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Unforgettable Trips

What is your very favorite holiday? Recount the specific memory or memories that have made that holiday special to you.

I haven’t been on a holiday in many many years. I just don’t do them. But if you ask me what my favourite holidays were, its the two trips my extended family took back in 1988 and 1989. During the summer everyone pooled and got a couple of 14 seater vans and a couple of cars and went on extended trips to a few cities in India. Mostly in the south. Bangalore, Mysore, Madurai, Coimbatore and a couple of others.

It was days of fun and enjoyment. It was rip-roaring laughter, laughter so hard that tears would stream down our cheeks and yet we learned so much as well. I have a bunch of photos from those days some where in my boxes of stuff. I have to dig them out someday and get the pics scanned and keep them safe online somewhere. They were some of the best moments of my life.

Stuff like that just never seems to happen anymore.

Prompt from The Daily Post at WordPress.com

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It’s All Relative

How would you get along with your sibling(s), parent(s), or any other person you’ve known for a long time — if you only met them for the first time today?

I guess we all have problems with our family members including uncles, aunts and cousins and other assorted creatures who just happen to be somewhere in the mix of relatives either related by blood or marriage to someone in your family. And it’s not possible to be happy-happy joy joy and like everyone all the time. It’s just not possible. Having positive relationships with as many people as possible is good.

However are we close and spend time with some of our relatives, if not all, just because we have known them for so long and because they are our relatives? It seems to me that it is true. Certainly you cannot care to be around all of your relatives that much if you had the choice. Some of them might be assholes. You do not choose your relatives, they happen to be thrust upon you.

If I met some of my relatives now for the very first time, I might not want to spend time with them once I know a bit about them. I might stay away and say that I am not interested in them. But what can you do? You are related!

Prompt from The Daily Post at WordPress.com

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Birthday Cake

Well we had a nice birthday dinner. My sister and her two younger kids (oldest is away at college) came over to join my dad, mum and me. I ordered a bunch of chicken fried rice, naan, chicken tikka masala and butter chicken from a restaurant named Aangan. It’s a new place and I had never had food from there before but I have only heard good reviews about them. The food was really delish. My sister and the kids had bought me a cake, red velvet with raspberry glaze on top. Never had that flavour before either. It was good.

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Family Party @ Lotus Club

So last night we had a family get together at the Lotus Club on Warriam road. This party was planned 2 weeks back and finalized for the 14th as everyone who attended were free on this particular day. Initially it was supposed to be on the 10th (which most of us had off due to it being a holiday) but Saturday was preferred as a bunch of us were bound to have hangovers.

So my parents and some of my aunts and uncles had reached the club by 6pm but me and most of my cousins reached there only by 7:30 pm and gathered in the large room that the club rents out for functions like this and which my family usually books for our family parties. I met my relatives and my cousin Raju poured me a white rum and mango juice cocktail. Which wasn’t that good by the way and I switched to rum + Spirite & then two rum and Cokes.

There were a few snacks available including egg bajji (which was so hot and I burned my throat), beef fry, French fries and veggi pakodas. Dinner was chappathis, vellaappams, fried rice, beef roast and chicken curry followed by caramel custard. We spent a lot of time talking and drinking and laughing and it was fun. We all left by 11:30 pm, back to our homes with promises of another family party sometime in the next coming month or so.

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Do Not Become This!

Do you ever find yourself doing something your parents used to do when you were a kid, despite the fact you hated it back then?

Well perhaps little things but I just wanted to share something my sister posted on our cousins’ Whatapp group a couple of days ago.

Apparently when my sister goes all parental, complaining and argumentive with her kids, especially her two older sons, they plead with her to stop becoming “mummy”! Mummy as in my sister’s and my mother aka their grandmother. See my nephews and niece call their mother (my sister) “amma” which is the Malayalam word for mother but because they have grown up hearing my mother being referred to as “mummy” by my sister & me from day 1, they also call my mom that.

Now my mother is a frantic, don’t do this, don’t do that, worries and complains all the time, over motherly and over fussy and “what are they eating, drinking, pooping, sleeping, wearing” kinda mom that turned into the same but older version as a grandma. So when they say that to her, my sister’s reply is “I won’t as long as you pick up your stuff and put them away, do the small chores I ask you to do and behave”! And then they do as they have been told. Which works both ways

I found that so funny!

Prompt from The Daily Post at WordPress.com

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Drinks & Dinner @ Lotus Club

Last night my family – dad, mom, my sister, brother-in-law, their 3 kids – 3 cousins (2 who brought their wives and 1 child each), 1 uncle & 3 aunts met at the Lotus club for some drinks and dinner. This was decided at around 5pm yesterday evening and by 7:30 pm we reached at the club. My dad, mom & I went by an Uber cab and greeted everyone at the large room we had booked for the evening.

The star of the show was clearly the vodka which 4 of us had. My dad had whiskey, my uncle and bil had brandy. I must have had 6 vodkas throughout the evening, which explains the headache I had this morning.

Th festivities started with some snacks. I remember plates of french fries, egg burgi, onion pakodas, chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, deep fried beef being involved.

Dinner was naan, butter chicken and fried rice followed by some ice cream. It was a great get together and by 11:30 pm I was back in my bedroom watching Star Trek.

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Nostalgic Music

The previous post about mix tape and music made me think about the year 1987-88 (let me put that as the Indian school year which starts in June and ends in March) which is the first year I spent back in Cochin and India. Having lived life from birth till that time in Kuwait, I listened to many bands & singers that they showed on British & American music chart shows on Kuwaiti tv and also had many shared favourites with my friends in the building we all lived in. Michael Jackson, Culture Club, Wham, Bee Gees, Duran Duran, Abba & Boney M were there common favourites and that’s kinda what I listened to. I also started listening to Bon Jovi & Europe in 1986.

When I came back to Cochin and settled here with my family, my cousins and I and my sister would meet on weekends and summer holidays and listen to music most evenings (from 6pm till when it was time to sleep) together as a group while we also played board games and read books. Now the bands that my older cousins introduced me to have stuck with me as some real heavy favourites that I still love to this day. That includes Scorpions, The Beatles, CCR, Neil Young, Dire Straits, a-ha, Eric Clapton etc but heavily into Dire Straits and Scorpions. These two bands are ones that I share a special bond with 4 of my male cousins with as we listened to them a lot during the weekends and summer holidays.

I will always share these two bands with my cousins and it reminds me so much of our youth pre-teen & teen aged years. I think back to those days of playing Hind Trade with my cousins and listening to hours of Scorpions and Dire Straits and enjoying the days so much. It was a lot of fun.

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Menagerie

Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to? (Bonus points for adorable animal photos, and double bonus if they’re taken with your phone!)

No I currently do not have animals in my life, as in living with me in my home. One reason is that it is not allowed in this building to keep any cats or dogs (smaller animals in fish tanks and cages are allowed, like say a parrot or a pair of love birds or a hamster) and the other reason is I cannot subject a dog or a cat to live in a small apartment with the three humans who live here as well.

But having had a dog for 11 years and taken care of another one for a year as well, I miss having dogs around. They are cute, loving, affectionate, friendly, cuddly, make you feel better by just being there and loyal. And they are the best friends man or woman can have. So I do hope that my situation changes to one of more positivity; meaning that I can get a bigger place or move into a bigger place in a year or two which will mean that I can keep a dog and a cat or more of each in my residence.

In the meantime I will have to make do with the occasional visits that I do to go and see Barfi, my sister’s Pug. Or sometimes my sister brings him around to my place as well and well…as you can see he is adorable and funny as hell.

Prompt from The Daily Post at WordPress.com

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Slaves And Their MASTER!

What Nicknames Have You Ever Gotten or Given?

My family has always been into giving nicknames to each other. I was no exception in that I have had a couple that has stuck around for a while. When I was 11 years old, my family including uncles, aunts and cousins took a month long trip through parts of South India on a sight seeing trip. When we made it to Kanyakumari, right at the end of India, we had to take a ferry to see the island on which there is a statue of Swami Vivekananda. Now everyone needed help to climb aboard the ferry and there were two men who were assisting people to get on board. But little roly poly, 11 year old me jumped on board and when we came back I did the same. So one of the guys said “Master chaddiyello!” meaning master – as in a young boy – has jumped!

My eldest cousin brother heard that and he started calling me “Master” and the name stuck. Pretty soon all my cousins were calling me that with a few “Masterjis” from the younger ones for added pleasure. Most of my aunts & uncles also acknowledged the nickname. As I became a teenager the guys would joke that “Master” was short for “Master of Masturbation” and the teasing would continue for ages. Till this day, 27 years later the name has not died and I am still Master for a few of my cousins. I doubt if it will ever get die out and I’m pretty sure that when I am like 90 years old I will still hear plenty of calls of “Master”. That will find itself into my obituary as well; lucky I won’t have a headstone!

Prompt from The Learning Network Blog at New York Times.

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Valentine’s Day Family Party

We had a large gathering of my family members last evening. It was paid for by my uncle & aunt who had flew in from the UK and one of their sons. It was held in my dad’s old stomping grounds – or should I say our old stomping grounds – Cochin Suburban Club in Thrikkakara and we had a small hall/conference style room for the evening. The organization was done by a couple of my cousins and my sister.

The evening had a bunch of snacks – from french fries to peanuts to beef fry, fried chicken (which was mostly bones) and delicious cheese omelets & honey fried potatoes. The older folks had whiskey to keep them going but my cousins and I stuck to beer for some reason and I think one too many beers as I have a pounding headache this morning. But it was worth it! I haven’t had much to drink in the last year and a half and it showed.

I had fun meeting a bunch of my cousins, aunts & uncles after such a long time. We had fun and we had a great time. This group pic is of me, my cousins, my dad, my mom, uncles & aunts.

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Goodbye To A Wonderful Lady

Yesterday one of our family friend, who my parents have known since the early 70s and who I have known from the time I was born. Today was the funeral of this wonderful lady who had to suffer so much before her untimely death. She & her husband lived in the apartment opposite my family’s and has seen the birth of my sister as well as mine. I grew up with her kids, who – the daughter is a year older than me and the son is 2 years younger than me – were my close friends until the age of 11. The last time I saw either of them was over 20 years ago, though I think I have been to the girl’s wedding but cannot be sure (which would have been around the age of 25-26).

The last time I met this woman was back in the early 2000 I think, while I was doing a marketing job and I wanted to see her husband about having his business featured on this internet portal that my employers were promoting. I spent about an hour at their house during tea time and talked to them. I haven’t seen either of them since and have not seen this lady suffer through her illness. She lost her eyesight slowly and then her ability to move and even swallow food. She needed to be put on IV to feed her and then later they had to pump food & nutrients straight into her stomach. She stopped recieving people as her  health went from bad to worse and later didn’t want anyone other than her immediate family to be near her.

After years of this state she finally breathed her last as she slept and now she is no longer suffering. Her family and friends will miss her tremendously even though they will be grateful that she no longer is a victim of her illness. She will be remembered and thought of as fondly as she deserves to be. It’s a travesty that good people, nay wonderful people like her, have to go through what she went through. Life is just not fair. She leaves behind her husband, daughter, son and grandchild.

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I Had A Dream OH, Su Su Sudio

Man do I ever have the weirdest dreams! I had this dream last night that I went to a Phil Collins concert with my sister Sherine and our cousins Satish, Sandy, Navin,Suraj, Arun, Manoj, Raakhee, Rakesh, Subin, Priya, Shalini, Roshni, Balakrishnan, Jayakrishnan, Shekhar & Shankar. And it wasn’t a present day dream; I think we were still in our late teens to early 20s (well I think I was in my early 20s) as my baby cousin Roshni was a small girl in the dream. It was loud and it was such a fun time. The stadium was full and we had this huge balcony section ust for our family. I was on one corner. Our parents were in a lounge like area sitting on sofas and drinking tea and eating snacks, oblivious to the music playing.

I remember that we were singing along and clapping or hands to the beat. Funny thing is after a couple of songs Phil told the audience about a flying cockroach that pestered him during the shooting of his first few solo videos and that it continued for a couple of years. He even showed us video footage of the cockroach flying around him while he and his assistants tried to kill it. But then he made a truce with the cockroach and it later became the president of his fan club association!!! Yeah I know – I was laughing when I woke up.

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Games We Play As Kids 2

I loved reliving couple of the games I played with friends and cousins a couple of posts ago that I started thinking of more games we played as kids. I wonder what kids these days play.

I have mentioned before that I loved Monopoly as a kid and we played a lot of that as well as Hind Trade – which is just the Indian version with Indian places on the board – a lot during a few summers. I’m up for a game now if people were interested! What else? Oh yes card games. Now I never learned how to play Black Jack or Rummy but we played quite a few rounds of Donkey. I hope you know how to play Donkey. It was fun. Except when you become the donkey. And who hasn’t played “Name, Place, Animal, Thing” as a child. Oh, the evenings we spent playing these two games.

We played lots of Anthakshari. I don’t know what the game is called in English; it where you split into 2 or more groups and you sing a song and the next group has to sing another song that begins with the ending letter of the last word that they previous team sung. I’ve only seen it being played in a couple of Hollywood movies as well but it’s very popular among Indians. Oh we played a ton of General Knowledge quiz games, my eldest cousin always being the quiz master. This would go on late into the night. Like 1 or 2 am during the Summer holidays. Ah, those golden years will never come again.

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Buds & Mother India

Two incidents from around the year 1997 comes to my mind. The first one I was with a friend of mine and we were walking down the road after classes at NIIT and were waiting for a bus. Suddenly my friend started flicking his ear and told me that something like a tiny insect had flown into it and it was irritating his ear. So we cross the street and went to a small store – where you get snacks, some groceries, soft drinks and tea/coffee.

He asked the guy at the counter for some “buds” (meaning cotton buds to clean his ear) and the guy turns around and gets something from a shelf behind and asks “Is this to for here or do you want me to wrap it for you?” and my friend replies “No, it’s for my ear as I want to clear our something that went in!” And the guy at the counter stops in his tracks, dumbfounded, holding two bread buns in his hands -cause that’s what he had heard, buns instead of buds, and he was wondering what kind of person would shove a bun into his ear!

The second incident must have happened a few months later; a cousin & I had traveled by bus from our ancestral home in Mattancherry to Aluva where our uncle lives. We were there to take his car and drive it back to Mattancherry as another uncle wanted to borrow it for a few days. So we drove the car back and joining us was another cousin from the house in Aluva. On the way we stopped for a bite to eat and a soft drink and my older cousin wanted to buy smokes too. So we stopped at a small shop by the road side and ordered some snacks.

One cousin wanted a 7up and the other wanted a Pepsi and I told the boy, about 13-14 years old at the counter that I wanted a Mirinda. On hearing this the boy looked stunned and then went to consult with his father, the owner of the store. The dad came up to the counter and asked me “What did you want to drink?” and I repeated “I want a Mirinda”. The owner then laughed and said “Oh, ok, coming right up” and went back smacked his son on the head and said “He said Mirinda not Mother India!” My cousins and I were laughing at that for a long time!

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Weird Scifi Dream Involving My Cousins

I had this weird dream last night. Raju (real name Balakrishnan), Appu (Shekar), Monu (Shanker) & I were going on a spaceship to meet a family on another planet. Along for the trip was a vicious looking alien being & a little kitten! The purpose was to meet this family and who’s daughter I was planning on marrying. So it was a traditional Indian meeting of the proposed bride & groom. So we went there and I met the young lady and then I spoke to Raju and we agreed that she was too young for me.

Before we were to leave the girl’s mother & other relatives wanted to show us their land – farm land, trees, cattle etc. So we were touring their large property when suddenly we heard screams. A large group of terrifying looking gorillas were attacking us. There were huge! We were trying to run back to the safety of the house or our spaceship when a few gorillas hit Appu & me and we got injured. And then we were rescued – the alien we had on board & the little kitten came to our aid and battled off the gorillas, killing off many of them. It was a bloodshed and after about 10-15 of the gorillas were killed by them, the rest ran off.

So Raju & Shankar helped me and Appu back to the spaceship and got us into the medical room. The kitten was badly injured too, so we put him in a coma to help heal his injuries but the alien died due to heavy blood loss and so we had a funeral for it before we left back for earth! Crazy dream right?

Now I dunno, if the kitten was allegory for another cousin Jayakrishnan who’s nickname is Kithen – but what do you think?

I swear I wasn’t drinking or smoking weed or taking LSD last night!

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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 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!

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Social Clubs In Kerala Face A Harsh Future

So as you might know by now, we have this rather idiotic & unnecessary decision of the Kerala government to ban all liquor in the state buy closing down all the bars and then reducing the number of BevCo each year until total shutdown in 10 years to make the state a dry state! Other than bars in Kerala the other main victim will be the 30 or so social clubs in the state that have bar licenses. There are about a dozen blue-blooded clubs in Kerala that comprise the cream of about 30 clubs with bar licences where the snob-value of membership comes at a cost of around Rs 5 lakh (or $8,333 plus change). About 40,000 members of these exclusive clubs are waiting with bated breath to see what the state government proposes to do with the FL 4 A licence clause under which these clubs also double up as watering holes, arguably the single-largest draw for members.

Gaming facility _ two each in indoor and  outdoor _ rooms, food and parking are some of the mandatory items in the list for affiliation to the the Association of Registered Social Clubs of Kerala (ARSCK). Gaming facility _ two each in indoor and  outdoor _ rooms, food and parking are some of the mandatory items in the list for affiliation. According to the office-bearers, each club used to cough up Rs 15 lakh per year for the FL 4 A licence . There are nearly 30 clubs in the state with bar licence and 25 of them are members in ARSCK. The total number of members would come to around 40,000. The clubs fear that their earnings will suffer drastically with the alcohol ban as members will not come as frequently as they used to.

My personal memories are mostly with the Cochin Suburban club, Lotus Club and just a little bit for the Rama Varma club. Suburban club in Thrikkakara was the one that was a firm family favourite as it was just minutes away from my former home. My dad took a lifelong membership with them in the 80s when they had just started and it was so much cheaper than what they charge now. As a result my folks, sister and I plus my cousins, uncles & aunts all had many dinners there, a few functions and for my sister’s wedding we even had to book a couple of rooms for relatives to stay in back in 1995. The club has a play area for smaller kids, a library, table tennis area and later added a swimming pool, badminton courts. For special evening like Onam, Christmas, New Year’s and a club annual day function, they would have games as well as live bands performing. The food was mostly really good and we all enjoyed going there. Heck when I was 14-15 I even volunteered to work at the token counter for drinks (I didn’t handle any alcohol, I just told the members how much and collected the money and gave out drink tokens) for one function. I’ve hosted a couple of my birthdays there and invited friends.

Since our move to the city and that of most of my relatives in Cochin also to the city area the Lotus club became to de facto gathering place. Since 2006 this is the closest place to a lot of us and hence has seen family gathering, a couple of parties for pre weddings and reunion style functions for us. They have tennis courts, badminton courts, a large library, tv area for sports events, outdoor, balcony and indoor dining as well as a couple of halls that you can hire for special event if you want to. I’m not so crazy about their food but hey it’s fun when you have a lot of your cousins around for an evening. I prefer their alcohol selection and their snacks which are really good. By my reckoning we’ve had around 20 or so functions there in the last 3 years.

The Rama Varma club is one I’ve only been to a few times because only 2 of my cousins have membership there or affiliated membership which got cancelled and haven’t been there since 2007. But it is a nice place and I’ve enjoyed the few times I’ve been there drinking with my cousins. The drinking is ofcourse the main attraction for members in these clubs and now it could well be all gone in the next few days. Screw the government’s backward thinking. You paid good money for club memberships so you and your relatives/friends could meet and relax in a happy, homely atmosphere with a lot of space and the kids could play around and the men & ladies who don’t drink can still enjoy. You can’t meet your friends and drink at the BevCo lineup!

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How I Spent My Birthday Today

Well that was a good birthday celebration, in my quiet style. I made plans to meet my cousin Sujith at 12pm at Couchyn lounge bar. This morning was cold & chilly due to the non-stop rain that started yesterday morning. Even 2 cups of hot coffee refused to warm me up. After that I was online till 10:30 am and then took a bath in warm water and shaved before I got ready. I bared the heavy rains and hailed an auto to take me to Couchyn which is next to the Grand Hotel. Sujith was waiting for me there and we went in to order beer.

I haven’t had much to drink since August of last year. I went out in October then I had 2 beers with Anil in January and 2 beers with Sujith back in April. This time we had 2 beers each – 1 Carlsberg and 1 King Fisher blue each – and tucked in to small grilled chicken sandwiches at the bar. We were there for 2 hours and then headed to Center Mall near Shenoys for some sight seeing and more food. There were lot of hot looking young women in the mall.

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There is a lot of stalls that you can choose to eat from at the big food court in the mall but in the end we decided to get some subs from Subway and so went one floor down to the outlet that they have in the mall. He had a turkey sub while I had the Italian BMT sub (lamb pepperoni, lamb salami & chicken ham) and coke to wash it down. After an hour we had chocolate fudge sundaes (which were excellent) from an ice cream,shake & juice stall in the food court.

Half way through Ranjith happened to be passing by so he joined us for another hour after which Sujith & I went to see the new IT store dealing with Apple products. Then it was goodbye and I slowly made my way back home. It’s still cold but I am happy that I got to spend it having some fun.