The Monsoon So Far

If it’s autumn or winter where you live, what are you most looking forward to doing next summer? If it’s spring or summer where you are, what has been the highlight of the season so far for you?

Fuck summer. Kerala has no four seasons, it has just two. Monsoon and bloody hot summer. There is no spring and no fall and no winter of any kind. The only kind of cold we get is when it rains a lot and there’s a cold win blowing and because we aren’t used to that, we tend to heat our water to take a bath. Otherwise, we shiver when we shower.

So far the summer was crazy hot & humid. Nights were terrible because I couldn’t keep the windows open for fear of mosquitoes out for my blood. As much as I hate mosquito bites the worst is when they buzz in your ears or your nose! Disgusting creatures. Sweating all day if you are in the sun and they sweating while you sleep – ugh. And then the monsoon finally came!

So far I have been ill twice – I had to take two days off work in June due to asthma and cough, cold and slight fever and I have started off July with a sick day as well. I have this bad cold that is affecting me badly and the cold air-conditioned offices aren’t helping either when it’s raining a lot outside. Also, yesterday was a no-rain, hot and fucking humid night – it was tough to sleep when I was sweating between the sheets. And then this morning it rained at around 7 am for just a bit and it’s sunny outside after that. And now it looks cloudy and a bit humid. What a weather we are having!

Prompt from The Daily Post at WordPress.com

Things Are Getting Very Wet

Temperatures are dropping as the monsoon is finally here. Although not in full force as we expected it to be. But today has been somewhat pleasant, overcast but not humid and it was a lazy morning that I spent at home. The kind of morning, from 8:30 am till 12 pm that it best spent with lots of black coffee and videos upon videos on Youtube; just cooking vids and travel vids and people being silly. Perhaps a puppy or kitty clip or two.

Now, as I am leaving for the office at 5:15 pm (remember I work a 6:30pm – 3:30am shift) it is raining. And it’s a cool kinda rain which isn’t that heavy but with a cold breeze makes things much cooler. It is making me feel lazy and sleepy and I am glad that I am in the confines of this car and not travelling by bus or bike. With the construction of the metro and the road work going on, the roads will get muddy and messy and create a lot of work for your washing machine.

Sleep will be much better at night as it will no longer be hot, humid and sweaty. Saturday night was so but last night was much better. Monsoon is here!

Lists For The Foodie In Kochi

Top five sandwich places / outlets in Kochi:

  • Cocoa Tree (MG Road & Panampilly Nagar)
  • Fort Cafe (now only in Center Mall)
  • Coffee Beans
  • Cafe Coffee Day
  • Chai Kofi

I can’t help but to put up the best sandwiches even if it is a large international chain!

Top five burger places / outlets in Kochi:

  • Burgeria
  • Cocoa Tree (MG Road & Pannampilly Nagar)
  • Coffee Beans
  • Chai Kofi
  • Food Marley

Early Monsoon?

Looks like the monsoon might come in early this year. It has rained a couple of times earlier this month with heavy doses of thunder and lightening but that soon passes and it’s back to boiling hot sunny days and humidity beyond what you would ever want.

But yesterday evening and now this afternoon it looks like it’s more rain and looks like the monsoon is soon upon us. Usually it’s by the end of June but hey no one is complaining if we get lots of rain to cool us off. Last night was ok, almost pleasant night. Except for the fact that also insects will start coming in to take shelter from the rain. Ugh!

So how often does in rain where you live dear reader?

Things I Will Never Understand About Kerala

I don’t understand it when coffeeshops over here put a music channel on mute on their big screen and play totally different music on their music system! What the hell, that does not make any sense at all.

A leading hair transplant, hair weave company has as their brand ambassador an actor wearing a wig. He is bald!

A hair styling salon in the city has art work of Justin Beiber, Jennifer Lopez and two white people I do not recognize. The owners know none of the 4 people on their hoarding sign, their name or who they are.

Small restaurants, bakeries that have images of delicious looking food on their boards, hoardings and outside wall – none of which they serve or even know how to make!

Picking names of cities, famous movies, events, personalities, musical events as the name/title of their business or establishment that have nothing in common with the actual product or service.

It’s A Really Dark Late Afternoon

Looks like it’s gonna rain pretty heavily this evening. It’s been so hot and humid this past several weeks that some rain is quite welcome. Now, I know a brief shower just makes things worse and makes it more warm but good solid rains and monsoon winds cool things down here a lot. It rained a couple of times the last few days and I hope it picks up and we get an early monsoon season.

The nights could use some cooling down. Once I close the windows in order to keep the mosquitoes and various other insects away (yes even on the 7th floor we get flying insects) it starts getting a bit warm and on some nights it’s so hot and humid that my sheets stick my thighs due to the sweat. Like a friend once said to me on a particularly humid and sweaty March evening back in 2007 “How do people here have sex in this heat and being so sweaty?”

His joke withstanding I do understand the need for some cooling down. It’s gotten quite dark outside now and it’s not even 4pm! Guess that heavy rain is going to fall any minute now.

Common Courtesy When Taking The Bus

One of the many things I have noticed while riding in the buses in the city. People, most people do not care about what sort of bother they do to others in the bus. From leaning hard with their backs on your hand when you are holding onto the post, to squeezing in to their “preferred” position at your expense so that now you have to move or stand awkwardly close to them (which they may not have an issue with but you will) to putting their arms or upper body as well too close to you. Again, being inconsiderate seems to be the norm here.

When moving away from the door towards the middle of the bus which has a lot of room might make sense to you and me, it seems to escape most of these morons. Standing near the door to get the maximum view and air and proving a nuisance to anyone who is trying to get into the bus at the next stops, is so common over here. As is talking loudly to their friend in the bus or on their mobiles. Another irritant is knocking your hand that is holding the bar above while you are standing and they want to move forward – what manners did their parents teach them? None, apparently!

Though falling asleep in their seats and becoming a bother to you as they move about involuntarily can be forgiven, a little consideration for the stranger next to you is not too much to ask. And keeping you hand up as you sit too close – none of us want to smell the stench of your armpit buddy! I know they won’t change, having grown up without a thought about other people cannot be untaught as easily as it is to raise ignorant and disrespectful people. But if you read this perhaps you will think about it the next time you take the bus.

We Built This City

What do you love most about the city / town / place that you live in? What do you like the least about it? If you were mayor, what would be the most important problem you’d tackle? How would you tackle it?

I don’t think one person can make that much change in a place like mine but I’d give it a go. The city can be bustling and crowded and alive but post 8:30pm-9pm the city goes dark and almost dead. Night life is almost non-existent over here. Yes there are some people still hanging around and going to bars and eateries but overall it is a sad sight to see. And that is because we do not have public bus services running past 8:30-9pm. Hence those who do not have a vehicle of their own will not venture out too late, especially not many women.

I would try and get that rectified. Increase the number of safe & secure public bus services running till 1 or 2 am. More people can safely venture out on the streets and have a good time. Seeing more people out at night, the shops, hotels and bars can also keep later hours. Increase police presence ofcourse but once this becomes the norm even that won’t be required as much, due to the fact that there will be a lot more people and families especially out at night and it will be a lot more safer.

I would also want more public toilets (port-a-lets), rest rooms, guesthouses for out of towners, safe houses for abused women, dog & cat shelters, homes for the homeless and all that. Food & soup kitchens for the homeless. I know it is asking for a lot over here. But we need this. Our people need this.

Prompt from the Daily Post at WordPress.com.

……And The Power Goes Out, Again!!!

It was a frustrating morning. From 3:45 am the power has gone out 6 times today. Leaving me a hot and sweaty mess on the bed. I haven’t gotten much sleep since and I’ve been whining on Facebook, Twitter & whatsapp left, right & center. After the beef ban, perhaps electricity is the next to go on the chopping block! Here are some of my rants:

“Wonderful. Power goes out twice in the early hours of the morning. Once at 3:45 am and comes back at 5am and then again 30 mins later. Just got the power back on again. Haven’t been able to go back to sleep. Hot and sweaty and my sheets are sticking to my legs. My pillow is wet as is my head. Fucking humidity. Fucking KSEB morons! Fucking everything. And I am tired and sleep deprived!”

“Power goes out for the 4th or 5th time this morning and it’s only 9:05 am! FANFUCKINGTASTIC!”

“Waiting for the fucking power to come back on!” – on Foursquare!

“And the power goes out again! For the 6th time this morning!
Did the Indian government ban electricity too? I mean, electricity is not as per Indian culture right?”

“Pretty soon we will ban Western style toilets – #Breaking News, Indian government declares proper toilets are anti-Indian! “We only need a hole in the ground and a large leaf! Just like ancient Indians did!” was the statement.”

Night Sky Fireball Update

Here is an update on the ‘fireball’ spotted in the night sky on the 27th of February:

A suspected depression or an impact crater, believed to be caused by a ‘fireball’ spotted on Friday night in several districts of Kerala, has been located in Karimalloor village in Ernakulam district today. The disaster management team which rushed to the spot suspects the crater could be caused due to a meteorite fall. “The samples collected by the revenue department have been sent for further verifications to GSI”, said Sekhar Kuriakose, heading the disaster management team.

Residents of Thrissur, Ernakulam, Fort Kochi and Kollam tweeted seeing the ‘huge fireball’ between 10 pm to 10.30 pm. According to the residents, a flash was seen across the sky and few cents of land in 2 different locations of Ernakulam district where the crater was noticed were also found charred. The locals said they felt tremors and witnessed sounds with the passing of the ‘object’. However, authorities of the Disaster Management team dismissed speculation that the ‘fireball’ could be celestial debris, as the consortium of space agencies closely monitors any space related activities and would have notified the management of any such appearance.

Mr Kuriakose even dismissed the ‘object’ as anything related to ‘metal’ as Air Traffic Control radar system would have recorded it. Meanwhile, science author and cosmology researcher, Rajagopal Kamath, said that the ‘fireball’ could be “a rocket or satellite debris. It also could be stony chondrite meteorites as in many places people have claimed that they have seen a bluish flame, which is peculiar to any meteorites.”

Latest update : IT WAS a fragment of a meteor!!

Bills & Haircut On A Hot, Sweaty Day

Oh what a hot and miserable day it was outside. All I had to do was go to pay my phone bill, then to Palarivattom to pay my ISP’s bill and get a haircut and that was enough in this heat. Oh I must have sweated buckets as I went through the 2 hours or so. I left home at about 11:30 perhaps and took an auto to the Vodafone office just above Ashish supermarket. I paid off my bill and then walked over to the bus stop and entered a Kakkanad bus. It was crowded and stuffy and although I was standing near the windows, still hot. I finally got down at Palarivattom, after a delay due to traffic and the road work going on and walked up to the Asianet office.

I waited in line at the payment counter for a few minutes, long enough to heard one customer’s rant and complaint about his bill blah blah blah. The need to get their offices sorted out, things are so cramped there. Once I paid it I walked back to find the bustop and got a cold lemonade to quench my thirst and help me beat the heat before I took a ride on a Padma bus. I got down at Padma and went to my current barbershop and got my long-ish hair cut short. To see all that hair on the floor and the bald patch on my head – why the fuck do some of us men have to go bald? What the fuck is up with that? Anyways, I was on my way back when I started feeling hunger pangs and went to McDonalds and got me a Double Masala Grilled Chicken with fries and a coke. And then I came back home.

The “Kiss Of Love” Movement

It all started in the city of Calicut (Kozhikode in the local language). The “kiss of love” protest was planned after Hindu activists vandalised a cafe in Calicut city last week saying students were using the place to date. A disgusting report on a local News channel (who should be ashamed of themselves for creating a sensational type report) deploring the newer coffeeshops that have opened up near the beach area, a popular hangout for the youth of that city, secretly recorded young lovers (I assume that these are college age and perhaps just out of college kids) meeting in the private area behind the cafe “Down Town” and engaged in kissing and hugging. After the report was aired on tv, goondas from the Yuva Morcha group assaulted the cafe and it’s owners, causing damage to property as well.

Just days after that activists formed a small group and gathered massive support online via Twitter and their Facebook page. Their plan was to gather at the Marine Drive in Kochi (formerly Cochin) city on Sunday and kiss in protest. Dating and public displays of affection are still largely taboo in India. People of all ages, income brackets and ideologies soon joined in and supported the cause and made plans to meet up at Marine Drive. However, organizers failed to reach the proposed protest site after being taken into police custody as a preventive measure to ensure violence didn’t break out between them and hardline Hindus and Muslims. They were bundled into police vans about a kilometer away from Marine Drive, the proposed protest site. K.G. James, Kochi’s police commissioner, said 32 protesters were taken into police custody as a preventative measure and released a couple of hours later. They were not charged with any offence. Protests inspired by the event in Kerala were also held in other parts of India including Mumbai and Hyderabad on Sunday.

Meanwhile, organizers said their personal Facebook accounts were temporarily suspended and a page created to garner support was removed for several hours on Monday. The page has amassed over 74,000 likes since it was created last week. By late afternoon on Monday, it was accessible again. Soon after the original page disappeared, a replacement page was created and included a post containing a line by Chile’s Nobel-Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda that read, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.” Facebook said the page received a large number of reports for spam and that’s why it was taken down. Users can report any page created on Facebook and can select options including “It’s harassing me or someone I know”, “I just don’t like it” or “Something else” when lodging a complaint. The page was restored back in a few hours.

This event may have had met with a “failure” in reaching it’s meeting point and having the organizers taken in by the cops (while the violent activists were roaming freely) but it succeeded in lighting a fire in the belly of most free thinking people in the state and elsewhere. Similar protests and actions are being organized in solidarity and we will see a sea change in the nation. No one has the right to beat up people who express their affection by kissing or hugging and no groups have the right to enforce their so called “morals” on the rest of us. Disgusting comments by backward thinking people – “If it was my sister seen kissing in the cafe then we would kill her” – screamed on comment on Youtube! The rights of the girls/women in her own life be damned! What do these people expect – that their sisters are only to be kept at home, learn cooking and then marry & have sex & later babies with the guy that their parents choose? She is to have no say in the matter at all? Thinking like this should be left in the 16th century where it belongs. I can’t believe this nation came up with the Kamasutra!

The Supermarket Debacle

Well time for a mystery. I don’t know what the issue is but there is a problem with my area that it seems that supermarkets are doomed here! And I just mean a small section of Kacheripady which is an area in the city of Cochin. See I live in an apartment building about 5 minutes away from the main road and we have some shops in our junction and walkable area nearby. But the supermarket situation has always puzzled me. When we first moved here back in late 2007 there was a small supermarket two buildings in front of us. That was convenient! Now I mean a rather small supermarket, more like a small shop but they had most of the things that we’d want, except for fresh fish or meat and most vegetables but since we have door to door fresh vegetable delivery operating in the area as well as a small grocery store opposite the supermarket, it was quite ideal for us.

Then Varkey’s, a then popular supermarket chain in Kerala opened their store nearby and the supermarket started getting less and less business. 3 years later, it closed down as the owners, a couple in their late 60s were unable to keep a profit. A guy who used to work for them a few years earlier said that he would take over the lease and continue the business so they handed it over to him. He ran it for a year and a half before he moved it to a similarly sized store just a couple of buildings down the road. Still quite convenient so no one complained. But it was quite obvious that he was having trouble getting regular customers and hence also having trouble keeping the shelves stocked. A year or so later he shut the store down. By 2010, Varkeys began having severe financial trouble due to mismanagement and they started closing down several of their store including the one closest to me.

In 2011 the same guy restarted the supermarket again but at a smaller scale and continued his business at the first location. Yet the rental costs itself was very difficult for him and he wasn’t getting much business, plus his stocks were bare minimum, and he had to close it down yet again in 2012. Now the store has been split up into 3 to become a beauty parlour and a men’s barber shop and small stall that sells cigarettes, snacks and juice! I heard that the second guy who ran the supermarket is a partner in the combined 3 businesses. Meanwhile sometime earlier this year (I think 2-3 months back) a new supermarket opened up in the same location as the Varkeys and they seem to be doing alright. I myself have only been there one but will be using them more often. I shall even take a video of the store. But I wonder why the heck supermarkets have had such a big curse in a residential area that also has a few businesses and other types of stores nearby!

Welcome, Stranger

Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang. What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?

For a first time visitor, and for the purpose of this post I shall assume that he/she is a foriegner, there will be quite a few things that will seem strange or odd about Cochin.

  • The humidity. Yeah people, on a hot & sweaty day (mid February till late April or even June) you’re not gonna like it. Plenty of water is advisable.
  • The monsoon. And when it rains, it pours. And we complain that it’s raining a lot during the monsoon, which cools things down quite a bit but we still complain. And when it’s not raining we complain that it’s too hot and we need some rain!
  • Harthals! Most people outside India and even outside the state are puzzled with the phenomenon of the harthals – which is a general strike (no shops, no public transport and no business are allowed to operate). These years it lasts for 12  hours when it third party loans used to be 24 hrs earlier. Usually started by an opposing political party as a protest against a new rule or change in rule or some controversy.
  • On really hot afternoons, most of the people drink boiling hot tea! At 3pm! Even I am stumped at this!
  • The traffic and the roads. And how much filth we dump onto the sides of the roads.

There’s quite a lot of things we do that will seem strange but these are the ones I could think up right now.

Prompt from the Daily Post at WordPress.com.

My Biryani Woes

A shame on the hoteliers in Cochin (I can’t say for the rest of Kerala) that the status of biryani in our fair city is pathetic. Once upon a time, which is just 10 plus years ago, you could be assured of being served a very good biryani at a lot of restaurants in the city. However the trend has become that what you get when you order a chicken biryani is cheap quality boiled basmathi rice with a few cinnamon sticks, a clove or two and chicken masala or chicken roast that has been cooked separately and then hastily added to your plate over the rice. Add in an egg and then they charge you a minimum of Rs. 130-150 for the dish! Highway robbery!

Back in the mid to late 90s I have tasted so many really good, well prepared chicken biryanis. There was a small restaurant in Ravipuram, which is where NIIT is, called Tima where a bunch of us would opt to have lunch at regularly. The choice almost every 4 or 5 days would be biryani and we would order Tima’s chicken biryani which they served with little chopped up pineapples to offset the spiciness of the masalas. Wow, they had a good biryani and yet there were a really small, low brow place. Many other places have good variety of biryani. But as I have stated early in January, what we get now is a bland mix of stuff.

Even Ceylon Bake house, once certain to give you good biryani paled in comparison to what they used to serve. Thin pieces of chicken that tasted like they were just dipped in boiling water and mixed with some gravy. I’ve tried them at Velocity & Coffee Beans – they don’t make the grade! Atleast Sea Park in Kalamassery had a decent Hyderabadi Dum Biryani which I really liked and had on many occasions during the 4 years that I worked in an office near it. I can’t remember the last place that I have had a decent biryani since 2006 other than Sea Park. It was so bad that for the last couple of years I have opted not to try biryanis unless someone else is also having it.

It is my intention to try out the biryani’s in a few places that people have suggested to try them out. I will go in with a little hope and wish for the best. There has to be some decent ones out there. Anyone in Cochin who is loans long term reading this, please give me your suggestions for a good biryani place.

Memories Of MTB

This pic my cousin shared on Facebook brings back so many nostalgic memories. The pic is of the Mattancherry Tourist Bungalow, a lodge and watering hole in Mattancherry (which is part of old Cochin). Why nostalgic? I have never had a drink from there. Not even a solitary beer. I have had food from there but never had food inside the place. The MTB is right opposite my mom’s parents’ house in Mattancherry.

From my earliest memories the MTB has been like a part of the family. The house my grandfather built for his family was done in the early 60s and the MTB followed a few years later. Over the decades, the tourist bungalow has been a center for drunken fights and especially during the holiday season. My cousins and I have watched quite a few dozen fight scenes from our rooftop terrace or the first floor balcony. At one time there was a Hindu-Muslim fight which started near the market area and ended up right in front of our doorstep.

From time unsecured credit loans to time my dad & uncles would buy beer or some other drinks from the bar and enjoy them in seclusion (away from my grandmother who although knew that her sons and sons-in-law drink, frowned upon the activity). Long before I started drinking or was of drinking age, I remember going to buy beer bottles from them for my uncles & my dad. As have many of my other male cousins. And although we never went to eat, we would on occasion buy some food from there – like a beef roast or some chicken curry.

One particular funny incident from my childhood comes to mind – my cousin Navin, who was probably 11 or so at the time, had a bet with some of the waiters of MTB that he could eat 10 porottas dry in on sitting. No curry, no gravy – nothing, just porotta. The bet was for a chicken biriyani. He won the bet and he was given a chicken biryani for free by them. His belly full, he walked the 10 steps from the bar to the house, struggling to loosen his belt, came back home and told his mother to keep the biriyani in the fridge as he was full at the time and would eat it later. She had some choice words for him

Ah memories of the good ole days!