Archive for October, 2011

So it’s been Diwali here in Delhi since Tuesday, which to me – like every other one-of-hundred Hindu festival – just translates to vacation party time.

Soon I found myself on an eight-hour bus ride with other Sri Lankans to Rishikesh, a trip organized by the Sri Lankan High Commission in India for Sri Lankan students and employees here.

Rishikesh is beautiful; it is all that mysticism and ethnic allure that you imagine when you visualize the spiritual side of India that they sell to tourists in brochures. It is a land of ashrams and meditation, and dark-skinned men in white robes and thick braids, and beautiful women in colour and gold piercings, and those white guys in the cotton pants who travel the world to ‘find themselves.’ It is a vegetarian city by law, an alcohol-free city, and has banned the use of plastic bags by shopkeepers.

The place is now famous for white water rafting – and lately, bungee jumping. The former I sampled yesterday, it was epic – more on that later – and I suggest every aspiring adrenaline junkie try it out even back home in Kithulgala. For the hijabis who want to conquer the rapids, I suggest wearing a swim-cap beneath the helmet and a turtleneck-swimwear top beneath the lumpy lifevest, cuz the regulations and the crazy waters are not shawl-friendly.

I was too busy having fun to take as many pictures as I would have liked to.

Camping By The Ganges
The place we set up camp at was a nice quiet spot next to the Ganges River. Tents were set up at length all along the bank – which, by the way, was made of white sand – so when the water of the Ganges slowly receded and then lapped up the bank and receded again, it felt like we were camping at the beach, our toes wiggling in cool sand. Except at this beach, if you strolled about 10 feet into water you’d find yourself 50 feet below the surface, plus it was circled by a mane of huge monster mountains.

Had my meals in an open tent next to the river, and spent my time either skipping barefoot over the mix of big and small rocks on the bank or sitting in a bamboo chair under this nice white canopy they’d set up in the sun where I’d bury my feet in the sand which had turned super cold under the shade, or sitting close to the bank and skipping pebbles over the water. Occasionally I’d prance around and yell stuff at the mountains in a bid to make conversation.

Me: HEY!
Mountains: HEY!
Me: What’s up?
Mountains: What’s up?
Me: I asked you first!
Mountains: I asked you first!
Me: No you didn’t!
Mountains: No you didn’t!
Me: Oh I see what you’re doing!
Mountains: Oh I see what you’re doing!
Me: Goddammit.

Clearly the mountains around the Ganges have the maturity level of an annoying preteen.

In the night, the temperature dropped. We wore sweaters and sat around a bonfire under a billion stars, with the faint sounds of firecrackers in the distance and the rapids roaring far away.

Defying Death On The Rapids
We wore ridiculous pink helmets and puffy orange lifevests and got into blue inflated rafts, each of us armed with a bright yellow paddle. The guide was fun, yelling commands like we were some spartans going out to battle. FORWARD! he yelled. And we’d paddle forward. LEFT BACKWARD! and we’d perform a reverse. ATTACK! and we’d attack the team in the other raft by paddling water into their faces. Good times.

The rapids are so much fun! I wished we’d gone through more. Altogether we passed through about six rapids – only three of which were fierce, and only one in which I was whispering to myself the last prayer you say before you die. Basically, you’re travelling over large waves which– wait, this calls for a Paint illustration.

All along, we’ve got to paddle forward really fast so that we don’t get carried away by the rapids. Adrenaline pumping action right there, bruh.

During the long flat pauses between rapids, the guides said to get into the water. At first I was like, BUT WHAY? Because this water was damn well frigid. Also, sea monsters. But eventually I was like, when will I ever again get to float around in a 60-something feet deep river? So I got in – albeit, life jacket is on, so no fear of death (except by the sea monsters possibly grabbing my foot and pulling me into the dark abyss below) – and it was literally like sitting inside a freezer! Must have been close to zero degrees or something. Two minutes was enough for me and the guide pulled me back in. Pulling people in from the water is funny, they looked like big floppity fish as they were dragged back onto the raft.

Jumping Off A Motherflipping Cliff
We stopped by this spot halfway through, that had a natural miniature waterfall and cliffs hanging out onto the river and such. Some people chilled, had some namkeen (i.e. murukku with some onions and chilli), while few others contemplated leaping off the cliffs. One cliff was about 15 feet over the water and the other some feet taller. Only three grown men dared jump off the 15 foot one. I don’t know what it was – whether it was the altitude or the madness that had crept into my brain after flying around over wild waters – but I found myself climbing towards that cliff. I looked down, and the cliff-guide-man said ‘don’t look down, look over there, otherwise you’ll get scared.’

Actually, when I looked down, I wasn’t that scared at all. It’s just jumping, what’s the big deal? I have a poofy floaty lifevest to save me from drowning also.  In my head I was thinking of it like all those times I used to play that staircase-jumping game at my grandma’s where I’d jump from the 4th step of the staircase to the bottom and slowly work myself up to the 8th. So he said one, two, three.. and I paused for a four, and jumped. I think the first few feet (the eight steps on my grandma’s staircase) felt like ‘oh okay, whatever’ and then beyond that point — you know that feeling, just before your car is about to crash into something, just before you’re about to trip and fall on your face, just before receiving a hard punch — that feeling of total dread filling you up — where you’re like ‘oh no, this isn’t right!’ — it hit me. The feeling of helplessly falling! It’s indescribable! ‘OH NO THIS ISN’T RIGHT AT ALL.’

And then a few helpless moments later, I crashed into the ice cold Ganges and re-emerged two seconds later which felt like ten seconds. I think the fact that I didn’t see it coming was what did it – I was in the water, my heart pounding and I could feel panic taking over, and I closed my eyes and said breathe, breathe, breathe, and finally opened them and it was over. Swum back to shore, and I was shaking slightly, I’m not sure whether from the cold or that feeling of dread. I don’t know why I absolutely loved it! It sounds awful in words! The second time was much nicer since I knew what to expect – but that feeling of your limbs flailing to the mercy of gravity was still chilling. I can barely imagine what bungee jumping through 80 meters must feel like! But after doing something like that, it does something to you; I felt much more reckless and entirely cocky as we paddled over angry rapids afterwards.

Back To Camp
After the rapids and all that jazz, we slowly paddled our way back – passing a scenic masterpiece. Huge ashrams and temples, bells being tolled for prayer, bridges overhead with curious stares from pedestrians, children bathing by the rocks, men and women descending stairways to get to the river below, to make offerings and set afloat their dead in handmade caskets (unfortunately we didn’t really see the latter, though some fool claimed he saw a skull floating over the river’s surface), kids back-flipping into the water, and mountains, magnificent mountains, towering over everything and everyone.

I felt sick on the way back to camp, teeth chattering for a whole fourty minutes I think, SO very nauseatingly cold. But after getting back to the bank and our tents, donning a furry sweater, eating some warm rajma chaawal and digging my feet into hot sand, it was all good.

We drove back home in a big bus, watching the multi-coloured bulbs and the mad fireworks of Diwali – which feels like the Vesak of India – light up the streets on the way.

And now all of a sudden I have to go back to normal life. For some reason, after camping next to mountains by the Ganges, after surviving treacherous waters, after jumping off a freaking cliff – sitting here and having to do a shitty college assignment and making french toast and eggs for lunch just feels wrong. I should be standing atop a building, red cape fluttering in the wind, staring into the horizon with dramatic music playing in the background. Sigh.

Rishikesh is known for its strong Hindu identity

Water rafting over the sparkly Ganges

The campsite

Me and two Indian friends, who shall be hereforth referred to aptly as Sergeant Crackpot and Diva, decided to go to an amusement park in Delhi called Adventure Island this weekend.

The place, in Rithala, claims to have imported stuff from the same people who supply rides to Disneyworld and Universal. It’s got about 26 rides in total, and the ticket for people below 17 is 350 Indian rupees and for adults, 450 Indian rupees. Once you get that ticket and the band wrapped around your wrist – you get unlimited access to the rides, and can ride them as many times as you want.

The best part about Adventure Island is that – the lines actually move. Compared to my experience at Sathutuyana and Excel World (back when they had that cool twister ride that spun you around like crazy) – the fast movement of lines was just tear-inducingly beautiful to witness. But Delhi is full of serial line-jumpers – they literally jump over the railing and try to get into the line – mostly school boys who’d come on a paid school trip in our case. But I’d point them out like a snitch – cuz damn I been waiting in this line to be thrown in the air by a machine for the last twenty minutes, GTFO – and Sergeant Crackpot would hear none of it, and with harsh Hindi words would make them retreat with deep feelings of shame and fear. Every now and then some fool boy would try to jump past me in the line, but then I’d just look at him and be all,

Diva was constantly complaining about how she’s going to die. How she doesn’t want to die today. How she doesn’t want to die in these ugly pants she chose to wear today. Basically, that the rides of Adventure Island were out to extract the soul from her body like the spawn of satan. Despite her mortal fear of heights and water and all the stuff awesome rides are made of, we dragged her along and made her go through it all (well except for the Twister in the end – she looked like she was going to cry when we said she had no say in the matter so we let that one slide) – with convincing exclamations of ‘Come on, THINK OF WHAT YOU CAN TELL THE WORLD after it’s all over! I looked death in the face and I said, HA! HA, DEATH! HAAAA!’ Yeah. I didn’t think that would actually work, but well.

We started with the Cyclone – a warm-up. It carried us in the air and spun us around like horses in a merry-go-round, except it was pretty fast and slanted this way and that – so yeah, I was like, whoo! Okay this is cool, I can handle shit like this, it’s fun.

And then we walked over to the Side Winder. Shit. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s this giant thing that swings you in the air – swing to the left, then comes back to the middle, and swing to the right – like, well, a swing – except when it swings to the left and right, it swings a bit more than 90 degrees. So there were moments when my feet were straight up in the air and I was face to the face with the sun in the sky, and next I would be face to face with the ground, my body hanging down on the supports. And I’m thinking, if this support accidentally unclips I am GOING TO DIE.

Suffice it to say, I screamed like a little girl.

The next major ride was the Flip Out. Now by this time, I was like, I was thrown 90 degrees in the air, bitches, I can handle ANYTHING. Even Rajinikanth and his ominous moustache. But the Flip Out is something different altogether, it’s sort of a scrambler – you get strapped in, and it carries you in the air, and then you get spun around on a pivot – so you’re not only getting spun sideways but up and diagonally and on all other axes. Basically it scrambles you and your brainz. Again there was that feeling of having defied death. And also like a weird, hands-shaking-a-bit, slightly-queasy feeling. We had to sit down a few minutes to feel normal again.

Just before getting into the next ride, we came across this vast space next to it, with water coming out of fountain-ey things in the ground – and PUNJABI MUSIC on full blast – while randomass people randomly danced around in the fountain-ey-water place, punjabi style. I’m telling you, it was like something out of a Bollywood musical. These Indians. But I have to admit, punjabi music is growing on me, and I kind of love it. It’s like the Indian equivalent of Sri Lankan baila.

The Twister came next – oh god. Diva sat this one out, and thank god because I’m sure it would have just killed her via heart attack. We were carried in the air and then SPUN AROUND 360 DEGREES, super fast, repeatedly. This should be illegal or something, because, WHAT. I don’t even know. It’s just madness. PURE MADNEZZ.

Just when I thought this place couldn’t get any more insanely awesome – while we were waiting in the line for the Splash Down, Diva and Sergeant Crackpot went to get ice cream cones – and when they got back – I got a cone that seemingly looked like a nice big heap of vanilla atop a nice big heap of chocolate, on a cone. But then I bit into it and THERE WAS A BROWNIE INSIDE. Like a beautiful fucking surprise. There was a chocolate brownie, inside my ice cream, people. Needless to say, I was just standing there dancing around like an idiot.

Finally we got on the Splash Down, which is a miniature-rollercoaster ride that slowly climbs up coaster railways and then plunges down a big height, splashing into rails that are set in water. I think we have something like this in Leisure Land in Sri Lanka? I never got on the water ride at LL, but it looked like that. Nevertheless, it was an awesome balm to all that standing in the sun before.

These are the cool rides. If you ever go to Adventure Island, don’t bother with the other stuff – they’re basically trains meandering slowly around fake rhinos and fake elephants in the grass (though that rhino looked like a badass mofo), and a bus going up and down like a fool, and other stuff for stupid babies. Diva who is scared of scary rides suggested we get on the meandering train, and I just told her she could sit in a bucket and I would push her around and it would practically be the same thing.

I wanted to go on the Side Winder and look death in the eye a couple hundred times more (adrenaline partay in my brainz!), but the other two wanted to get home on time. So we just wound up the day at McD’s at the mall that surrounds Adventure Island. I had a tasty McSpicy Paneer Burger and some Fanta. Ahhh.

Then we took the metro home, our throats sore from screaming, tired as hell – watching the sunset through the train’s glass, while we propped our feet up on the seats because the train was almost totally empty. When I got home, there was a loudass punjabi wedding happening in the same neighborhood, which meant crazy punjabi drums and shizz pounding through the walls of our apartment. The roomies and I got on the rooftop terrace and they taught me to dance like a punjabi; it’s pretty easy stuff actually – most moves imitate either screwing light bulbs or riding a horse.

All in all, good day. Adventure Island, man. We need to get one of those all up in Colombo. Or else I’ve made it my new goal in life to get really rich, so I can have me some Side Winder in the backyard. Oh yeah.

Pics from Kyazoonga.

Once upon a time

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

There was a handsome prince, who met a beautiful princess, and one day he said, hey, will you marry me?
And the princess said, no!
And she lived happily ever after.

I wanna get back in the habit of writing creatively on a regular basis! Not that I don’t write enough as it is – since it’s a given now that I study literature and work for an Indian magazine – but I remember when I used to just sit, and write spontaneously, for no purpose. Like musings and poetry about clouds and unicorns and weirdass shit like that.

So just to get back in the flow of it, I’m going to try as much as I can to post a little story every day here. Completely off the top of my head.

Once there was a peanut butter jelly sandwich monster. Yes, he was a sandwich made of peanut butter and jelly, and was thus monstrous, in his jellyness and consequent odious nature, due to the fact that such sandwiches smell weird after the first two days of shelf life. He was very bored and lonely, because nobody liked to play with him because he was smelly and inadvertently oozed purple and yellow all over the place.

“It’s not my fault I’m so oozy!” he cried one day, sitting on the kitchen table by himself, talking to nobody in particular. “y u no love me?”

The sad peanut butter jelly sandwich monster sat there for days. Not that he had a choice in the matter, since who ever heard of a sandwich that could walk around? That would be ridiculous. Till one day, someone wandered by. “Hello, peanut butter jelly sandwich monster!” said this someone, from the darkness behind the spice cabinet.

“Why are you talking to me? Leave me alone, or I’ll squirt peanut jelly in your face!” muttered the sandwich, bitter and angry, as do more sandwich monsters get after being left to rot all alone. “Chill, man, I’ve got a proposition for you,” said the voice, and from behind the bottles of coreander and turmuric scuttled out a cockroach, wearing a tiny cockroach hat.

Peanut butter jelly sandwich monster wasn’t sure about this. It seemed dodgy. Why was the cockroach talking to him? And more importantly why was it wearing a hat? It seemed dodgy indeed. “What do you want?” cried the sandwich.

“Well, Pea.. Can I call you that? Pea?”

“Depends. Can I call you cock?”

“Touchè!”

The sandwich murmured profanities under its breath and went bank to sulking.

The cockroach straightened its hat and sat down on its back inside the soap holder, tiny cockroach arms tucked behind its head. The edge of the sink glistened next to them; it was sunny outside. Not that the peanut butter jelly sandwich monster knew what sunny felt like. He’d never known the outside of this wretched abandoned kitchen and its chasm of despair.

“I can get you out of here,” said the cockroach. “I can make it stop.”

“Are you going to kill me? Is that what you’re implying, asshole? Just get it over with. I knew this day would come. Eaten by a fucking cockroach with a tiny cockroach hat,” cried the sandwich.

The cockroach laughed. It was a silent laugh, because everyone knows cockroaches laugh silently.

“Okay, yes, you got me,” said the cockroach with a grin, its antennae twitching through the antennae-holes in its hat. “I mean, you’re weeks old and you’re oozing jellies.. can you blame me?”

The peanut butter jelly sandwich monster’s life flashed before its eyes. What he saw in his inner mind in that moment was.. well I can’t tell you what he saw, because how would I know what a peanut butter jelly sandwich monster saw in what he thought were his last moments? I’m not fucking psychic.

Suddenly, there was a crash. Pots and pans hit the tiled floor a few feet away from the odious pair, and as the cockroach was distracted, the peanut butter jelly sandwich thought, as he looked out at the sunny lawn outside, This is my chance! I’ll make a run for it! I mean.. all this happened for a reason! It was a test all along, since my beginning and through my torturous lonely existence in this hellhole. This is finally my time, to rise from the ashes and look beyond the horizon and-
“Shit, I don’t have legs,” the sandwich mumbled. “Nevermind, I am screwed.”

“What the hell was that?” said the cockroach, looking at the mess on the floor, where the pots and pans lay.

“Whoopsie! Sorry bout that,” said a fat furry creature sitting happily on its butt at the other end of the kitchen table. “Sometimes I don’t realize how fat I am from eating so much and I walk around and trip over things and they fall on the floor and make noise and interrupt climax scenes between characters in fantasy stories because I’m fat.”

Silence passed through the kitchen for a few moments. Some may even call it a silence that was awkward.

“Sometimes I talk too much,” concluded the fat rat. He grabbed his long tail and nibbled it nervously. Then he let out a loud giggle, and went silent again.

“Wow, and I thought I had issues,” remarked the peanut butter jelly sandwich monster to the cockroach.

“ANYhoo,” said the cockroach, turning to the sandwich, “Where were we? Oh yes..”

“Hey whatchu guys doin? Cuz from what I was listening when I was sitting here before I tripped over the pots and pans because I’m fat is that you were gonna eat the peanut butter jelly sandwich monster and I don’t think that’s very nice coz the sandwich is so sad and stuff and I don’t like seeing sandwiches be sad coz that’s not very nice,” interrupted the fat rat.

“What’s it to you, fattie?” spat the cockroach, taking its hat off.

“Hey don’t call me fattie, well yes I’m fat but that’s only coz my metabolism is really low and also maybe perhaps coz I eat a lot, I eat many things, sometimes, sometimes-” and here he giggled again- “I eat vegetables and sometimes I eat, I eat chicken and sometimes, sometimes I even eat cockroaches, yes.. yes indeedley doo,” the fat rat nibbled on its tail again, watching the sandwich and the cockroach from across the room, its chubby cheeks puffed up as the end of its mouth turned up in mad glee.

Before the cockroach could react, the fat rat had bounded across the wooden platform and gulped it down, its big belly now jiggling as it sat there next to the sandwich, nibbling its tail again. “Hey, hi there peanut butter jelly sandwich monster, hi, I didn’t like the way that cockroach was treating you coz yeah, coz that wasn’t very nice, he was a bad cockroach, and what’s with that hat, what kind of cockroach wears  a hat, I think that was dodgy, very dodgy, and yessum, tasty, tasty hat.. yes,” jabbered the rat.

“Wow thanks, fat rat.. nobody’s ever done anything that nice for me my whole life. I- I don’t know how to thank you. I’m just, so overwhelmed. I thought I was a goner for sure back there,” cried the sandwich.

“Hey, sandwich, hi, you’re oozing. See, there, there is jelly coming out of your insides, it’s coming out, and it’s all over the table. You’re an oozy sandwich, peanut butter jelly sandwich monster, oh look, I’ve got the peanut butter on my feets,” said the rat, staring at the sandwich.

“Yeah, sorry about-“

“Okay,” said the rat, before letting out a giggle. It giggled again.

The peanut butter jelly sandwich monster laughed too. The rat’s belly jiggled again as it giggled heartily. Neither of them could stop laughing. But they did eventually.

The peanut butter jelly sandwich monster smiled, thinking to himself. Here he’d been, dying slowly at the hands of abandon and fate’s cruelty, and then helplessly watching the end drawn nearer, when for no rhyme or reason, his life had been unexpectedly rescued. And now he was sitting here laughing, with a chance at a new life, next to his new friend. It’s funny how life-

“I’m hungry, yessum, I’m real hungry, coz I like to eat and that’s why my belly’s so big, and I like food coz I’m fat,” said the rat, and gulped down the peanut butter jelly sandwich monster. He then sniffed the soap holder, and sat inside it, and thought it very comfy, very comfy indeed, so he went to sleep.

The end.

Oh, by the way, guys, I’m really on the look out for English translations of Sinhala or Tamil novels, preferably pre-millenium. Do any of you have? I’m in Delhi so I can’t go hunting for them at second hand bookshops in Colombo right now. Miss Vandytoopten was nice enough to offer to post to me Siri Gunasinghe’s acclaimed Hevanalla! Please let me know if you’ve got anything of the sort – mail me on grandioseidea@gmail.com – and I shall repay you via chocolates and anything you like from India (but, no, I’m afraid asking me to bring you John Abraham alive in a bag may be asking too much).

Back Home

Posted: October 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

After much silent plotting and planning I finally sneaked my way back into Sri Lanka a few days ago, like a sneaky ninja. SURPRISE! The reactions were priceless. My favourite one was by the Flailer:

“WHAT DA F*** ARE YOU DOING HERE?! WHAT DA F***? I KNEW YOU’D PULL SOMETHING LIKE THIS! I KNEW IT! YOU LITTLE B****!”

I actually wasn’t planning to come back so early initially, but there’s some 10-day long Hindu festival going on so I thought why not drop by and shock everyone for the lols!

I like squeezing in all this awesomeness into just ten days as opposed to spreading it out over weeks, like I’ll have time to do in December and April. The fun is less diluted. And why didn’t anyone tell me just how *awesome* this living-abroad-and-coming-back thing was going to be?

Everything is just… better. The food tastes better. The bed feels better. People’s company feels better. And even the stupidest things, like bus rides, feel dramatically awesome. And that feeling of being half here, and half there, is really nice. There are things I missed about home here, like having my mum around to hug and whine about life, and friends to go to the park to, and the familiarity of this fifty year old house. And there are things I miss about Delhi, like taking the metro, and the high quality high affordability bazaars and coffee shops, and the rooftop I could lie on and watch a dozen eagles flying in circles in the sky, and grabbing my camera and heading off to some place I’ve never been to. Once this is all over I think I’ll miss this.. transitionyness.

People in Delhi are beautiful and advanced and all that, but man, did I miss my Sri Lankan people! I had no idea I had such nationalist sentiments in me, but god I missed them. I guess the difference is like… Colombo feels like a neighborhood, compared to the largeness of Delhi. The whole bus ride to Bamba and back feels like I’m inside my own home, while home in Delhi stops at the periphery around college and my apartment. And the people are just, I guess as stupid as it sounds, more smile-ey. They’re more chilled out, less stressed, in no hurry; Delhi is a rush rush rush, everyone is sweating and swerving through traffic to get there first. Is it the island thing that keeps us so relaxed?

Anyway absence really does make the heart grow fonder, when you get back. Nothing like a good three months away to make you fall madly in love with the place you’re from. I have to say the best part without a doubt is the reunion with friends and family – people love you most when you’re either dead or living abroad!