Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 years and still procrastinating ;)

Okay, so I have officially completed 5 years of stay in the UK now! Well, to be honest, given the number of trips to India and elsewhere, and their duration (the longest being 73 days!), I guess my actual total amount of stay in the UK might be tending towards 4 years rather than 5 :P. Nevertheless, I have been resident here for 5 years and that does call for an introspective, philosophical, and enlightening blog post with a dash of self-deprecating humour and generous dollops of heart-warming, feel-good factor....

Just kidding :P.

So the question now is, given that I have survived here for 5 years, which is closing onto my record for the longest stay in any one locality since I was a teenager (yes, I specialise in breaking obscure trivial self-set records like this), it might be a good time to move on.

Where to, you ask? As a famous professor at IIIT-H used to say whenever posed with a half-decent question - "I don't know, you tell me." Yeah, I am in the folly of looking for change just for the sake of change. Perhaps, just to make life a bit inconvenient; getting too comfortable here :P.

At this point, I can either talk about my possible options for moving out, or go all nostalgic over the past 5 years or I could just ramble about the city of Southampton. And as we have already established that I have no clue where I should or can move to, and nostalgia has decided to abstain, I guess we are reduced to talking about the wonders of the city of Southampton.

Only that, it has no wonders :P. Nevertheless, one cannot find fault with it for its convenience. And now, given that I am a veteran, its familiarity. Of course this familiarity is restricted to just one long stretch of the city, ranging from the airport, to the university to the docks. The east and west parts are almost as mysterious now as they had been all those years ago.

Anyway, I have been in UK for these many years, right. So there are other places that are also a bit familiar now. For example, there is London, some parts of which have been visited very often - the nested example being Heathrow say :P - another would be Winchester where I 'officially' 'work' (note the multiple quotes :P). Some others in UK would be Oxford and Edinburgh, yeah the really nice cities.

Outside UK - any place that's been visited more than once, apart from India obviously (and unfortunately, airports don't count)? Germany, France and Switzerland. But in terms of cities, I guess only Geneva has that honour :P. Yeah, I can extract more such obscure, pointless data about myself which would be of interest to no one except my biographer. But then, that might be the sole purpose of mythalez's blog!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

after dusk

under the dark moonless sky
with the cold wind grazing on
he shivered with the leaves
and the hours kept passing by

a rodent nibbled his toes brazenly
his leg twitched but stayed put
at least someone may have his fill
so some life may survive this debris

his back resting on overgrown roots
the benevolent tree barren, oblivious
his remaining eye sought any light;
time to give up on all life pursuits?

the darkness was now the only friend
his eye shut itself to seek the clarity
with the truth realised, calm engulfed
he had had his way, now the end beckoned.

I was browsing through the list of drafts and came across the first stanza, written and stored sometime in 2007! Felt compelled to take it to some conclusion and show it daylight (ironically :P)

Monday, August 01, 2011

The places where I was a 'Westerner'

The trip happened more than 2 months ago. I should have written about it at least 2 months ago. But given that my blogging ability over the last few months has been extraordinarily absent, I didn't even bother until now. What more, the whole blog birthday ritual that I go through every year (for example) also escaped my notice. Sorry blog that I missed your birthday :(. Obviously, 7 is not a lucky number aka year for you :P. Anyway, to make up for it, I shall temporarily repeal my law of "no images on the blog" and post a 'picturesque' travelogue this time! Here we go--

Hong Kong. My first doubt was whether it is spelt with the space or without. Also, everyone knows that Hong Kong has skyscrapers. But did we know that it *only* has skyscrapers? I mean, there are no normal buildings anywhere. Really! Perhaps, they refuse planning permissions to any building having less than 25 stories.
The great skyline along the water makes for a great light and sound show if you stand on the other side, that is the peninsula rather than the island. But I wasn't mightily impressed by the show. Perhaps because we could barely see much due to the perennial fog.
Well apart from that, they also have a giant Buddha. Hmm .. perhaps they have a minimum height restriction on any construction. Gondolas take you to the hill top with the Buddha and a monastery that makes a good and unusual vegetarian lunch. However, if you queue up on a sunday, you will be in the queue for 2 hours. These queues will actually be trafficked by policemen as if the humans were vehicles on roads (am serious!). Anyway, we just took the bus to reach the place and returned via the gondolas. Of course that also gave us great and complete views of the Hong Kong airport from which we had a flight to Taipei in an hour or so.
And that obviously brings us to Taipei. Our hotel and the conference centre were both next to the famous 101 (Yeah, the fog followed us all the way to Taiwan).
If Hong Kong had a few temples, Taipei had one every street. Okay, that's an exaggeration, one every three streets perhaps :P. They also had a similar density of night street markets. Often at the same place. The street markets are extremely lively and full of stalls where you can get 'interesting' food ;). Even in general, seeing the number of eateries abound, their affordability and their 'busy'ness quotient, I was sure that Taipei residents do not dine at home at all!
The traffic system in Taipei is also interesting in that, at many traffic junctions, vehicles are only allowed to go straight at the lights. So scooters and bikes wanting to turn left/right cross over to the adjacent road much like pedestrians. However, the best part of the traffic junctions are the pedestrian lights. The green man accelerates his pace as the deadline approaches until he is practically running and then suddenly turns red. We were speculating whether that metaphorically denoted a blood splattered 'run over' man ;). Well, you can also cross roads in the underground subways, where you will be 'watched'.
Disclaimer: the above photo, featuring me and some cctvs was obviously not taken by me :P, do thank ss2. After the conference, we moved on to Taroko Gorge where we spent a few days with the local indigenous people in their resort - nice cottages where we could wake up to the most scenic mornings possible.
Went on a few hikes, didn't fall down the cliffs and pulled ourselves up by chains and had loads of fun.
We also wanted to do the famous 10 hour hike but that was not allowed by the authorities as they deemed it too dangerous due to the approaching typhoon. Yes, you read it right, I did mean typhoon. All we could console ourselves with was to go to the end point of the hike and take pictures. And then jump over the barriers and take pictures from the bridge which was out of bounds :D
We followed that up by visiting places like Tainan (the ancient capital but which didn't have much of note apart from a few Dutch relics) and Jiufen (a village on a scenic route and with touristy markets). Visiting Taiwan was surprisingly good fun. I hadn't expected to see that much of scenic beauty in such a tiny island. Also unlike Japan, it was easy to communicate with the people there; many people especially youngsters spoke English, though with an american accent ;) and even those who couldn't speak English were extremely friendly nevertheless. Hong Kong, on the other hand, just seemed to be made for the rich and every one else was trying to sell you stuff, ostensibly to become rich themselves :P.