Feline nocturneđŸ±

Every time he crossed neighbor’s threshold, there was this old cat lying there supine, half asleep, half awake. Dozing in and out of this world and cat’s dream world. Seeing her asleep cozily on her smooth mat, bought a certain calm and quietude to his heart. And three little ceramic ducks, led by the duck with a broken beak were the constant in cat’s life, like the Trinity guarding her.

Sometime when he woke up at wee hours of the morning, the cat would be up, for she was a diurnal sleeper and a nocturnal creature. She would calmly cry, probably for the food or making conversation with the ceramic ducks. The one with broken beak always had the best stories of its adventure, one time when he swam across Malacca straits, and another time when he got into a fight with monitor lizard at Pulau Bin. They never grew tired of these repetitive stories. And when the cat cried at those hours, it was joined by a background band of chirping crickets, and together they tried to wove a sad opera, lamenting love lost together. Chopin would have felt challenged probably?

May the wind under your wings …

I came across this quote from one of the Instagram pages that Mehak shared. It reminds me that I need to watch LOTR again on Netflix, (since I do not have the book anywhere). Also, the cafe where JRR Tolkien used to write, wasn’t it named after some eagle?  Yes, it was. ‘Eagle and the child’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_and_Child

Without further ado, the quote, ponder on the quote while I will go and grab my Chinese year special breakfast downstairs. My favorite kaya butter and Kopi C, it’s a bit strange that I have stuck to the same breakfast for 6+ years now. Singapore does that to you, you get used to things, and things will not change drastically. Probably if there was a site like Moody’s which can rate country based on their entropy, Singapore would be one with the lowest entropy.

Image result for tolkien wind under your wings

Awakening?

Often at times when I read through my old blog posts, I wonder if I was the one who wrote it. It’s like some other person in some other domain came up with these wonderful words. Probably that’s how dark ages felt to Medici family. Humans would have felt, it seems that we know all this maths and algebra and architecture, but it’s just that we have forgotten it while evolution.

I still have those emails coming from my publisher, thought a lot less frequent now. Previously it was a lady named Ada, and now it seems she is gone and replaced by Hannah. Still, it feels like another era, another planet.

Life these days is most entrenched in writing, writing code, not these words, which are feral and wild. Strange it may sound, but one kind of writing feeds the heart, and while writing code, umm, feeds the wallet. Probably it all boils down to linguistics, it is the medium through which we express ourselves, be it the logical thinking part of the brain while writing codes or the calm, artistic part which probably is active right now.

I slept off earlier last night around 9pm, probably from swimming fatigue and making up for lost sleep. I woke up around midnight, only to realize that my fatigued legs have healed, and I dreamed how sleeping cleanses up the body or something. More on this later, till I finish up researching what happens when we sleep, physiologically and psychologically.

Among other things, I joined Toastmasters 1.5yrs back. Its fun and confidence boosting, to prepare speeches and deliver it in front of a willing audience. And those shiny velvety best speaker, best evaluator ribbons are sure fab. But probably instaGen would be happy if someone would come up with instaCertificates, there that’s the next big thing.

Awards and trophies, as instaCertificate – we make socially acceptable, smartphone supported. Get all the social validation and ego boost you want and crave for. Our product will help you get all the likes and comments you want, and be Kim or Ronaldo for a day.  I am resisting the hashtags, I think WordPress does not support them(yet?)

best

Until next time.

 

Musings

On his diurnal morning pilgrimage to work, sometimes his eyes were wide awake to register happenings around. Today was this day.

There was a girl with coffee, spilled coffee on her snow-white sneakers, which were current haute couture of this generation.

She tried to erase the coffee marks using a tissue, for what were white sneakers sans their white glow?

He sat surrounded by daily commuters, mostly engaged religiously to their smart phone screen, among the cacophony of apps and data. A bright shaft of sun illuminated their plebian shenanigans, revolting against their machine, and trying it’s best to get their attention off their artificial lighting, and all it got was squinted eyelids in response.

Michael Chabon had been his constant companion for almost two weeks now. The book, though short like a novella, was ” a natural exuberance and extravagance of Chabon’s writing is matched by his dazzling wit”, as Sunday Telegraph has noted.

It provided a certain solace and nutrition to his senses starved of prose & verse, but abound with automation tools and career/soul searching

The metro moved through the stark contrasting world on either side, as seen through its windows. Greens of Dover juxtaposed to cemented high rises, on opposite windows.

They descended at Buona Vista. A diffident Chinese teen, adjusted his coiffure subconsciously, while passing by cute European teenagers. For such was Singapore, a complex amalgam of countries and continents, merging in this giant 740 square kilometer cauldron of dreams, identities and life.

“One north “, the automated voice announced.

And thus began his work day.

Blogging in age of snapchats…

Trivia :

Guess the size of Tibet ?

5 time that of Singapore

Some small state in India…

Other day Seth Godin was reminiscing why he did not join twitter and rather stuck to his blog writing. It seems to be a true in certain sense that social media has ruined sense of writing. And not going further it certainly seems to be the case with me. Posting pictures on instagram or sharing posts on facebook , probably quenches the thirst for writing.

If you are reading this , I assume you are still sucker for blogs, and would like to read more than 150 words of twitter or some shared photos on facebook.

In same podcast[1], Godin told about Neil Gaiman method to write, he bores himself to death, and thats when words start flowing. So as it usually happens deleted all social media apps, yet again. Let the detox begin ! 

Only yesterday publisher called up, umpteen times. Not from their usual UK number, but somewhere from new Zealand. I took the bait seeing someone calling from New Zealand, and excused myself for still writing that book i mentioned 4 august 2016. That’s eight months of postponing. Hmmm, make me sad in a certain sense.

Talking of Gaiman , so finally finished American Gods [2], after almost 2 yrs, so ideally now I should be jumping to his next book rather than reading “A mountain in Tibet” by Charles Allen.[3]  But since folks back home are venturing for kailash trek makes some sense to do r&d on Tibet.

Trivia answer

So Tibet is 2.5million sq kms area, almost 1/3rd size of India, that HUGE !! 

[1] http://tim.blog/2016/02/10/seth-godin/

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30165203-american-gods

[3] http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1571415.A_Mountain_In_Tibet

Of Half marathons, lizards and type A

Recently if you have been around him, you would have come across him repeating type A personality, almost as a leitmotif : Type A’s are this, type A’s are that. Type A’s  had  this system of competition, where they challenged themselves and others to around 100km per month, nike running challenge. He usually tried to keep it easy and disciplined, like 2km per day , would garner him, 14km /week. But math worked that way, not his  fickle self. Inadvertently after every two weeks or so ,he would always be short of 10-15km, after 2 weeks. That was when his type A kicked in , fuelled by the incoming losing challenge , and a will to lose unwanted calories from weekend bashes. Along with it came his faithful 2L hydration backpack, Asics gel running shoes, and determination to run for at least 10km.

– One round around Macritchie would be 12km , and may be if I   can just sustain for another one hour or so, I am set for a half marathon distance, and a second place.

Somehow the weather was good, his knee supportive , and he ran-walked-sprinted through first round, and by the time he was at hydration point of café at Macritchie , his app read 14.0kms,

– so another 7kms to do, And if I am lucky enough I will break PR of 2:50hrs, which means 7km in 50 mins.

He buckled on his knee brace, and refreshed by an from isotonic drink, he started off pacing after 14kms, tired yet determined to beat his PR. After 2km he was out of breath, shins revolting and heart beating faster.

-May be not today, just finish off 21km, and you would be back in challenge.

There was a gigantic monitor lizard on the plank ahead, twice the size of breadth of plank, probably out thinking

Monitor Lizard : “ahh all them humans would be off now, I can venture for my Sunday evening stroll, or might as well go skinny dipping.”

 

Him : “Wtf , this one is huge and menacing, do I wait for it to go , or just keep pacing, with heavy footfall, and shoo it off “

 

M.L. : “Is this runner dude gonna come over, OMG, I am scared, may be if I can just jump off in water and swim away quickly . What if this predator follows me in water, they sure can swim. OMG OMG “

 

Him: “Get over your fear !  monitor lizards are as scared of you as you are of them. We have similar self-doubt about one another. Continue running ”

 

M.L.: “ bastard !, he is coming this way, forget the swim, just get back to the jungle”

It moved back, and got in quickly behind the bushes. He kept running with heavy footfalls, unsure of himself and of the monitor lizard.

 

Him: “I hope it isn’t lurking behind, and will pounce with its bare teeth on my poor naked shins, just imagine its teeth sinking in my flesh. Oh dear, just fucking run ”

 

M.L.: “ I hope he doesn’t follow me in the bushes. Fuck he is running faster, run for your dear life. Great komodo , help your disciple”

 

And faster it ran inside the jungle, over rustling leaves , and faster he ran off the wooden planks , and continued running till he was some 100m faraway.

 

Him: sigh, I should just come back fast enough before it’s total dark, faster ! “

 

M.L.: “ oh dear, that was close, that bugger will probably come back again, sigh !”

 

Nonetheless , he finished off his half marathon distance – first half for this year –  still not able to beat his PB of 2:50hrs. Back in his condominium hall, stretching with ice pack, lemon ice-cream, and 4 glasses of guava juice mixed with rock salt, and promise of social validation through an instagram post.

Nonetheless, it finished off its Sunday evening stroll distance, and skinny dip across the lake. Back in its nest, it lay stretched calm and quiet, near the moist corner of lake, marvelling at the stars above, and the fish it just had consumed, and promise of its survival through nature.

Until next time, when he would again slack on his training schedule, and feel guilt over calories consumed from drinking wine and that particular German erdinger beer.

Miners of Kawah Ijen

10254044_10152365062793529_8381213138107099218_nTwo days back into the civilisation, first world country. He was tying his boots – getting ready for diurnal commute to place with cubicles. When realisation hit him, that while he was living in upscale apartment with pretty much all the modern facilities, a miner back there would be heaving and bulging under the weight of ninety kilograms, and to earn meagre. While he would lie back on easy chair, with air-conditioning and coffee brewed in a french press. There was a stark juxtaposition. He felt deluded and disillusioned, and a sheer respect for the miners back there.

A miner would climb up with impossible 90kgs on his shoulder and budging under the weight of sulphur , with a torchlight and scarf in his mouth. It was beyond comprehension for a normal city dwellers to understand  the challenger and risk these folks took, for 700 rupiah per kilogram of sulphur. And a days’ labor worth of 5-6 usd. He was discussing this with miner’s family at the house in kampung. His father was a miner and so was his elder brother. They would trek daily up the Mount Ijen and descend down 800 metres into the crater. Brave poisonous sulphur fumes, wait for the red molten sulphur cool down as yellow crystals, and then break it with a rod, fill in the bamboo basket and then carry the onerous ninety kilograms up and above, followed by three kilometres descend. They would weigh the load at intermediate stop, and finally deliver it to the factory. And make 49,000 IDR – 63000 IDR(4.9 – 6.3 USD).

Younger brother, Ganda,  attended college in nearby university at Surabaya, and studied physics. He took 5 years to finish the course, compared to usual 4 years and soon realised that it wasn’t his mettle. He started off as developer in a Chinese software firm, and tried to stick for 4 months. Then with the advent of technology he started seeing tourism growing in east Java. It was when he listed his place on airbnb and started getting guests, 5-6 a month. He made a decent website with his HTML skills, and later realised that wordpress plugin was much better to manage. Now he gets a monthly influx of 4-5 tourists and charges around 45 USD for 2 days stay, with breakfast et al, trip to rice paddy, coffee plantation and then trekking up to kawah ijen. Samsul helps him with his business.

Still Ganda faces some inherent business issues, for one, airbnb pays a lump sum at $600, and t
o accumulate that much amount takes a bit long with the conversion rate of Indonesian rupiah. Initially when he started off his village (Kampung) folks were not very conductive of the idea, and complained about the presence of foreigners flocking around. But as on april 2014, the villagers now mingled freely, laughed together and conversed in broken english. It must have been a liberating experience for Ganda.

For folks who wanna go there, or are planning to here are the weblinks.

Website http://www.ijenminertour.com/

Fb page https://www.facebook.com/ijenminertour

Airbnb link https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1697023?s=OJUR

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Journey to the centre of the earth

He continued reading Bukowski- it was disgusting , sometimes depressing and at times dark. Yet Bukowski had that something magnetic. Guess waking up for last 2 days at ungodly hours to climb volcanoes was taking its toll. His routine – Wake up at 2:36 ; drink red bull; skip brushing and went of droopy eyed  to climb volcanoes.

A day before he woke up groggy eyed sharp at midnight  and got into the dilapidated jeep, which blasted some Indonesian songs. None of words made sense, until the band started playing ‘someone like you’ with this Indonesian tempo and something moved inside him. The two hours ride dozed him off , and he went into a trance. where he would be painfully answering what ifs and fighting his conscience and then the brakes of car would wake him up. He would look out of window, into dark,  for next five seconds he would remain disoriented, having lost time and space continuum. It happened twice or thrice before they reached  the base camp of volcano after an hour. He put on his head mounted torch light and switched on , it blinded the other occupants of small room – mining workers who were warming themselves over log fire, preparing for their first trip . His guide passed him a gas mask and added ,

– see if it snugly fits , the gases down the crater are pretty intense.

Which meant the disposable N95 masks would not be sufficient and this one made him feel semi claustrophobic, and auditioning for breaking bad.

They walked on in dark,  the black road stretched menacingly ahead of them. Three day old moon was shining up and high. It had rained last evening and the ground was soggy and yellow stones shone which shone with the focus of headlight.. On both sides there seemed to be infinite forest and when he would swivel his head , one would have seen the bushes and creepers and green and brown rusted bark.thickening and vanishing in darkness.  With that headgear he felt transmuted to some console game where his mission was to surreptitiously invade  into enemy’s  territory.

The ascent was plenty at times and he would feel his thigh muscles flexing with each steps, and he slapped a stick on note on his mind,

– fuck the elevation I have been working out , this gonna be easy it’s  just 3 kms !

As if response someone pleaded halt, apparently the guy with 94 kgs on his body and 6 feet frame needed the first of many breaks to come.

He felt his heart pounding like a teenager heart would have seeing Monica bellucci for first time.

It took a whole 3-4 minutes to get back to regular rhythm from tachycardia. The group of five continued , he got other three to walk in front of him in a single file.

– am gonna be your shining beacon

And swivelled his headlight to trail his frontman steps, the light made an perfect white circle, and synchronised with the footfall of young Japanese accountant in front of him.

Soon the vegetation gave away and the they could smell sulphur in the air, it burnt their nose slightly and overworked his overworked lacrimatory glands,  He tried to remember lessons from his high school about sulphur and only incident he could remember was some chap putting old sulphur box in sink and the sulphur burnt like fire in Dante’s inferno. He put on his gas mask , and braced on the slope , but with the gas mask on and with heaving heart and water dripping down eyes it was difficult to breathe. He took off the mask and took a deep breath and allowed his olfactories to get used to the smell of burning sulphur.

– was it SO2 or SO3 ?

 They reached the top of crater and it was dark sand dunes – instead of sand it was some dark soil. Black dust rose in air and through his hair. They have given on breathing sans mask and got accustomed to wet droplets that came from exhaling inside the mask.

At a certain distance lot of folks flocked at the perimeter of the crater , thick fumes arose from inside and it was still dark in the sky, he peered down into even more darkness mixed with dense fumes . There were snake trails left by lava going deep down into the crater,like hundreds of giant lava snakes  thousands have wiggled down the slope only to vanish into the famed sulphur lake. Their guide hustled them into an imperfect circle formation and asked them to check their shoes. He was confused what was there to check on the shoes, his hiking boots worked perfect, waterproof and the maker had a legacy of being in production in France serving at World War I.

– I checked those shoes a thousand time before making that hefty purchase, mister. He thought.

His friend undid his shoe laces and retied then for a snug fit, and the guide instructed

– it’s a difficult climb down and is legally forbidden . You take a wrong step and you fall and die

DIE ! and he laughed and he was again confused if it was joke but didn’t have heart to ask.

They started their ascend down , on rocks and incomplete rocky pathways.Often someone shoe skidded and for a nanosecond everyone would freeze. The presence of tourists and occasional miners gave them the needed comfort zone. The other japanese chap put on his goPro with head mount. If only Frodo had a go Pro things would have been easier in Lord of the rings, and Mr. Tolkien would have moved in his grave seeing his epic getting this modern hardware add-on. It took them another thirty minutes or so to reach the very bottom of crater, the source of fumes was a tiny yet potent one. The camera enthusiasts started with their tripods and hundreds worth of digital SLR. When the burst of fumes settled down, lo and behold, the blue flame  of Kawah Ijen. It was pristine, pure yet so unworldly.

Lured by this unearthly blue,  he continued down to the source, carefully marked his steps with the white light, slipped twice on a soft sulphur rock. He reached the source and sulphur gods acknowledged him. He inhaled before holding his breath, and closing his eyes , and turning away from the source. It was too late he tasted sulphuric acid in his mouth, it was bitter and acidic.An olfactory nostalgia time warped him twelve years back to school in Varanasi.  They stayed around for another 2-3 hours there, and decided to go back, they were exhausted. Sulphur had given  him a nagging headache right between the eyes, and yet it abided a bit when he thought of poor miners.

–  C’est la vie !

Listless

It still wasn’t very clear to him. He was loitering, a usual sunday morning, made himself the lousy nescafe premix coffee did his experiment, adding little bit of cream and shaking contents in a mixer it produced rich foam. Adding a circular dollop of chocolate sauce for presentation purpose. And took an obligatory instagram, for he has been keeping himself busy with instagrams these days, following well known and not-so-well-known photographers, few friends and few celebrities. It had a charm of its own, last time he was discussing with her cousin in London, so what would have Conan Doyle posted as a Instagram from his 21 baker street, Hyde park. He did not got a very convincing reply, or the one he was looking for. “You can’t always get what you want”, was playing in his mind in loop since last night, it was sort of answer to his life questions. And yet to get this epiphany , in a the rolling stones concert was something : tipsy with red wine, shiraz to be precise, was not the best wine,  but then always better than a beer. They don’t serve scotch in concerts. There was other part of the song, but if you try hard, you’ll get what you need. He was still trying to figure out what he needed.

The haze was back in Singapore and it hung over the city like a gossamer, a translucent veil to the beautiful urban visage. It was only when you entered through it , you would have felt  your nostrils burning or that bbq smell. The clouds were back, and it rained, it rained after 3-4 weeks, it cleansed everything and anything and bought jauntiness to the monotonous urban landscapes, through the wet gossamer. Nature had its own photo filters, and rain was the best one. Soon the petrichor would be in air, and what better day to have a coffee and jot down. He quickly ran through cafes in his mind, the one in Orchard, the hardware one in some corner, the one in upscale Tiong Bahru and the one in east coast park. He dismissed all of them, owing to distance.

– May be if I  just get that french press back here at least will not die thirsty on sundays.

His roommates were switched on xbox and he resisted the temptation to go there and shoot through M1 at enemies in a scottish highland castle.

It was midnight already

– oh man, the time fucking flies so fast. He cursed that fucktard for sharing reuse of plastic bottles, no seriously, get a life man, get beyond these walls of Facebook. He cursed another one instagraming, although he knew he was hypocrite in his accusations yet they all seemed to be well placed – hyper targeting as the marketing folks in 3 piece suit would have termed it, ohh its not 80s anymore, marketing blokes with a jacket and a denim would have retorted to.

– Our hyper targeted advertisements are best in the class and promise best ROI for your investment.

He had this sudden whim and exigency  of watching aurora borealis in Norway, as if the phenomenon would cease happening from next year. It has to be this year man, say what, we go in fourth quarter, when the days are small and the night is dark and lights are bright in north of northern hemisphere.

– Yeah we can take all those unfinished books with us.

He acknowledged the silent pain in the core, yet proudly metaphorised it to medal of honour for callisthenics.

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