Monday, March 31, 2008

Singapore - What Day is it?

We spent the day at Sentosa Island which is, consistently with the rest of Singapore, an outpost of Disney Land. The highlight was the Underwater World, where you go through an aquarium through a series of tubes. There was also a ray petting zoo of sorts, very cool. Some pictures and videos.

^ I started the day at a coffee shop we have started to haunt every morning. This morning I was on my own, so it was nice. This is a typical scene around here - urban, shining, immaculate.

^ The boys made mobile phones for themselves before we started our day.....

^ Aidan got a chance to have his picture taken with a large python - they all got reminiscent about Sparkles, our erstwhile pet snake.

^ The little guys got a chance to play with a pink dolphin. This was at some sea world-like attraction. This was during a day when they touch various rays and even some small sharks. Pretty fun for them.....

^ Liam being amazed.

^ A candid photo of the boys playing on the beach.

^ And from the aquarium..... some *huge* Amazonian fish, a dugong (like a manatee), sea dragons (incredible), and jellyfish.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Singapore - Day Two

We saw more of the city today. Same theme, a gigantic shrine to modern consumerism. Absolutely clean. Very expensive. Prosperous.

I see why this is the destination for our "rest and relaxation" trip. It's a nice change from India. It has given us ample room for thought on why countries are different from each other and the like. It's hard to make sense of why India is so different from this place. Perhaps the future of India will be more like this. Will that be a good thing? I suppose in some ways. In other ways, no.

Some more pictures....

^ The boys checking out a place along the waterfront where you choose your meal from a tank and proceed to chow down.

This place serves the cooked duck with the head still on. It seems very honest to eat like this, I suppose.

^ The family by one of Singapore's many skylines.

^ The merlion is the symbol of Singapore. This is Aidan and Jonah catching the plume of water from a great distance. Pretty cool, huh?

^ Jonah decided he did not like his haircut. He chopped his bangs off again. We did not respond with giving him a buzz cut. It's kind of cute and funny, but one wonders when he will stop doing this.

^ One place where we went was the Raffles Hotel. Built in the Victorian era, it went into decline after WWII. It has had a renaissance since 1991, when it was refurbished. It was very beautiful and made one feel the prior era, one that always has an appeal to the historian in me. Tara was enthralled. Dad - we got you golf tees from this place, we'll bring them this summer. This is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, you can see Tara sucking one down.

This place was a haunt for Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, James Mitchener, Noel Coward, Liz Taylor, Queen Elizabeth the Second, George Bush the First, Lord Mountbatten and a host of others. There are pictures of them in the hotel's museum. Mitchener is one of my favorite authors, and I have always had a strange affinity for Lord Mountbatten - so, it was great to see these guys in this setting. A really nice hotel it was.

^ The boys finished the day in the pool at our apartment complex.

Overall, a good day. Very nice city.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Singapore - Day One

Singapore is the world's biggest upscale mall. It is a bit over the top. But it is clean and that is a nice thing for Tara and the boys who have not been out of India in seven months. So far it has been enjoyable, although most of the day we have spent sleeping due to the fact we flew all night. It has been mostly a process of recalibrating ourselves to the new surroundings.

Actually, the mall thing is based upon just one major boulevard we visited, so there'll be more meaningful exploration over the next few days.

A few shots:

^ I have always known Chinese culture (many people here are Chinese) to have some funky food practices. But this one was interesting. We generally think of chrysanthemums as a nice flower to have out front around Thanksgiving. But the Chinese make tea from it - and, you know what. It's really good.

^ The "hawker center" where you go for food. So-named because of the selling they do as you walk by. A bit of a hustle, kind of fun.

^ Tara and the boys at said hawker center. She is lovely.....

^ One of the hawker's stalls. Notice the shark fin soup in the top left corner. I thought that food was an urban myth. Also, the prawns were gigantic, check them out. Sitting in the ice....

^ The coconut drink we had with dinner. I routinely have Akbar pull over and I get some coconuts opened up for me in Hyderabad. This one was approximately 18 times as expensive as one in Hyderabad. And remember, I get the "white man mark up" on my Hyderabad coconuts, and these were still that much more.

Off to bed, looking forward to tomorrow.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Off to Singapore. It is a bit of an amusement park of a place, and various of our friends have been/lived there. So, we are prepared with an itinerary of sorts already.

Tara knows of a place where you get a pedicure unlike any other - you soak your feet in a pool where Turkish fish come and nibble the dead skin off of your feet. Hilarious! We'll tell everyone how it goes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More Mumbai

These are my pictures from Mumbai. I was really struck by the archiecture in this area of the city. And they have sky scrapers! Believe it or not, I did not know those existed anywhere in India.... Always lessons here for us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I have never spent time in Mumbai before. It's really a neat city. Once known as Bombay, it has great British architecture. Look at these sights. Very nice.

The language here is Marathi, pronounced like karate. Bombay is on the ocean, western coast of India . The state is Maharashtra.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LA visit

I bought a new camera and we were not entirely clear how to use it. But these are the would-be-stills that came out as videos by mistake. They are of my friends John and Warren, as well as me with Warren and his wife Angela. She is on the tv show The Office. She's a really good person, it was fun to have met her. She and Warren are having a baby in about a month.

Good seeing you John and Warren!

Monday, March 24, 2008


There is a really neat festival called Holi. We don't know the significance, but it involves getting doused in colored powder and colored water. A good time was had by all. Check out the pictures.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Sitting in a business lounge in a grey, cold Germany is no way to spend Easter.

Looking forward to being reunited with the family soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Old Friends

Warren and John - nice seeing you guys. It's hard to believe that our friendship is measured in decades at this point!

Off to India.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Left my shoes in Malibu

I got rid of a pair of shoes today. There were several issues with them. First, they were getting a bit beat up, and there is nowhere to have your shoes polished in India. Secondly, the bottom of them has been worn smooth, and every surface in our life in India is marble - so several times these shoes have almost killed me. Additionally, monsoon is coming and these shoes almost guarantee a broken arm if I continued to use them. Finally, this makes my luggage lighter and gives me more room to bring back the various items I have for the family.

Also - I felt a strange need to leave something behind here. So, these shoes were left at Malibu today.

Now, I could imagine Brad Pitt picking them up and deciding they should accompany him around the world, or I could imagine a homeless guy finding them when he is in need and using them, or I could imagine Saul Abramowitz, media mogul, would find them while taking a pensive walk along the beach after a recent chapter in Potok's "The Chosen" made him feel his mortality, or any number of scenarios. But that is all speculation. I'll never know.

Let's just hope someone enjoys them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A place to smile

Malibu has a Hindu Temple. Simi Valley has the Reagan Presidential Library. Not far from each other. America is an incredibly diverse land.

One thing I have noticed this week is the way that America is hard on itself. It seems like everyone is uptight about work and politics and religion and race and this and that and the gap between rich and poor and the media and raging ministers and the war and on and on and on.....

There is *so* much to enjoy here and be happy about - why is everyone so upset? What is it that makes everyone so stressed out here in the US? Relax everyone. Smile. Greet a stranger. Heal. Change. Grow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On the other hand.....

....what do I miss about India? Well, obvious answer is that my family is there. Also, there is a sense of vitality there that does not exist here. Life in India is abounding and in your face and it demands your attention. It can be pretty quiet here, even bordering on boring and sterile. India is an exciting melange of chaotic factors that yanks you by the front of the shirt and reminds you that you are alive. India is a-l-i-v-e.

I miss it.

Will be back there soon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interesting question

An interesting question was asked of me by a colleague. He asked me what I had found difficult about India.

Now, I have a series of answers, of course. Some of them are pretty grave and require an in-depth explanation. As I was eating a nice dinner with a small group of people, I thought I'd steer clear of the real issues. And the guy who asked me was Indian, so I made sure I did not put him in an awkward position with my answer while he was at a table full of Americans. So I went right into the one thing that perhaps is the worse part about India (not really, but it still stinks).

My answer - no one obeys the line. They break the queue, to use Anglo-Indian speak.

Every person in India seems to cut in line. It's not just a small issue, it's a real issue that is absolutely infuriating. From the youngest age, we Americans enforce the line rules by yelling "He cut!!!" whenever a violation of the line happens. Additionally, it is a huge honor to be granted "frontsies" by someone in a line. So, the line is a big deal from the youngest age onward. This is actually an excellent aspect of American life. People generally will stand behind each other if required.

As examples of this issue.....

I am on a Kingfisher airplane, waiting for a rest room at the back of a plane. Small kid of about 8 walks right past me and stands in front of me. I stood there stunned, but I wasn't comfortable talking to someone else's child at the back of a plane, so I let it pass. The woman walks out of the rest room, kid walks in. Completely oblivious that he had done anything wrong.

Another time I am in line at the grocery store. A woman behind me gets out of line and stands behind the register trying to buy her one item while I was checking out. Then the guy behind her stands next to her and tries to buy his item. Then a third guy gets in *the other check out line* next to the one where I am and leans over to my cashier, trying to buy his one item. Picture it, there's me at the register buying my items and three other people waving rupees at my cashier, trying to get his attention and buy their items. While I was checking out mind you.

Then one time I was at the airport, standing at the counter buying a chai. An old man wedges himself in front of me. There was like six inches of space between me and the counter, yet somehow he gets in front of me. I said something, he pretended he did not hear me.

Worst time ever was at a coffee stand, again at the airport. There were about one dozen people standing at the counter next to each other (no line at all) holding rupee notes up and waving them at the single guy pouring coffee. I had a late flight to catch and had some time to burn, so I decided to see how long it would take for me to get a cup of coffee, as I refused to participate in the melee. It was about ten solid minutes before he even looked at me. Everyone that got a cup through their horrid system had arrived after me.

It's even hard to depict in writing, because there is nothing that prepares you for the fact that Indians don't obey the rules of standing in line. And it is well known by all expats and everyone who visits India.

So, there was my answer - people breaking the queue.

From a blog, it mentions this issue....


The Check-in at Delhi: Nightmare is the word to describe it. I was dog tired, coming straight from work (after teaching 18 year olds!) and the Air Sahara counters were overflowing with people. And overflowing people mean chaos and frequent attempts to break the queue (we Indians just can’t stand in a queue!). Sesha and I stood in different lines, maximizing our chances that at least one line may move. Both moved at a snail’s pace and I asked at least three people (politely) not to break the queue (and got ugly glances in return but I can live with it). A few people (and one well dressed young girl, actually she started that unofficial line) tried directly to go to the back of the counter to bypass the queue but thankfully she (and everyone else) was told to join us mortals for the check-in. My line moved faster and Sesha got out of his. But when I handed the lady our tickets and photo identity cards, she started talking to her colleague and complained loudly about her supervisor not giving any attention to the legitimate demands and got out of her seat! Not very confidence inspiring .............

Monday, March 17, 2008


I continue to be struck by the orderliness of US traffic.

Contrast with this....

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Malibu beach is where I went today. It was pretty neat. It is very cold here, and the winds are extremely high. So, I was sand-blasted as I walked down Malibu Beach. It was virtually empty. Everyone is apparently more intelligent than am I.

The US is also very clean. And orderly. And run by the corporations. And people are larger than they should be. It is just as I remember it. It does look odd after eight months in Hyderabad.

I have been taken aback by how significantly different Hyderabad and Los Angeles are. I think you could probably go across a greater divide (let's say Varanasi and Topeka), but this has been a pretty big one.

So many ideas rush through one's mind - but it's ok. No need to have all of the answers. It has simply been incredibly enriching to have been exposed such an array of things in life. I know Tara feels the same.

Hopefully the boys will reflect back on these years as what they are - a very expansive endeavor.

^Hyderabad elementary school

^ Los Angeles elementary school in Thousand Oaks, where I am

I went to Calvary Church for Palm Sunday. It was nice.

Happy Palm Sunday to all....

Saturday, March 15, 2008


OK, I am sitting in Frankfurt airport in the lounge. First observation - Germany is clean, almost sterile. And relatively humorless, but that is a different tangent.

Please proceed with discretion - *bathroom talk ahead*.....

I just used a restroom that was so clean as to almost choke me up. It was immaculate. Now, I have been in American restrooms in gas stations that put me into almost-paralytic shock that such filth could be tolerated. And I have been in some clean bathrooms in India.


I remember when I was in Kerala on my '06 cycling solo road trip. I was spending time people watching while sitting in front of a temple. The large amount of mango juice that I had ingested had come to its logical result, and I was in need of a facility. Then I noticed that the temple had a cash-use toilet. It cost one rupees (less than three cents) and was tended by a Brahmin in an orange dhoti. I gave him the money. When I walked in, I encountered a nightmarish sight. Imagine a place where the accursed spend eternity. And in that same place imagine the damned and odious had been disemboweled for centuries at the hands of scimitar wielding bat-people. Then consider no running water in that same place. Then consider the urinals were ground level and were holes out to the street outside. Then.....

Let me leave it at that. Only analogy and imaginary images could bring you to that place I have actually visited.

I left wanting my rupee back.

Then think of Germany, clean Germany. Everything immaculate. Not even the slightest glimpse of gastric error or distress in a restroom used daily by thousands of people from all corners of the globe.

Restrooms are often left out of polite conversation, and rightfully so - but I had to give you a glimpse of the thing that has most impacted me since arrival here in the First World.


Blissful Teutonic cleanliness.

A place where germs flee in fear of antiseptic-wielding women named Greta and Helga.

That restroom was really nice. I almost feel a need to get back in there.

Going to go load up on coffee.

Additionally, it was nice to feel cold weather. We have missed being in New England every October for the last 14 years, and these two years will be almost perpetual summer for us - so, it was nice to feel invigorated by a few blasts of cool German weather. Perhaps the grey and chilly nature of the weather is what has stripped these people of their humor. But, again, that is a different tangent and I want to be a good guest for the next few hours.

Tara told me that she and the boys were out at ICRISAT today and a huge monkey (she said that it was as large as Aidan, or larger) jumped over the wall and took a small drink out of the kiddie pool. Then it jumped back onto the wall and walked along the edge for a bit. Aidan was on the high dive while all of this happened, and he started to back away from the monkey while up there.

All passed without incident when the monkey jumped off the wall and made itself scarce. Pretty neat, too bad I missed it.

Peace to all!

Friday, March 14, 2008


OK, off to Los Angeles. The request to travel was on short notice.

I would commit that the blog would be updated by those staying here (Tara and the boys), but it is unlikely. So, I will use it to tell everyone what the US looks like through the eyes of someone who has not seen it in 7 months.
Should be interesting....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Swimming Meet

The boys had a swimming meet, and they did well. Jonah is especially good and competitive in the pool. Some snaps: