Saturday, September 25, 2010

Land of Smiles:

The immigration officers looked grim, so did other airport officials. No smiles! I had thought that I will feel like a village-idiot-going-first-time-to-town. But at the Bangkok international airport, it was smooth sailing. My main fear always is not knowing how to operate hi-tech loos. Though friends had reassured me many times, I finally relaxed when I found the systems in the loo to be the same as ours. There onwards I knew I would have a good time.

After a harrowing Air India flight, I was seriously glad that there were no Indians in the flight to Phuket. Roaming around with my friend in her neighbourhood, I felt at ease…not out of place in a foreign country. Later I realized that it was because all Thai people were as short as I was….so I could melt into the crowd. I quickly learnt the traditional Thai greeting (Sawadi Kha) and used it with aplomb even imitating the nasal sing song stretch of the word at the end. I even befriended the local street dog, who initially barked at me and then wanted me to scratch him.

The local market, lanes and by-lanes were filled with street food - pork sausages, fish with variety of sauces, noodles, chicken feet, shrimps, squids – oh how my mouth watered at the sight. Thais love food and I loved that fact about them. Thais also love their food just as spicy as us Indians, which soon became a problem for me. Like in Maharashtra if you insist ‘no mirchi’, they will come back with a dish full of red chilly but no green chilly; so was the case with the Thais. ‘No peppe’ meant less chilly. Strangely these food marts were always filled with people – my god! how much they ate! And yet they were so slim with glowing skin. Soon I understood why. At each local eatery, they give you a side basket filled with raw beans, a wedge of cabbage, some fresh herbs and fresh neem to munch on!

Most Thai houses kept a huge earthen-flat-bottomed vase filled with water just outside their house. Most had water plants like lilies in them while some even kept tiny fishes. This automatically had such a calming effect around. All Buddhist houses also had an intricately designed, beautiful and colorful ‘spirit house’ near the gate. According to beliefs, they were made beautiful so that any bad ‘spirit’ around would get attracted to that and reside there instead of the main house. I didn’t want to question myself when I found myself being so enthralled by their designs that I forgot to look at the main houses.

Transport sucked. Each trip to any part of the district cost a bomb (300 baht or more). I wondered what the cost would be when the tourist season started. A quick and tourist-free trip to Phi-phi (Pee Pee actually), the magnificent green sea which changed to a dull green when the clouds rolled in, lazing around on the white beach and tons of good food later, I finally had to say goodbye to my school friend.

Another harrowing Air India flight later (post coming up soon), I was back at the dusty Mumbai airport breathing slowly in the sounds of the city.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


One of my favourite flowers is aparajita (as called in my native tongue) or shankhpushpi in Hindi. I have seen them mostly in the eastern part of the country, hardly any in the north or west.

So I was really surprised when I found a wall full of these flowers cascading down right here in this city. I had walked that path from Churchgate to office and back some thousand times in the last many months, but never noticed it before. Strangely it was on the last day’s walk from my office to home when I saw them. White and filled with drops of water after the brief shower. I picked one up and put it inside my diary, marking the date.

It seemed like a signal. I smiled….one chapter over.

And waiting for the next one to begin.