Wednesday, September 12

60 days and ticking

60 days are over. Was on 4th of July 2007 that we landed in Dallas FortWorth Airport.

Getting settled. After a month, moved to a house. After a gap of 8 years, staying in an independent house again. The sight of squirrels, the chirping of birds and the hopping wild hares bring back the memories of early days in Kalamassery. There is but no kids coming out to play in the evening. The nearby park has been an attraction for kids. And the unlimited checkout from the city library. In past one month, kids have mugged up more than 100 books. I thought backyard would be a good attraction for them. But they prefer indoors. They says theres more space inside than in the backyard. And Dallas heat is terrible. They say its a cool summer this year! Thanks to the rains in Jul and now again in Sep.

On Aug 15 I started behind the wheel of my own car. My own - no loans. Drivers license is a big step here. No Drivers license? You really you? For many Americans, DL is THE identity card. Passport? Whats that? Oh, ok, let me check with my boss if that can be accepted as a proof of identity. So it goes. Now I am better off.

Driving is not bad. 35 min one side. I dont use freeways. And I use a slower road of 35mph speed limit. Cool drive listening to FM radio. The news and talk shows. Get to know a good lot of contemporary stuff. Starting with Dianne Reem show in the morning to All things considered on 90.1FM. The Hillary Clinton - Obama duels. The Katrina stories. Bush and war hate stories. The Iraq stories. Not just for the news. But for the language. The English in America is not the same English we have in India. This sounds all the way different. From the unvoiced Ps and the cutting Cs, the lengthening that reflects the ending of a word (quick nap vs a prolonged na...b), the rhythm to be embedded into every word to the rhythm that connects the parts of speech. Some are quite simple that at least I had overlooked. I never knew it makes so much of a difference between the sounds of w and v. But it is indeed sad that Americans dont know that English has been formed by distorting the original pronunciation of words from other languages. They might find me making mistake when I say guru. My accent trainer is fair in that. She never says right or wrong. She says American way and Indian way. And some are British way.

Facilities - not bad. Don't compare with Japan. Thats like comparing a PC with a Mac. Here you get a choice PC. You can choose the hardware, choose the OS and choose the apps. What you realize finally is that you are running on an Intel no matter what you did. Thats where you would appreciate a Mac. You bought home the machine. You had less choices. Yes, less choices. Jobs has decided everything for you. And you trust him. Thats what you want - a system you can trust. Not an option from the garbage. No wonder why Japan is costly. Again thats why democracy does not always deliver. And a good autocrat is the best option. The American democracy will go nuts if the President is not given so much autocratic power.

Folks back in India have a lot of appreciation of the American system. I don't say it is totally unfounded. But if someone takes US and India, strip off what both has built up so far and then put back again on a level playing field, I doubt the American dream remains dream for a longer term. At least thats what the Katrina example demonstrated and still demonstrating. With all the might and technology and the lessons from a huge human catastrophe at the Asian Tsunami, the American machinery could not work to get the people out of New Orleans. They were left to have their own choices. But the options were limited. Many had between life and death. For those who chose the former, a new set of options came - in the form of hunger and robbery. And this continues even now. One of the reporters goes on the radio that the local government is "anywhere between total incapability and non-existence". She is referring to the situation two years after the storm hit. A good vehicle is not the one which can just keep moving at high speeds. It is the one which can slow down when needed, and can restart after a complete stop.

"People" are calling for change. There are only two kinds of people again. Democrats and Republicans. The choice of the ruler for the longest run democracy comes from a choice between these two people. Anyway this time both these groups are calling for a change. Change in what? Not sure if republicans are serious about the next Presidency. The race at this time has come down between Obama and Hillary for the prelims. Both of them says change too. Hillary wants to "bring the experience" that she gained during her days as the first lady. (remember those days of impeachments and references to "that lady" and the Lewinsky tapes? she must have had a great experience for sure) And Obama wishes to bring the change from outside. He defends by offending Hillary's experience. He accepts not to have the experience Washington looks for, but he claims to have what America wants. I did not see anyone promising to put New Orleans back into life. America is not a peoples republic. It is a corporate republic.

Life is settling in. The texas summer is soon to leave for another 9 months. Ramadan is back in a week. What did I gain in last one year? What did I deliver?

Friday, August 3


I have not decided on a car yet. I am looking for a cheap used car. Something that I can afford. Without much economics or excel sheet or banker advice, I should know what I can afford. My loan application is still with me. I am still wondering if I should apply or not.

Texans CU has a special deal for multinational (?) new employees. For those who have not proved they are "credit worthy". By default, none is worthy of a loan. You take more loans and pay them back, you are more eligible for a loan in need. If you are that old man with principles and values, who still prefers the giving hand over the begging hand, chances are that you will not get help when in need. If you are that guy in college, who used to borrow from someone and payback someone else every monday, you are termed "credit worthy" and people are ready to help you even when you are not in need. You have a healthy credit history.


I now understand why Yunus got a Peace price and not price for Economy. Nobel authority still believes in the loans and credit worthiness. Otherwise they should have given him a Economics Nobel price. Someone who created a new economy, created a good society out of it, has been awarded for the results he produced. Peace. Not the common theory of loans and credits the he disproved.

Weird indeed.

If I have a million rupees worth land, I can mortgage and take a loan. Then invest in a business. Pay back regular. I increase my wealth. My land becomes free. My credit history improves. I then apply for a bigger loan. I get a better deal. I keep on growing my wealth.
I need a market too. So I give loan options for the poorer section of the society. Make sure their money is not invested to grow their wealth. They bet their future money into "comforts" that they do not deserve now. Their thirst for comforts grow. Their future earnings shrink. Their wealth shrinks. They grow thin as I put on weight. I call it free economy. They got choices, they made the wrong choice. I made the right choice. Haves keep growing and Have nots become more and more so. The gap never ends. Then dogs and fences and alarms come to guard the gaps. Wars and treaties fill up the air.

Banks are not something that the needy can bank on. In Yunus' words, banks have been asking people "Are you credit worthy?". Its time we ask them back "Are you bankworthy?"

പണമുള്ളോറ് നിറ്മ്മിച്ച നീതിക്കിതിലൊന്നും
പറയുവാനില്ലേ.....ഞാ൯ പി൯വലിച്ചു(ചങ്ങമ്പുഴ)

Friday, July 27


At 12, it used to be the lunch break. A few of us will walk down the trail across the Ladies Hostel and downhill to the college junction. Across the bus workshop and behind the row of small shops, we would go to the shabby shop with two rows of desks put across each other. Most of the time, there is a wait time. For the maximum occupancy for Eliyas Chettan's kanhikkada was only 8. So we would wait while Eliyas Chettan serves the kanhi and keeps it ready to cool down to what he calls "room temperature" There was nothing to be separately ordered - for most days. Some days he will have special beef fry or mathi (iwashi) fry or some bigger fish.

Know what I am reading now? Vaccum cleaner reviews. I want a vaccum cleaner. Back in India, I would have called up Eureka Forbes. Or would have gone to a shop and would have looked around for options. Done. Here in this world of market economy where consumer is supposed to rule the world, I am struggling. There are so many models around. Upright, stick type, bagless, cannister and so many companies. Prices range from $40 to $500. They vary from shop to shop. Some online shops give you good discounts. Then they charge you for delivery and or installation separately. You never get a full picture. There is always a dark hole that you never know exists.

Same with car. New car? So many dealers selling the same car. Call up all dealers, ask for quote, bargain, get the best deal. Easy. Then there are certain things they did not tell you. Destination charges, taxes, dealer option prices, documentation charges. Loans, fortunately I dont have a credit history yet and I am left with one choice. The Texans CU special deal. Thats good. Going for a used car at CarMax sounds better for me. No bargains, no hidden costs. Pay what they wrote and drive away. Anyway I have not decided. As ever, I am undecided. To decide or not, when to decide or not, I dont know. I am thoroughly confused.

I still doubt if it was wise to do a relocation such late in age. Man, I am so tired. Thank God, I have no decided on a house, almost decided on internet/phone/tv package. Wonder why none has an all inclusive package that covers everything that I wanted? There are many options here but in total what you get for what you pay is the same. Contents are the same in all these different boxes.

Who says consumer rules? This is a perfect place that proves monopoly need not mean just one company. Multiple companies can run a monopoly too.

Eliyas Chettan did not have a competition serving kanhi anywhere in the vicinity. But he did not run a monopoly. None of us were dying for kanhi too. But we did not have any issue. What we want is not too many choices. But one dependable solution.

Thursday, July 12


And thus we landed at Dallas FortWorth Airport on the 4th of Jul 2007. Thank God.

Travel was .. what you expect on a 11H 50Min non stop flight. A little better than that because most part of the journey was overnight. Over the years I have developed a taste immunity that helps me finish up whatever food they give on the flight. But Ian had absolutely no food.

Immigration was smooth. As it have always been for me so far. No questions asked. Customs had only one concern - am I bringing in cumin seeds? "I do have some food items with me - but no cumin seeds" "Thats fine".
Oh God, of all things on earth he is concerned only about that. Good.

Cherian had come to the airport. Sent the luggage with him and we took a compact rental car. And nicest was the great dinner at Cherians place. That was really good to have Ian get back in shape!

Last week was setting up at the hotel room. Monday was the "new hire orientation". Today comes and the first day at work. What happened to yesterday? Read Irene's blog. Thank God, it was hurting her too bad and she was all tears from Sunday night until finally they took two of them off yesterday. People say I have been lucky to get emergency appointment and get this done within a day. Dr. Vik Rao has to be thanked for that. The first two cheque leaves from my new cheque book goes to doctors!

A whole new set of things to do. Insurance; Dental; Vision. 401K. Deskphone. Mobile Phone. Housing. Utilities. Cable. Internet. Car(s). School.

First responses from kids, not kid so far -
"Are these roads not paved? They are so bumpy"
"Why are these elevators so noisy?"
"Again WalMart?"

Thanks for prayers

Tuesday, July 3


When I walked out of the 10E door today, everything seemed to be so normal. Actually it was not. I knew that I was not in a position to step in back through the same door.

People were still bent over their desks as 6PM is still too early for Japan employees. But I was not telling them お先に as I walked out.

I do not have that "open sesame" card attached to my ID card that would open that door. After possessing that card for 2.5 years I am leaving this location. Today is my last working day in Japan. Long planning followed by months long uncertainties finally look like giving way to executions. Thank God. These days have been of great learning. Learning patience and the true meaning of trust in God. Also could cover a good number of books too. Muhammad - The Prophet of our times by Karen Armstrong; The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo; The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple - Good reads all of them. Now I am on a book by the Grameen fame Muhammad Yunus. Though I dont know with the move I will be able to keep up with the reading.

Tomorrow, God Willing, we will be flying to Dallas. My new location. Where I need to start everything from start. When the crowd was moving west, I remained. Now, God willing its my time. Its a whole new learning. Starting from the American accent and the American terminology to the American way. Not the American thinking:)

Ian says he is happy because everyday will be a free-dress-day in school there. Irene is looking forward to the land that her friends have been talking about. For us, it is a new place, need to get a home to stay and car to move...

Prayers pls..

Pradeep, yes, need to be steadfast to look for all doors to find which is meant for you. You never know when that one will open for you. Niki-chan, I promise Japanese goddess that I will visit her again.. hopefully she will let me go!

Thursday, June 28

Optimism -kids teach us

Optimism is seeing an opportunity in every calamity.

How can we do that? See my situation. With all expectations and plans, my visa interview gets into a mishap, the 2-3 weeks wait for name-check resultsps nothing but more and more stories of months long waits, I finally decide to board a plane to India for a break. And there again, mid air, one engine bows down with a blasting sound and the pilot decides to fly back. You get wild. Why is this happening to me? Why all the negatives?

I explained to the kids who were stuck on the 4in TV screens.
"Look, there is a problem with this plane. So we are flying back and will have to board another plane" I explained.
"Yahoo!" Ian screams "We get to see one more TV!!!!"

Tuesday, June 26


God opens a door when he closes a window. I am thankful he lets me slip in through these doors. Prayers that I am always thankful and be humble.

I was in India last week for a short visit. Just escaped out on the second day of the rain drain picking a 6 hours delayed flight from Calicut airport. Past one month I am going through such small trials on my patience and trust in Allah.

My original plan was to start off in the US starting May. Attended interview on the 24th Apr. Everything went fine. "I am approving your visa" says the consular, adding after a spoken semicolon "but you know the world has changed a lot after you got your visa last time" He then explains that my name is too common and appears in the name database too many times and he has to get a name check done by Washington for stamping the same. And it would take 2-3 weeks time.

I normally do not plan anything in advance. But this time I had. I had planned my packing, vacating my apt etc. Everything went as per plan. Except for teh visa. A week later, we were homeless living on four suitcases! Two weeks I kept on in a temporary serviced apartment. The 2-3 weeks went off peacefully.. no updates. Consular had given me a phone number that I can call up to check the status. Every call costs $15. I can speak to the operator for 15min for that money. I did call, twice. The call center collects all the information and then calls me back -
Sorry sir, it is still under process. We are not in a position to give you any update. And we are helpless we cannot provide you an estimate too.
Then decided to drop off family in India. Plan to execution in two days. Tokyo Colombo flight had an engine failure (with a blasting sound!) mid air and then went back.. A day stay at Narita Nikko hotel with good food three times a day. Till the next day evening. Then they sent us via Bangkok on a JAL plane. A day late, I reached home. Stayed for two weeks, left family there and then came back to wait.

Anyway family got a good break in India before US embassy called up and said the name check is over. Send them the passports for stamping. So we are back here and waiting for the stampings to be done. With the four suitcases, in the hotel room in Shinjuku.

Patience Riyaz, patience. Innallaha maghassaabireen

Friday, May 18

Minnie the Pooh?

Ian is now declared to be cured of his long ear problem. Alhamdulillah!

He used to get ear infections with every climate change. From his very young age. Two years back the doctor came up with the issue - Otitis Media with Effusion. Whatever be the term, it means that he gets this liquid (Otitis media) inside his ear and do not drain out automatically. For normal people this should drain automatically, but apparently for many kids it do not so easily. As kids grow up, the Eustachian tube also widens and then the media goes out.

And he proved that he has a hearing loss. For both the ears. Thank God it was not a sensory one. It is because of this media he said. The bookish doctor at Japan Red Cross Hospital told me he is referring to a guideline in the US for the treatment. Treat for 3 months, no change, do a surgery. This guy was so good that he told me the name of the guideline and that I could google it out.

My ENT in India was against surgery. The surgery is anyway a simple one. They drill a small hold on the ear-drum and put a grommet there. The otitis media will flow out through this. The grommet will stay for around 6 months. If the tube is not cured, the media can get filled in again. The root cause is not cured.

We could keep him away of ice-creams, warm him up during winter, treat him with nasal drops and thus avoid further ear infections. The hearing loss remained. And it remained almost beyond our attention, while Ian was closing into himself with less interactions to any friends or so. He missed out fun at school as he was not able to capture what exactly was being told, sung or heard. Until my friend told me about the behavioral issues that are caused by hearing loss, that thought never occurred to me. Then I started relating him to the symptoms. They started matching well.

Thanks to Kurashima sensei to whom we went for Surgery. Ian himself was ready when we told him surgery will help him hear better. The doctor wanted give one last chance. One week with two times a day mucodyne and the Japanese method of low dose antibiotic treatment with a very very sour medicine that they prescribed to be given alongwith milkmaid, ice-cream etc. Doctor sees improvement. Another week with the same dosage and then a couple more days with half the dose. And this monday, he finally declared it is fully cured now. Thank God.

Past few weeks Ian also has started showing signs of better hearing. He can now listen to TV with a lower volume. You cannot tell Irene something in a low voice and assume Ian will not hear. And he is having more and more ice creams too.

And yesterday, Ian comes up with his new discovery. "Umma, is it Winnie the Pooh? I always thought it was Minnie the Pooh... "

Sunday, April 29

കുചേലന്റെ യാത്ര

യാത്ര കുറെ ചെന്നിരിക്കുന്നു. ഒരല്‌പം വിശ്രമം. ഇനിയും നടക്കാനെത്ര ദൂരം? ഏതു ദിക്ക്? കുചേലന്‌ ഭാണ്ഡ്മഴിച്ചു. ഭാര്യ കൊടുത്തയച്ച പൊതിച്ചോറ്. നടുക്ക് ഉപ്പുനാരങ വച്ച് ചുറ്റും ചോറ് വച്ച് പായലിലയില് പൊതിഞ്ഞ ഒനിഗിരി. ജപ്പാന്‌കാരുടെ പ്രിയ ഭക്ഷണം.

ഭാണ്ഡം വീണ്ടും കെട്ടാന്‌ നേരമായി. കുറെ നാളായി പേറുന്ന ഭാണ്ഡം. പണ്ട് അത് മടിശ്ശീലയിലൊരു പൊതിയായിരുന്നു. പിന്നെ കയ്യിലൊരു കെട്ടായി. പിന്നെയും അത് വലുതായി. എന്തൊക്കെയാണതിലിന്ന്‌. ഭദ്രമായിക്കൊണ്ടു നടക്കുന്ന കടലാസുകെട്ടുകള്. പഴന്തുണി. ആഗ്രഹങ്ങള് സാധിച്ചു തരുന്ന അത്ഭുത വിളക്ക്‌. പവിഴമുത്തുകള്.

കുചേലന് ആഗ്രഹങ്ങളില്ലാഞ്ഞിട്ടല്ല. ആഗ്രഹിക്കാന് പേടിയാണ്. ഇന്നലെ നടന്ന രണ്ടടിയും ഇന്ന് നടന്ന രണ്ടടിയും കൂടിയാല് നാലടിയെമന്ന കണക്കു കുചേലനറിയാം. നാളെ നടക്കുന്ന രണ്ടടിയും കൂടെ കൂടിയാല് കണക്ക് തെറ്റി. അവിടെ കുചേലന് കണക്ക് അറിയില്ല എന്ന് നിങ്ങള് വിചാരിക്കും. നാളത്തെ രണ്ടടി കുചേലനെ ഭയപ്പെടുത്തുന്നു.

നാളെ എന്ന കണക്ക് ആകാശത്തിലെ നക്ഷത്രങ്ങള് പോലെയാണ്. ഉയരത്തില്. ഒരിക്കലും എത്താനാവാത്തത്ര ഉയരത്തില്‌‌. എത്തിയവരെയാരെയും കുചേലന് പരിചയം ഇല്ല. ഒന്നുകില് എന്നോ കത്തിത്തീറ്ന്ന ഒരു മണ്ണാങ്കട്ടയുടെ നിഴലായിരുന്നു ആ വെളിച്ചമെന്ന് അറിഞ്ഞ് മടങ്ങി വന്നവരാകാം. അല്ലെങ്കില് തീക്കുണ്ടില് എരിഞ്ഞടങ്ങിയിട്ടുണ്ടാവാം.

നക്ഷത്രങ്ങളെക്കാളും പൊടിമണ്ണാണ് കുചേലന് ഇഷ്ടം. ഭം‌ഗിയില്ലെങ്കിലും കാപട്യമില്ലാത്ത പൊടിമണ്ണ്. രാവും പകലും നിറം മാറാത്ത, മഴയ്ക്കും വെയിലിനും മീതെയല്ലാത്ത പൊടിമണ്ണ്. പിറന്ന് വീണപ്പോള് ചോരയൊപ്പിയ മണ്ണ്. പൊരിവെയിലത്ത് നടന്നപ്പോള് പരിവേദനങ്ങളില്ലാതെ വിയറ്പ്പേറ്റ് വാങ്ങിയ മണ്ണ്. എപ്പോഴെന്നറിയാത്ത നാളെ താന് അലിഞ്ഞ് ചേരേണ്ട മണ്ണ്.

Friday, April 20

After 1996

Life after 1996 was total different. I just compiled the travel record now. Extension of what I did for Japan tax earlier. Today I did it for US Visa application. Thought of posting it

Arr Dep Port / Country
11-Feb-97 8-Mar-97 Japan.
First international travel. It was fun and at the same time daring to travel with minimum winter clothes at this time of the year. And no language too!

23-Mar-97 26-Mar-97 Seattle.
First US travel. Two days and two cities. India - Seattle - SFO - Japan. This is the trip where I got confused between day and night. Summer sun in Seattle too bright at 9PM!

27-Mar-97 14-Jun-97 Japan
Back to Japan for full three months stay. To the new apartment at Kamijima.
22-Jun-97 21-Jul-97 Seattle
One month stay in Seattle. Had a lot of fun in work too!
21-Jul-97 21-Jul-97 Singapore
A transit drop at Singapore, taxi up and down Mustafa became a habit
3-Aug-97 23-Aug-97 Seattle
24-Aug-97 20-Dec-97 Japan
5-Jan-98 2-Feb-98 Japan
2-Feb-98 7-Feb-98 Seattle
The short notice trip to Seattle via Kansai. Still dont know what I talked there and what for.
8-Feb-98 3-Mar-98 Japan
3-Mar-98 6-Mar-98 Seattle
7-Mar-98 21-Mar-98 Japan
Bye bye Japan. (Stage 1) I am going to get married. Dont know if I will come or not. Misa, Mina and kids were at Hamamatsu sta. waving Japan and India flags. Another sad sayonara.
22-Mar-98 22-Mar-98 Singapore

Marriage shopping at Singapore. A ring, a chain, some perfume. And some junks.
28-Jul-98 29-Jul-98 Singapore
haha! I missed my flight walking through shops in duty free. So took a permit to go out, stayed with Jochan/ Bino and flew the next day.
29-Jul-98 26-Aug-98 Seattle
27-Aug-98 27-Aug-98 Singapore
27-Sep-98 16-Oct-98 Seattle
17-Oct-98 17-Oct-98 Singapore
31-Jan-99 21-Feb-99 San Jose
Getting into new business. The new customer on audio drivers.
22-Feb-99 25-Feb-99 Dubai
Family travel plans fail for the first time. It was all set for wife to join in while I fly back. Plans are not to stay that way. I have always been wary of planning anything ever since.
12-Sep-99 27-Sep-99 Milpitas
The next customer that we successfully closed down!!!
27-Sep-99 27-Sep-99 Singapore
22-Apr-00 2-May-00 New Jersey / New Orleans
And yet another customer which never came up well.
14-Nov-00 15-Nov-00 Singapore

8-Jun-02 27-Jul-02 Japan
The second stint in Japan. Pilot travel for setting things up
24-Aug-02 4-Sep-03 Japan
Move in with family. First international relocation. Stay in Kawasaki and later move to Ichikawa Shiohama
5-Oct-03 11-Jan-04 Japan
Break for TI interview in Bangalore. Was supposed to be a stealth travel. Jojan tracked me down!
17-Jan-04 13-Mar-04 Japan
Second Sayonara to Japan. I might come on short visits. But we are going to set up a living in Bangalore. Could not stop tears when Malik sahib led prayers before getting into car
13-Mar-04 15-Mar-04 Singapore
The first family pleasure trip. You have to be out of a job to enjoy a vacation.
18-May-04 23-May-04 Japan
First visit from TI. The new face of Japan!
23-May-04 24-May-04 Singapore
Flight did not confirm. Had to stay back. Again, Mustafa!
13-Jun-04 19-Jun-04 Dallas
The most horrible travel experience. Thanks Cherian for taking care with food and rest
22-Jul-04 27-Jul-04 Japan
27-Jul-04 31-Jul-04 Korea
5-Sep-04 11-Sep-04 Japan
12-Oct-04 20-Oct-04 Japan
5-Dec-04 13-Feb-05 Japan
Back with family for the extended business trip!
13-Feb-05 18-Feb-05 France
3GSM Cannes, France
19-Feb-05 2-Apr-05 Japan
Another bye bye - but this time to come back for a longer time
25-Apr-05 29-Apr-05 Japan

15-May-05 9-Jun-05 Japan
5-Jul-05 13-Sep-06 Japan
13-Sep-06 20-Sep-06 Dallas
21-Sep-06 8-Dec-06 Japan
7-Jan-07 19-Feb-07 Japan
19-Feb-07 28-Feb-07 Dallas
hahaha! I came to Japan to enjoy a weekend with family! This return travel was the one got postponed because of storm
5-Mar-07 10-Mar-07 Dallas
11-Mar-07 Japan, so I remain...

Thursday, April 19

Career Starts

The first job was in 1993. When I left "homestay" to join CDOT in Bangalore. A dream job of the time. Did not have to think twice to leave my PG to take this up. All done in less than a month and left to the new place, the new job, the new life, "the career". When I boarded the Kanyakumari Express from Alwaye, I had a bag, a suitcase and a bed roll. And Rupees 800 in my pocket. Thats where I started.

CDOT had arranged our stay in a (then) remote place called Kammanahalli - Jal Vayu Vihar. Thats where we lived for the first one year. Thats where we struggled to reach on holidays with very few buses connecting. Thats where we had a tough time locating good place to dine. The first one year of career where the industry basics were learnt. The new acquaintances. Non-mallu people around first ever in life.

One year later, while many people preferred to stay around JVV and the new AWHO that came up opposite to it, some of us moved out. A small vibrant mallu group was formed near R.T.Nagar. Best part of CDOT life. Sreeraj lassi on saturday evenings and Anand chettan's mess food on other days. Annan returning to Bangalore. Kutty returning to Bangalore. Anand leaving for Trivandrum. Biju flying to the US. Brehon and Maya getting closer stealthily to get married soon. Kutty finally finding his partner. Radhakrishnan, Ajith getting married. KK, Fine and Anand Mathew moving in. All in a span of two years. And I had one house shifting too during this time. On a small pull cart. Kept to the same locality.

When I started off in 1993, I thought I would stay for a long time. Like for 10 years. A couple of years down, moving out became the buzz word. The new software companies. New VLSI opportunities. The map of Bangalore just began to change again. And thats where I decided to move to Trivandrum. To a comparably modest salary and a modest lifestyle. A small attempt to venture into some software - following a crowd. Right or wrong - thats a question that I never ask. You have no power to find that out. Never.

So I moved out in 1996 Jun. Transported things by train again. A couple of aluminium vessels. A couple of clothes; Puttu kutti; Chirava; the few good items that I had - like the good spoons from MK Ahmad that I still have here. Had some furniture that I sold / disposed too. Two cots that were transported from home. Including the yellowish one that I slept for years in Kalamassery. The two chairs Anoop helped buy for Rs.100 each when Infy changed their office and sold the furniture to employees. The bent folding table which was my first furniture while I was in JVV - second hand from the shop owner George for Rs200.

So when I started in Trivandrum in Jul 1996, I moved into the new house I rented walking in with a bag of clothes. And almost no bank balance too. A 3 bedroom house with a yard and compound wall for a single guy with a bag load of clothes! I am sure the local guys who wanted to get money when a big truck unloads was taken aback.

I still remember the farewell card they gave me at CDOT. It read "The hardest word in the English language - Good Bye".
A long way. 11 years back.

Tuesday, April 17


We observed the seerathunnabi day last Sunday in the mission house.

A day to remember the Holy Prophet? Am I not supposed to be following him day in and out? At work and home? At leisure and business? The excellent exemplar is not to be limited to a day in a year. I think the idea of this day is to present the pure life, the highest values, the model for civil administration, the exemplar for a family man, the ideal business man, the concept of peace, coercion, war and avoidance of war to the general public. The Holy Prophet who has been misprinted by the so called followers of him. Who has been mispainted by the so called protectors of God. The great souls of his time did not grew great because of any academy or a theology college. Those souls did not turn aback from violence and vice not because of a sword that hung over them. His great missionaries went around the world not as teachers - but as students and knowledge exchange agents. They spread light from various sources around the dark corners of the world. Later we saw the dark ages moving out, the new enlightenment coming up.

The new so called Muslims think they are smarter than the Holy Prophet even. They have a sword in one hand. They have a holy print on the other - which they cannot read themselves. The Hadith is unknown to them. Enlightenment is wrong way. To think is to sin. To be flexible is to fail their faith. Faith is not anymore a trust. They tie Islam into the robes, the beard, the food habits and all the culture around. A Muslim girl with no headscarf? - no way. Islam for them is beneath the scarf. Open up and it flies away. Islam no longer liberates them. It shackles. The harmony of Islam creates a stress within them. And still they expect people to come in?

They proudly believe that the heaven is theirs to stay. The prophet taught us that you should have heaven in earth too. If you have that, if people around can enjoy that, you are saved. Live in a hell on earth, make it a hell for others, you dwell in hell forever. If you cant find peace, if you cant create peace, what you are living for? yaa ayyuhallazeena amanoo li ma taqooloona maa laa tafghaloon - O believers, why do you say what you do not do?

We had a good dinner and then some sweets too. Why sweets? For tarnishing an image that should have been respected, followed, copied in a day-to-day life? For limiting the memories to one day in a year? Well, for some, it was a program done for the sake of doing it. For writing in a report. Or for being self convinced of having done a job due.

Wednesday, April 11

The first move

I think the first move happened in 1988 - not 1989.

Thats when HMT built the new B and C type quarters. Like for A.S.5/2, my dad became the first occupant for the C-7/2 also. Unlike the old one, this was bigger, with two bedrooms and better dining and living rooms. Unlike the old one, this was on the first floor. Unlike the old one this did not have a backyard and no neem, no spinach, no pudina and no guava. Unlike the old one, it had toilet inside the doors. But unlike the old one, it had a lot of air, windows on three sides and an electric calling bell.

I was a visitor there as I was doing my engg. and visited home every weekend with a load of laundry. I used to enjoy the west facing window in the kitchen area which gave a good view of all three sides, the regular pedestrians, the buses on the main road, the grazing goats and the most beautiful of all, the rain approaching from the west. The roar was so audible and I can see the thick semi-transparent opaqueness arriving as if its a tsunami. Though I never heard the word tsunami that time.

Time had run a lot by that time. We were no longer kids and the new supposed-to-be kids were born adults. Everyone used to get locked in front of movies on Sunday evening. Thats when I used to have my evening walk. Walk down the road into the lonely woods emptying my brain of all the things I wanted to unload from the past one week in college. And to get refreshed for a new week.

A notable miss was paapithalla, the old lady who used to explain the floods during the ninetees. Probably she was mentioning the floods during the Malayalam era ninetees. For no one knew when she was born. And which floods it was. May be it was a tsunami that has supposedly changed the geography of Kerala. That created the port of Cochin. Khader remained active, delivering the morning news paper to almost everyone there. He handled major part of our movement from A.S.5/2 t0 C-7/2. Before that major part, a lot of minor part has been moved on multiple trips on bic and scooter. I did not get involved in all the packing and shipments, as I was a weekend visitor. But I found everything was packed. No misses. From the old bedsheets which could one day be used as footmat for bathrooms (they are still in my mom's cupboard) to the little red sweater that I had worn when I was around 3 - everything. There was no packer, no mover, no survey and no insurance. Need to be moved. Move it.

Today I had the shipment survey at my apartment. He gives a set of documents - Power of Attorney, Customs declaration, Insurance valuation, policy, this and that. Then he goes around and lists down everything that we have. I have shipment allowance for one 40" container by sea and two 20" ones by air. After survey he says - well there's not much. I thought we will need two days - but we can finish in one day. And not much stuff for even one air shipment container too. Fits into one box.

Its only today that I feel of the move. So far, it was just something in emails. Today this guy has come to pack things up. Man, I am leaving this apartment. The sofas, the dining table, the cots, the chest all goes too. I will not see the Hiroo towers Sakura trees bloom next time. I will not be able to capture another cycle of seasons through my front windows.

Tuesday, April 10


A.S.5/2. This used to be our address from time immemorial. A.S.5/2 HMT Quarters, Kalamassery to say in full. The small "quarter" of a four in line house. One of the 32 houses of the kind. One of the total 365 quarters in the 900 acre land HMT acquired for factory and colony. That was the so called bright days of industrialization led by Nehru.

This small house has all my earliest memories. The second one from left as seen in the picture. With the bright light. I took this picture when I revisited the place and the new inhabitants in 2005. Seventeen years since we left it. Time enough for a girl be born and turn to her sweetest. But my sweet memories of this house could only grow sweeter.

The cashew nut tree that used to be in the front yard has disappeared. The beautiful henna wall that my dad used to maintain has been orphaned. Kids who used to play around all sorts of games in the evenings have vanished. The charming air of joy seems long dead.

Most part of the colony is now unoccupied. The well lit roads are no longer maintained well. As the once thriving public sector is now struggling to come out of losses, the days of glory are all gone. We were all lucky to have stayed at the best of the times.

Salute to A.S.5/2. This is where I started my journey. When the world was within the four walls of the small house. When time was pulled along with the worker shift sirens of the factory. Starting at morning 5:30 till night 9:30. Once in a while they blow at 3PM and 3:02 PM. The call for silent prayers for someone departed the day before. When people used to care each other.

This is the place where we had the firsts of everything. The first Bajaj scooter which ran for 15 years, still appreciated to 200% of its purchase value when my dad sold to buy a new Chetak. The first fridge which ran for 10 years before being sold out. The first TV - 12inch one - which ran a long time which I later "inherited" and later traded for a new one. The first car which ran only for one year.

This is place where I had my first birthday with no cakes or sweets. This is where I had my 19th also probably. And all the ones in between. That means more than 50% of my life so far. And that too when future was thrive and planning unknown too. Looking back from the point in time of an unknown future and all out planning - Thank God for such a wonderful child life. Prayers for my kids also to have a wonderful memorable life for forever.

Monday, April 9

Cycle of Seasons

Finally I could capture all four of the seasons.

As I looked out of the front window of my apartment, this is how seasons played hide n seek on me. They taught me that every season is a time to enjoy. That every level of mercury has a beauty of itself. The colors vary. But the combination is always right. None stay forever. All are visitors. Come and go. Rejoice the beauty. Clean up when you start shedding the dry leaves. Wait for the new ones to bloom.

So far I have lived five such cycles in Japan. Seen the beauty from the more village like Hamamatsu. Enjoyed it in the suburban Ichikawa. And rejoiced then again in the center of Tokyo.

Time for me to leave. Move on to the next battlefield. The new land. The new people. New schools. New summer-autumn-winter-spring. Had been busy mentally preparing for the past weeks. Getting squeezed between thoughts of move planning and inability to do so. Between decides and decide-nots.

Another couple of weeks Insha Allah.

Monday, April 2

The crowd puller

not worth a title

Girls evolve. Loved child to a lovely wife to a loving mom. And cared for always.

Guys grow. Great son to a caring husband to a respected dad. All at the same time.
And they fail too. One or more. Or one by one till every one. Or all at the same time.

Sakuras are adored. Because they stay for one week in spring. Had they stayed longer, had they come in summer again, they would have been rubbish.

Monday, March 26

Sakura time

Its Sakura time in Tokyo. The weather ministry has approved the season after certifying at least 6 of the identified sakura trees are in blossom now. The sweet, "japan" colored cherry blossoms!!! Party time, Tokyo!!!!

For a good percentage of population, it appears that this is what they lived for after the last sakura. Cameras, flashes, zoom accessories, get ready. The 87 year olds have been seeing this for the past 87 years and still only "warming up" (copy Larry King Live). The only thing new this year is probably the new higher spec camera.

It will be parties this week. Under the cherry blossom, they will have gatherings from shakai-s, offices, friends. The businesses smile from behind as W, W and W have their annual gathering. The sakuras smile from above as the mankind let themselves off on a such short lived, fragile, soft flowers and keep waiting for another year on them.

Nevertheless, they are a sweet meal for the eyes..

Thursday, March 22

Dad's day at school

Ian presented me with this portrait on Dads day at school. A fun day at school with daddys..

Had this been school, playing, painting, drawing, cutting, pasting, playing... I would have never stopped going to school. Should have taken a video to show to the so called playschools in India!

Monday, March 19

Chalti ka naam gaadi

Touch and go invades Tokyo. Now one prepaid IC card will work across all buses and trains in Tokyo area. Taxis and flights, not yet:) This is really good. So far only JR had the IC card. Suica with the penguin icon. For private lines, Toei lines and Tokyo Metro, the ticket system was different. Though in some of the popular routes, they issued combined tickets. You had to bother about which company runs the line you use. No more. I used my JR Suica to office today. No hiccups, smooth sailing it was. No clogging at the gates and the human traffic was just flowing. With Suica, now I can board all the trains, dont bother who runs them, buses and purchase at Kiosks at any station too. Good. Also this probably is a huge step for credit cards in Japan, with a late start. With the credit card embedded IC cards from Tokyo Metro, the card will get automatically charged when you exit with a low charge in card. Hmm.. automatic.. dangerous... And now with the mobile phones embedding these IC cards and credit cards, you will be totally living out of your mobile phone and a credit card company? I dont think I will use the new card in bus. Why should I? For trains I had the advantage of rushing towards the train. In bus, I am using this inside the bus. It is definitely good for me if the person ahead of me uses the card so that I can get in on a winter day. No advantage for me but. And I lose the 15% added points that the buses give for prepaid cards.. Anyway, no more JR, shitetsu, chikatetsu, Toei.. chalti ka naam gaadi.

Saturday, March 17

Tokyo Tower turns green

Tokyo Tower is lit today in green from 7PM to 11PM - St Patrick's day during the Japan Ireland Friendship year

Thursday, March 15

My boarding pass

Do I have invisible arrows and gate numbers in life too? Is there an invisible boarding pass stating which Gate is assigned for me? Am I sure that the possessions I checked in are going to take the same route as I will?

With a visibly printed boarding pass, with all these boards, with all the big systems working at the back end - at times we get confused. We get into hurry at the last minute. We get our baggage lost.

Lord, I am blind to all these invisible guidances in life. I am deaf to the announcements. I am dumb to ask any. A little of these, with thy blessings is all that I seek. Not putting myself in the auction for someone to call up a price for. Not any trust on the planning and calculations that my limited arithmetic can do.

Wednesday, March 14


All the best, Riyaz!!!
Our prayers always with you!
When you are on something, someone to be with you. Wishing you when you take up new things. Supporting you when you need something. Keeping a portion of prayers from their heart for you.

This message from Soorej moved me. I had a couple like this three years back too
when I was confirming my move from Japan to Bangalore. Insha Allah, I am working on my next move. I never planned anything for me. Things happen as it happens. The way Lord decides it should. I only execute. Then He can have his axe anytime for my good.

Will keep posted, just started the official processes. May be a month - or two - as I see now. Let us see. Keeping prayers and trusting on them from around. Humble requests.. as always..

Wednesday, February 28

Pale blue is still blue...

Last minute delays actually used to be welcome surprise wished for. An exam postponed on the day before. A customer deadline canceled on the 11th hour. Man, how much ever wished for, never really got one. But now, here I am totally out of place with the three extra days I got at the (t-5)th hour.

Thank God with the max number of tylenols I ever had in my life I am now out of fever. But back home things were not so good as they were made to appear to me? Ian was on drip yesterday and Alhamdulillah getting fine now after his dehydration from vomiting.

And I am still playing around with my tickets. Till two days back it was go back. Then it was like extend for a week. Then go back and come again after 3 days. Costly, did you say? Well, there is a good travel expense control mechanism. They will go through your travel bills and check your individual receipts. What they will not do is to check why you did the travel in the first place.

Insha Allah I will anyway fly tomorrow. I mean I will go to airport and board the plane if they allow me:) Thanking AA for letting me sit somewhere. Do not blame them man, people do not expect service here either! There was a lady in front of me in the rebooking line at airport who was wondering
I dont know why they should be putting up the hotel bill when the problem is weather which is not in their control?
So you got it? I thought industry take these risk into accounts either directly or through the insurance companies and then charge it back to the passengers...

Monday, February 26


When I read the story of JetBlue passengers stranded in the plane for 8 hours, I could not believe it. How could they do it? Well, now AA taught me if Jet Blues, AA also can blue.

So my story goes after I boarded the AA flight back to Tokyo saturday morning. ETD 10:10 AM when the pilot announces he is going for some extra gas:) wonder why. Then he goes towards some runway, says the other runway is closed because of heavy wind in some direction. And after a long time he announces we are next in queue. So far, thanks to the two Tylenol tablets to suppress my fever, I was so drowsy and sleepy to have any concept of time. Nor to understand an hour is 60 minutes and two hour means 120 minutes. Good or bad..

Good news it was until he suddenly says there is an engine trouble that he wants to check up. So taxi back to the terminal, and in another half an hour or so, they fixed it. Passengers were allowed to use their phones, iPods, laptops and anything they want to. Thats when I found that my iMode mail can work in the US!! And now the happy crowd inches back to the long queue of planes to the runway. Good? not yet.

Does not look like any plane is moving.. so the pilot who is concerned about Kyoto protocol decides to switch off the engine. Comes the fourth hour and he says the new decision. Go back to terminal and then the agents will explain to us the next step. Back at the gate again and doors not open yet. They want the captives in the wagon while they take a decision. And announce it. That they have decided to cancel the flight.

Story does not end. Next one hour was queueing up at the counter for rebooking. When two ladies came up and handed over a hotel room for the night stay, a $10 food bill (hmmmm..)and a 1-800 number to call later for rebooking.

Back to my room, picked up the phone and tried the number with great expectations. Your current waiting time is approx. 69 minutes... Man... I decided to give me a good rest instead over another pair of tylenol. And with many tries in the next 24 hours finally I got through on Sunday evening.
How can I help you sir?
Ok, not possible to book you for today sir.
You mean an upgrade? Thats a good suggestion from you, but I cant do that.
The earliest I can give you is Wednesday morning, same flight.
Seat number? No aisle, no window seats. I am putting you in the middle.
So I will be flying out on wednesday and until then I should fight out my fever... insha allah..

Wednesday, February 14


dashing thru the snow.......

Valentines Day

Originally uploaded by We ourselves Irene and Ian.
I never wished anyone for a Valentine day yet. So far. I still do not believe love has become something to be comemmorated once a year. That we need Landmark or Archies to express love. Nor scraps or mails. Love buds blooms and sheds throughout the year. In the hearts of people where there is space left for it.

For everyone who care about love, who value love, who love love, a budding tulip from me.

Happy Valentines day


No grey roads. No dark rooftops. No green grass. White spread over like a sea on land.

All in little more than an hour. The flight time from Haneda to Shin-Chitose airport. Probably the first ever trip that I planned more than two months before and executed. Though till last day was wondering if my wind-cheaters would do the trick to keep me warm at Sapporo. Thank God I did buy proper jackets, gloves and water-proof shoes on the 11th hour. Or a little earlier than that.

Sapporo as a city does not look any different from an average Japan city. The JR announcements sound similar, ticket gates and displays look familiar. People have similar faces, they cross the road the same way and even the mini skirts and knee high boots keep presence unaware of the mercury around. Even in the sub zero temperature, high school girls still wrap wool only on the upper parts of their body.

Difference, a few too. Like the interesting road numbering. All roads are North-South and East-West. And from the center of the small city, the road numbers North 1, North 2, East1, East 2.. West 1, West 2 etc. So easy to locate. Our hotel was close to N2W2. Just look for Kita2 Nishi2. Good. And because of the one ways, road crossings become green for orthogonal crosses everytime. That means you can cross a road diagonally. At least practically.

Kids had the best time in life. Snow, snow, snow and snow and more snow and still more snow all around. Pickup, make a snow ball and throw. Do that again. Yet again and again. I have been warning them on the ice flakes on the sidewalks which could be dangerous. Until I actually lost grip and fell down myself. Well, it was not as dangerous as it could have been:) Thank God.

Satoland was real fun. The entire farmland covered in snow and a lot of activities for kids. Like huge slides. Like the snow-man workshops. Like the bamboo ski lessons. Rolling over the snow slopes. The snow sculptures at Satoland and Oodori and the ice ones at Susukino did not catch much attention and it looked very normal with so many around. But they really look superb in pictures. They say they bring in around 400 to 700 truck loads of good snow from other locations of Hokkaido for this festival.

And the sashimi and grilled crab - yummmmmmy.

Monday, February 5

No new Blogs?

asks Anoop.

Blogging improves when workload increases. A way to relieve and relax. Under low load, you have nothing to relax about.

Varicose has been keeping me bothered ever since. But I lost the habit of commuting by bus. These days I am on train. With a book in hand.

Just finished another of Toni Morrison's famous books. Beloved. A heavy reading. The same theme of black America. Story woven through the final days of slavery in power. To the beginning of the slavery-ghosts-in-power era. When the niggers realise they have a heart that actually beats. That they have a day that they could decide what to do with. Beloved. Symbol of the days that were to follow haunted by the hurts, better-hurts and the lowest yets. Of the mindset that still wants to think the hacksaw was less worse than the white man.

Now have an Economist in hand. Talks about the perils of globalisation. About the people who lose livelihoods. The contrast between bosses that get fired honorably vs the workers who lose out miserably. If you thought this is anything similar to what the Marxists say back in Kerala, you are mistaken. Nor this has to do anything with Veerendrakumar's GATTum Kaanaacharadukalum (GATT and the invisible strings). Though Economist has a box on dying cotton farmers of India, and how and why India lead a 3W team on Doha rounds to get American subsidies cut, the focus is more on the jobs US and other developed countries lose to Bangalores and Chinas. Interesting..

Tata went all the way up to 603 pence to proclaim their pride. Corus bosses will be happy for that huge a price. But for the Corus labour this would mean more imminent cuts. And Tata has announced that too. No guarantee on Corus jobs.

And here I sit with nothing much to blog on. Though I keep visiting my Google reader for updates. And gets surprised by Anoop talking money, stocks, investments, mutual funds. I moved a little ahead and registered for ICICI Direct. The application form has come on mail. Not decided to download or not. Depends on what Anoop writes next!

Thursday, January 18

Travel Log

Anoops post about his travel diary did not really initiate me to flip through my passport and log mine too. But last week I got a mail from the tax people asking if I should be considered for permanent resident taxation in Japan. As per rules, if one stays in Japan 5 years out of last 10 years, you will be considered permanent resident for taxation. Well, for PR, you will need to apply separately I guess!

So I flipped through my passport pages and created the log for Japan.

Japan Arr Japan Dep Japan Days
11-Feb-97 8-Mar-97 25 First trip to take up Yamaha project
27-Mar-97 14-Jun-97 79
24-Aug-97 20-Dec-97 118
5-Jan-98 2-Feb-98 28
8-Feb-98 3-Mar-98 23
7-Mar-98 21-Mar-98 14 G'bye Yamaha. I am getting married

8-Jun-02 27-Jul-02 49 The new Japan role. Nihon NeST
24-Aug-02 Moved in with family.
4-Sep-03 376 First Japan vacation.
5-Oct-03 11-Jan-04 98 Jan 04. When I attended TI India interviews
17-Jan-04 13-Mar-04 56 G'bye NeST. Me moving back to Blore
18-May-04 23-May-04 5 TI India does not mean be in India
22-Jul-04 27-Jul-04 5
5-Sep-04 11-Sep-04 6
12-Oct-04 20-Oct-04 8
5-Dec-04 13-Feb-05 70 The extended intl biz trip. 3GSM Cannes in Feb
19-Feb-05 2-Apr-05 42 I will be back soon for a longer stay!
25-Apr-05 29-Apr-05 4
15-May-05 9-Jun-05 25 Setting up school etc.
5-Jul-05 13-Sep-06 435 Second stint with family
21-Sep-06 8-Dec-06 78 Only one short break for a Dallas trip
So I have clocked 241 days less to be a permanent resident of Japan!

Monday, January 15

Fun days back home

The coconut grove vacation. To realise the beauty of the coconut trees, the kalpavriksham of which no part goes wasted, you need to stay away from these. And then once in a while come back and they will steal your gaze.

Irene and Ian at Madayippara. Pazahyangadippuzha flowing in the background. Down the hill is the angadi. On top of hill, once should have been a small fort. Only some stones are seen. Then there are still the vadukunna shiva kshetram, the madayikkaavu, and the vadukunnippuzha, a pond that holds water round the year. And a school. And a college.

The view from the top of Fazl-e-Omar school is also breath-taking. On one side, is the shy Chemmallikundu puzha flows tucked in the deep green and the naked beauty still fast asleep under a blanket of fog on the other.

Tuesday, January 9

Back into reality

It was colours all over. Now I am back into the black and white world. The dotted lines. Solid spaces.

A month of slowdown. yukkiri shimashita.

The soil, the greenery, the warmth.. reminds me where I belong. And a longer stay and returns to ATM counters reminds me about controlling emotions. So I am back. Into the cold says of winter. Into the mechanical life of trains and buses. Of mails and phone calls. Of watches that run fast.

A month passed on so quickly. Saw rain and shine. Experienced laughter and tears. Despair and joy. Fights and set-them-rights. Met far and near. Those who are so near but not met for nearly a decade! People joining and separating. Birth and death. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi...

Kids enjoyed a lot. Morning till evening of fun. Exploring relationships. Understanding the meaning of cousins.. New games, new rules.

And a month of almost no emails. No gmails. No office calls. No blogs. No scraps. No craps. No ppts. A huge break. First time in life.

Back into the black and white world of realities. Let me restore my formatted brain with the latest backups and updates.....