance to show my friend Gokul, that there are things happening in Chennai apart from movies and cricket matches and it was five years before. I now have over 400 dvd movies but watching a play in stage is more fascinating anytime than watching a movie in home theater alone.
I closed ‘The week’ and open my window to look out the dusty mountains of Oman while those lovely old memories of child hood days going to theaters holding my father’s finger makes me long to watch Manohar in his famous stage sets for one more time.

But for few faithful fans, Manohar is still living so do the theater plays. I will look forward to attend one in future.