A Travellerspoint blog

Love Me, Love My Dog

Fall Back To The Purpose Of Going To India

overcast 30 °C

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Kathira was holding several sticks of incense while he was trying to ignite a match by chafing it on the matchbox. Not later a while I smelt a sharp, but mellowing substance of sandal incense mixed with frankincense emanating into my room. The smell of incense was pleasing that it rid the saturated smell coming from the rear patio.

Kathira walked into my room. With several sticks of incense, he gave one to me, “It’s for you.” It is an incense stick Hindus often burns them for prayer. The smoke of the incense immediately choked the tiny room but mellowing away the hardening part of the stale air that has lost its freshness.

He looked at the passport I left it on the mattress by the pillow side, and he said to me, “Leaving soon to India?” I nodded. He added, “You have been living here for nearly a month, don’t you?”

Seeing the incense sticks burning, I completely felt as if I am in India attending a ritual in Yogiram ashram. A lamp filled with ghee is reposed on the arathi plate. A cotton wick is put into the oil and then lighted. Some camphor is burnt. A devotee is called upon by Ma Devaki to lead the arathi. Arathi is waved around the image of Lord Shiva. Then we cup our down-turned hands over the flame and raise the palms to our forehead - taking the ritual as a purify blessing.

I deeply miss the spiritual routine in a deep sense of reverence, adoration and meditative awareness as being observed in the ashram.

Is it time to go back to India now?

Earlier my initial plan was to go back to India soon after making a short visit to Sri Lanka. I had no intention to stay long in Sri Lanka. The visit to Sri Lanka is to satisfy the compulsive border crossing looking at the short permissible stay granted by the immigration office of India. If only I get to stay longer than 30 days in India for each visit and if the Indian visa permits to do so, I wouldn’t have to do the border crossing that frequent.

Though crossing country from Sri Lanka to India in the wee hours is tiresome but it’s still bearable. I have normally picked the wee-hours flight as the cost to board such a flight is unusually cheaper. But during wee hours, mobilizing with pack of bags is extra laborious.

Going back to India again is an excitement in waiting. People say India is a spiritual giant. “Go and learn from the giant that offers you an insight of your true self, so enables you to make a spiritual breakthrough.” India indeed has a lot to offer.

But then, if I tell you there is nothing I loathe about India, all I have is none other than an affection I have unto her, you’ll shut your ears and turn away from me. I wish to tell you a truer truth. I hate the traffic in India beyond loathe. I particularly bear no suitable state of mood to describe the extent of ill-will I have upon the motorcyclists in India. They ride their motorcycles ferociously like a mad wild bull escaping the bullring jumping out of the arena. I am not a matador to bullfight them. I have once tossed over by a motorcycle. I was tumbling down and blundered on the sidewalk. The motorcyclist gave me a middle finger. Shouldn’t I the person giving him a middle finger instead?

I only have one more day in Sri Lanka before I get to crane my head to the officer at the immigration check point of the airport of Chennai and say, “Hello, I’m back.” They wouldn’t be bothered of my presence anyway.

I am beyond expression and felt exhilarated having able to spend a month under the sun at the pristine beach of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. No doubt I get to bask, tan and swim, but having the fun of excursion at the beach is complete recreationally orientated. The long leisure excursion seems to have swayed the purpose I quit my job to travel to India. I shall fall back to the purpose of coming to India. It is also the message that has been prompting at the back of my mind.

Tiruvannamalai is always a pleasant holy town to visit or even considering a stay for learning engagement. Casting the die, this time from Chennai, instead of heading south to Tiruvannamalai, I will leap a distance to the north into a hill in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This holy hill is one of the foremost pilgrimage centres in India. It is situated in the southeast of Andhra Pradesh, around 168 km north of Chennai. The hill claims to have the busiest temple in the world – Tirumala & Tirupathi.

It’s time to repack the unpacked stuff found strewn in the room. The books and reading materials remained the weight carrier of all my stuff. Finding some books as I collected as I travel, it adds on to the existing 5kg of books that already bloating the backpack. Carry light is always right, I emphasize myself to adhere.

There is a saying, if you love me, love my dog. If we adore India, tolerate her inadequacies and shortages. I shall learn to tolerate the honks indiscriminately blared to deafening by the vehicles on the streets.

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 00:05 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

A Fanatic Clam Eater

Recreational Clam Digging At Dyke Beach

sunny 31 °C

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Ever since I arrived at Dyke Rest, Kathira has several times told me that the kitchen is freely opened for use. We, the in-house guests are allowed to cook in the kitchen. I have not touched the gas stove so far let alone to cook a meal.

“Why not you try to boil some clams?” Kathira asked me. “But I prefer to eat out. I have not wanted to take the trouble to visit wet market – walk all the way to the town to search for clams?” I responded.

“No, you dig,” Kathira claimed. “Go and dig some clams at the beach the way Chinese guests cherished. Collect the clams and bring them back for the pot. Trust me, it’s delicious,” Kathira was making a recommendation as if promoting the delicacy of the clams available at the Dyke beach.

“The guests from China marvel the clams boiling in the pot,” he added. As a matter of fact, Sri Lanka has gained its status as a popular destination to the Chinese tourists and the Chinese are well received by the tour operators here for their big spending. Dyke Rest is one of the inns that well recommended to the independent Chinese travellers by their guide books.

I declined politely, but I nodded as a gesture – maybe next time. It’s also a hassle imposing on me to get the stove carefully heated up under the chafe of a match.

That afternoon as I strode my long steps out the rickety rear zinc-gate on the way to the cape, three young lads with their hands showing a sinuous motion were making signal demanding an attention from me. As they irregularly swayed their hands upon me, they yelled out, “Hello, come here!” Then followed by several yelps, “Come here! Come here!”

I turned to them. None of them was wearing bottom shorts, instead the underwear clothe on their bottoms were loose enough to expose the gluteal fold of their buttocks. They pointed to the tidal sand flat.

“Wow!” I was struck to see the amount clams they dug from the sand flat. A huge plastic bag was filled with clams, and another was half filled.

“Which country?” they asked.

I took the phrase interpreted as whether have I experienced what they were getting on with their bare hands. No fork, no spade and neither a shovel used. “Come, dig. Dig here,” they pointed to the tidal shore.

It was pretty exhilarating to say, for me to join a hand digging the sand flat and seeing the sand built up to one side like building a sand castle in the progress. While on the other hand, we collected the clams from beneath the surface of the tidal flat. I had not played a digging game like this all my life. Though Sepang Coast of Selangor is foremost known for excavating mud clams, it was not a playground I thought will suit a man at 39.

Beach clam is an edible species of infaunal bivalve mollusk normally found from below the surface of the tidal sand flats or mud flats where they live. It is abundant on surf-pounded ocean beaches, but also occurs in sheltered areas along the coast. Beach clam in Dyke bay grows to a length of 3-4 cm of size and it is a non-seasonal shellfish that you may easily find throughout the year. Over here, clam digging is not commercially motivated but it is done very recreationally for enjoyment or as a source of food to the local people.

You don’t often see a serious clam digger, but the recreational diggers are normally local young lads you usually spot them wearing a pair of loose underwear with the gluteal fold of their buttocks inevitably exposed. Anyhow, recreational digging for beach clams is truly a family sport.

During certain times of the year, marine toxins, produced by some species of diatom algae are taken in by beach clams and concentrated. When ingested by human, these toxins can cause illness and in very high concentrations can be fatal to humans. Is this a true fact or mere a ludicrous say, I’m not sure. But I heard it from the fisherman next door.

If you think clam digging is less of a challenge, you may want to flex your muscles to try to pry off some native oysters and barnacles from the estuarine ocean rocks. There are plenty of native oysters and barnacles grow on the estuarine rocks, mostly all not harvested.

My family is a great seafood lover. Of the seafood, other than crabs and prawns, clams top the platter. If you argue that you are a great epicure for clam dish, there is a fanatic like you - my elder sister.

For oysters, one needs to shuck the shells in order to taste the soft, tender and mellowing pulp. Unlike oysters, most of the live clams after unearthed for some while without any seawater, its bivalves tend to open up slightly. Only a dead clam contaminated with dirt and mud will remain closed under the hot stove.

Cooking clams is never ever any difficult than boiling a pack of instant noodles. We savour the clams cooked under a wok of soup. Stir fry the clams with thin slices of gingers at first. When the aroma rises from the wok, discriminatively add some water. Then pour into the wok plenty of rice wine. I really mean plenty of it. Let it boil for another 5 minutes. After that, switch off the heat and the wok is ready to serve. The clam soup may not taste rich in flavour but appetizingly it is delicately sweet to go along with a plate of rice. It is a savouring dish to recommend.

How much clams do you think is enough to make a serving for two?

The answer is – we had 4 kg for two.

That could translate as, apart from enjoying the clam dish, we are also consuming a large amount of cholesterol from the clams. Take oysters as a benchmark, as oysters ranked the 10th most high cholesterol food, each 100 grams of oysters contained 105 mg cholesterol. Whereas, every 100 grams of clams give the consumer a good choke of 67 mg of cholesterol.

Post script:

Swimming in the shallow water at Dyke occasionally my feet are nibbled by a shoal of smelt fish. Smelt fish is a family of small fish, where they run in large shoals along the saltwater coastline. When these small fish nibble my feet, it gives a ticklish sensation but odd enough I fear for a bigger fish that will instantaneous give me a bite. I enjoy the nibble massage, yet I feel odd for the fear. In KL elsewhere, fish spa is not uncommon. You pay RM10 you’ll get a fish spa for half an hour, meaning to leave your feet submerging in the water as bait for smelt fish to nibble. It’s a weird spa though.

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 13:19 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

The Right Of Disposal

Better No Pet Than Keeping A Pet For One Day

semi-overcast 32 °C

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’Fight like cats and dogs’ is not exactly the phrase to be used here. I would say – lazy laid-back dog submits to its natural enemy, the burglar cats. There has not been a grappling fight between the lazy dog and the burglar cats. Instead, the quick witted cats jump over the lazy dog. The defeated dog succumbed to the grappling claws of the cats.

Kathira keeps a dog – that lazy laid-back dog. Ganesh tried his patience to keep the cats – all four of them, the quick witted burglar cats. Ganesh cuddles the cats and Kathira fawns the dog. Both caretakers of the inn may exhibit a gentle affection for their little animals, but they are not any enthusiasts of their pets. Only if these pets knew the proper way to drop their faeces the way it was expected by their masters.

Half a year ago when I first visited the inn, I only saw a cat. It was a stray tabby cat. The stray tabby cat, a queen, grows with a grey coat and has dark stripes lined over her body. With any unfinished rice and leftover food, instead of throwing them away, Ganesh spread the leftovers on the ground at the edge of the rear patio, thinking the leftover may serve the stray cats well. There are several stray cats, apart from the tabby queen. They are burglars widely entering the houses by climbing the walls of the neighbourhood stalking for food.

Day after day, the tabby queen became a regular cat that enjoyed the food left by Ganesh. Ganesh has no intention at first to marvel the cat let alone to keep her in the inn. But, as you feed the purring mammal, with regular meals Ganesh made it ready without having the stray tabby queen to prey, the cat laid its den down.

Where? Where does the tabby queen settle her den?

It was right beside the communal toilet at the rear patio beneath the plain sight of remnant pieces of woods and rusty zinc sheets.

Yesterday morning at my doorstep when I was on the way to the communal toilet with my toothbrush in hand, I saw Kathira making his grumble. He was targeting at Ganesh. But Ganesh seemed to go along in tune with Kathira and conceded with him. Kathira with his unusual murmurs below his breath in exasperation, he walked to me and uttered, “She has a new boyfriend. You see, she’s slipped out again with her frisky boyfriend next door.” Kathira looked into my baffling eyes, knowing I was puzzled, but he tempted to continue, “When she’s home, she’ll bring with her the problems to us.”

I was very much held in bafflement. Of the early morning, Kathira made a fault-finding accusation of someone pertaining to her moral and chastity. It sounded serious. It’s a mounting disdainful charge. Who is she? Her boyfriend lives by the door next to us?

I turned to Ganesh.

Ganesh has a big laugh beyond measure. It was such a cheeky way of Kathira to describe his exasperation.

He pointed to the offspring of their tabby queen. Tabby queen was already slipped out of the house leaving the kittens around. The kittens were sleeping on the decrepitate doormat at the doorstep of my room. The kittens are capable of creating a mischievous havoc in the kitchen but not detached completely from their mother yet. Often they are seen suckling their mother’s breasts. They are in the weaning transition into solid food.

When I see the kittens sleeping on the doormat at the doorsteps of my room, I always feel a great nuisance agitating from my fear. I am carrying a fear that one night on my way to the communal toilet, I may unwarily stomp my legs on the kittens and crush them of their alimentary canals off their stomachs. It may sound crude, but that is my real tragic fear. The kittens indiscriminately choose to sleep around the doorsteps of my room. The night at the inn is pitch dark, so as to say all the lights will be turned off, including the corridor and patio lamps when the caretakers are ready for bed.

“How are we going to solve this problem of offspring progression?” Kathira looked at Ganesh. “Our queenie is in heat. She’s been escaping the house to mate.” Then he added with a gasp of frustration, “In three months’ time we are going to have another litter.”

“We already have litters before. Now we are still having here three undetached kittens,” claimed Kathira.

Kathira was maddened with the unkempt hygiene of the kitchen affected by the faeces left by the kittens. He was infuriated to unfold the hidden faeces deposited at the opening crevice of the kitchen wall, at the fissure brick behind the archaic well and at the hollow cranny at the side wall of my room. Ganesh didn’t say a word, but the way he gesticulated, we knew he acknowledged the problems. Ganesh conceded, and they both agreed that they must - clean off the domestic little tigers’ poops found everywhere at the inn.

Cats' reproduction activities may seem simple to the casual observer: they mate loudly, frequently, and indiscriminately. Once your female cat reaches puberty at about 6 months of age, she becomes a queen and estrus (heat) cycles will start. The queen will slip to escape the house in order to find mates to mate. She’s being loudly vocalize (call), and lurk near doors, just waiting for the chance to meet up with one of the noisy frisky Tom cat who will cluster near your house.

Cats can go into heat several times a year, whereas dogs typically have only two heat cycles a year. Literally, cats can produce a litter at any time in the year. Female cats are induced ovulators, which means that ovulation does not take place without mating. Until and unless she mates, these estrus cycles will repeat as often as every two or three weeks, causing distress to the queen and the human companion.

On the street, a queen may mate with two or more Tom cats over the length of the estrus cycle. A multi-coloured kittens of a litter will often vividly demonstrate multiple mating. If pregnant, the queen’s pregnancy lasts on average 60-64 days before giving birth to a litter.

Later in the evening, I saw Kathira together with Ganesh, as briskly they tried to help each other to set up a trap. They had wanted to set up a trap to lure the cats into captivity. The captivity was a huge plastic basket normally mobilized by the inn used for collecting dry laundry. In the basket, they left some food on it so to entice the cats hoping they will be tricked to get into the captivity. It is not a wise idea for them to catch the kittens barehanded with the presence of the mother cat. Both Kathira and Ganesh know. They know that catching the kittens is viciously an act in the presence of the mother cat. The mother cat may grapple them with its sharp claw. While raising its fur and arched its back, in a loud vocalize hissing and baring its sharp teeth, it’ll give a sign of intimidation to anyone trying to dump her kittens off.

Abandoning the kittens?

Yes. Abandoning the kittens including the mother cat was the initial idea both Kathira and Ganesh have. It probably may happen if they are able to capture the kittens into the cage. They already have an idea that these domestic little tigers will be fed properly at the fish market than staying at the inn. As the fish market has a certain amount of leftover of fish discharges, the cats would not be starved to death. Ganesh had domesticated a stray cat at first, now he wanted to abandon these purring mammals out from the household unit, thus adding the cats into the already large population of feral cats we find in the open, especially at the fish market in the town.

Many people have instilled with the belief that as a pet owner, they have every right to decide the faith of their pet. As they owned a choice to pick the animal as a pet, they assume that they deserve the absolute right to dispose the little domestic creatures when they are no longer wanted. This is the ‘right of disposal’ as many pet owners wrongfully thought they are undoubtedly accorded with. It is an exhausting belief that I feel tragic.

Failure to control the breeding of pets by spaying and neutering, the abandonment of household pets inevitably has resulted in large numbers of feral cats and dogs roaming in the neighbourhood. I have once eye witnessed a neighbour dumping their pet rabbit by the ditch of the neighbourhood where I live.

Better no pet than keeping a pet for one day.

Post script:

1. Several days after the notion of wanting to dump to the cats, the caretakers of the inn changed their mind. They may not have told anyone, but their action unfolded their intention that they have decided to keep the cats. Probably the trap that had been set to capture the cats was never a success.

2. I know cats are skillful stalkers of a broad range of small vertebrate and invertebrate preys. One day, I saw the black kitten of the three, holding its mouth over the throat of a chipmunk caught in the ambush by the tabby queen. With its canine teeth and the sharp clawed paws, the black kitten sheared the head of the chipmunk off from its body. Then, the kitten ate it in wholesome not leaving behind a single bone or a coat of fur. Ever since seeing that brutal bloodshed massacre of the chipmunk by the cats, I have had a total new fold of impression over the cats. I remember someone told me, they had trained their cats and dogs to abstain from meat and confined its food to vegetarian only. If cats’ and dogs’ eating habit could be trained as such, we would see the wondrous beauty of a restful non-belligerent animal kingdom but it is a dreadful curse to the natural chain of ecology.

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 03:42 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Flies Picking An Underwear

House Flies Savouring Foul Discharges

semi-overcast 33 °C

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My room adjoins the rear patio. The rear patio is just a tiny patch of ground, roofless and rough but concreted five feet inward from the rusted rickety backdoor. My room was a storage room transformed into a staff’s. Kathira, a caretaker of the inn once used to occupy this room. One arm’s-length multiplied by one-and-a-half of its size, as they called it a bachelor’s room.

Often in the evening, when there are guests, Kathira will get someone to deliver some raw seafood to the inn for him to cook dinner. A dinner topped with seafood is usually served for the in-house guests. There is a standalone bathroom situated in the rear patio right beside my room. It serves as a common convenience for the guests. The water tap in the bathroom has been used to do cleaning and scaling, leaving the ground stales with reek of fish stench. Unless you sanitize the ground with a disinfectant substance, you often will get to attract house flies.

Getting rid of the irritating house flies from buzzing and landing around in my room is beyond a hectic business. There is too much to do to rid these flying pests. Though tiny in size but once they are aroused by foul discharges they’ll infest you like crazy in swarms. I reap to coexist with them. The sow is, I always drench myself in seawater running into the rear patio and into the room. The dripping seawater mixed with beach sand and dirt from the ground dries off absolutely having a smell like dumps of metal batteries. On top of it, the reeking stench from the discharge of cleaning raw fish by the water tap is another savoury reason attracting flies. Sometimes I feel intimidated by the house flies.

How on earth these pests in their mounting company only pick to dangle on my underwear hanging on the clothesline? There is always a choice of the man’s next door.

Posted by Quah Khian Hu 09:07 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Tap The Anchor Buoy

A Ship That Does Not Obey The Helm Will Have To Obey The Rocks

overcast 28 °C

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Two days ago in the afternoon, the sky was unexpectedly outburst in rainstorms. The cumulus clouds nestled high above in the sky like heaps of white cotton buds had suddenly ragged by dark and gloomy clouds. The dark clouds ominously huddled together while the wind lashed out upon the ground. With an ominous sound, the rain pelted the earth as if buckets of water poured down from the sky. The tropical rain hit the bay at the spit of the cape of Trincomalee. Yet torrential storms to arrive till the arrival of the monsoon.

The sea started to get rough. By October, the tropical monsoon will bring torrential rains to the region.

Looking at the chart of the weather forecast of Trincomalee, the beachgoers would not get to enjoy any longer the hot sun we are enthralling it now, let alone to do open water swim when the monsoon arrives soon.

I will return to Tamil Nadu on 22nd this month. By the time I leave India again a month later, it is already monsoon season in Trincomalee. I need to plan for an alternative route. Instead of heading to Trincomalee again, alternatively the west coast of Sri Lanka is a choice. Or creating another choice, I may have to en route to the northern neighbouring country. Distance is a point of consideration. With longer travelling distance, the cost of mobility takes its place as a critical factor in making decision.

That day in the afternoon, I almost have crossed the navigational safety border marked with white buoys floating on the surface of the sea. I was swimming my way to a dense of ocean rocks rose on the ambient seabed which was at a length offshore. The farthest sedimentary ocean rock was fixed with an anchor buoy pulled by a rope set out from the shore.

Tapping on the anchor buoy as I usually do to designate reaching target point, I treaded on the rock with caution so I would not trample on the oyster reef sticking to the surface of the sedimentary rocks. The hard shells of the oysters were hinged together very sharply. I have had several wounds on the soles unnoticeably got cut by the sharp hinges of the oyster shells elsewhere. As I set my feet down properly on the rock, whistles blew.

Whistles blew in shrill. Whistles emitted from the shore. The clear shrill of whistling was audible to my ears while I lingered at the boulder of the ocean rock some 200 metres away from the shore. I raised my head against the dazzling sun. The glare of the sun had caused my eyes half closed. I tried to see to the shore at the west where the sound of whistling shrill initiated. Three men were whistling. They were in blue uniforms standing by the lifeguard booth erected at the beach.

While they persisted to whistle under a non-stop effort, they waved furiously at me. Obviously the waving was not a signal they rolled themselves to address that I made it to ocean rock, but they were giving a kind of warning. They wanted me to get back to the shore. They had not wanted me to linger any longer on the ocean rocks.

Sometimes, I am being a little haughty myself. Making a whistling shrill targeted on me was already an embarrassing commotion let alone twirling the whistles and furiously waving their hands against me. The beachgoers were alerted on the presumption that I broke some rules. I was only heading to the ocean rock. The distance was hardly farther than 200 metres offshore.

“Had I wronged anywhere? Not that I hadn’t swum in deep water before. In the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, I made my way in a swimathon from the coast to an Island. It was comparably a distance obviously tens of times farther than this,” I grumbled in the heart and apparently contained an ego in it.

Being quite hardheaded, I stayed on the ocean boulder ignoring the hand signals given by them. I lingered on the boulder, diverted my attention by - disturbing the fiddler crabs’ burrows, shooing some perching crows, unhinging some native rock-oysters, agitating some crustaceans, muddling some whelks and limpets; of which all I did was a pretendence that I heard no cries from the lifeguards. It was the crude side of me.

Some while later, the tide was getting high and sea was battering rougher. On the way swimming back to the shore, at times I lost sight of the horizon when the waves relentless turned furious as it slapped on to my face. I had gulps of seawater swallowed down the throat.

The lifeguards had not been doing any wrong with their furious commotion. I still held on with my ego though, of which I declined to render down although knowing that they had acted for my safety. As I walked closely to the lifeguard booth, I had a peek on them. Only I discovered that the lifeguards are some marine men assigned to watch guard the public safety. Swimming is possible at the bay, but one has to exercise extra caution as sometimes dangerous undertows and deadly grip of rip currents do occur. When the monsoon arrives, deep sea swimming tends to pose a certain level of danger to the swimmers. One has to be extremely alert of the undertows and rip currents apart from the rough splashing waves thrashing on.

Thinking back, I tend to be ignorant, sometimes. Doing deep water swimming is safe but if ill guarded, potentially it poses a serious life threat. I have to abide to the safety rules if I am to swim in deep water. I remind myself that - a great ship asks deep waters but, the ship that does not obey the helm will have to obey the rocks.

Only a section of the coastline at the cape adjacent to the fort is guarded by lifeguards. It is an intertidal zone, and the waters are lined with navigational white floating buoys in a form of circuit pulled from the shore to that massive ocean rock. The waters enclosing within the buoy circuit is considered a safety zone. Battering waves that pound in to the shore from the deep ocean are weakened by the dense of ocean rocks as these rocks abate the impact of the battering waves.

I have to obey the safety rules, and it’s not difficult to act upon, I told myself. Abide the rules from the beginning with a receptive correct attitude and cache them in the heart. Instead of swim and wade off the bay to somewhere into the ocean, now I do it in laps. I started from the first marking buoy at the shore. I begin to swim diagonally crossing a straight figure from a corner to corner until I reach the anchor buoy planted at the boulder of the ocean where I once landed with commotion. Then, I swim back to the beginning point and counted one lap. By doing this, swimming in deep water counting by laps is also fabulous.

It’s open water swimming time now @4.17pm.

~ Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the Wild Air ~

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 07:56 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

A Spandex Swim Shorts

A Fool Swimming In The Ocean

rain 30 °C

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Fabulous! Fabulous! I get to recharge my energy. I get to bask and do an open water swimming at the marvellous beach by the bay at the spit of the cape of Trincomalee. I always tell my friends that apart from consuming carbohydrate, my body runs on solar. Out from the backdoor of Dyke Rest, it is the splendid white sandy beach that spreads over to the ocean connecting to the horizon. The temptation of getting a dive in the turquoise waters of Indian Ocean is too hard to resist. I barge into the strong wave as it pounds to the shore.

I feel uneasy wearing a pair of triangle swimming trunks by the seaside and walk freely on it. I must admit I am an old-fashioned pursuer for what I wear in the public beach. To me, swimming trunks are meant to be worn for swimming in the pool, and it limits its motion within the pool vicinity. It is like your sleeping pyjamas. You don’t wear your pyjamas out from your bedroom.

I put on my exercise shorts in the outer layer and having beneath wearing a pair of swimming trunks. That obviously appears to be a little foolish. Foolish never mind, I brush it aside. As I swim and dive, the shorts get loosen endlessly against the strong pounding waves and it drops off mercilessly. It is embarrassing. The Sri Lankan kids playing by the shore watched oddly of my clowning pursuits of securing the bottom wear every time I am hit by the waves.

Why not getting a pair spandex swim shorts instead?

Getting a pair of spandex swim shorts? I intensely dislike putting on the spandex shorts when I swim in the swimming pool. For rough sea, maybe it’s a spectacular idea.

I happily wake up early and merrily walk to the town searching for the aqua sportswear.

This young man taking charge of the sportswear shop pulled out several sizes of swim shorts. He displayed the swim shorts, all made of black spandex material and he put them on the glass rack. Looking at the material, and taking a glance of the label, you would not deny that the spandex shorts are massively a product of mass production. That doesn’t matter, but it matters greatly when you are given a product that couldn’t be any better quality than a mediocre one. You want your money’s worth since he is asking a price for an arm and a leg. Pity us, in Sri Lanka, the foreign travellers have never got to enjoy the privilege of the local price in everything we pay.

“Will I buy the spandex shorts with that called price?” I asked myself.

“Yes, I desperate needed it.” Otherwise, I am not able to swim in the open water.

He gave me a size of XL. I asked for double XL. I know which size suits me better than anyone else. I need a breathing space at the groin area, not wanting something to be fitted too tightly. It’s a pursuit of comfortable breathing after all.

I tell the young man of the sportswear shop, “I need to try on both pairs of swim shorts.” There is no fitting room at the shop, I aware. “I’m going to test-wear them here,” I told the young man with my index finger pointed to the rear side of the low glass counter.

He was instantly bewildered. I saw his eyes widely popped. Then I noticed his big popping eyes roll from side to side and gave me a smirk. I read his mind, “Oh my goodness, this man is so lewd. He must be morally loose having wanted to take off his underpants by my counter just to try on the spandex shorts?” He had a massive laugh. I feel ridiculed making myself a laughing-stock, that I am as daft as a brush.

Anyway, I tried both sizes and picked the larger swim shorts of two. Your mind should not run disarray. Does he know that I can test wear the spandex shorts even with my underpants on?

Later at the beach not far away from the backdoor of the inn, I have anxiously wanted to jump into the sea immediately after putting on the tight spandex. Only I notice there is a lining seam ripping at the groin in between both legs. I thought if I don’t stress the spandex shorts right exactly at the sensitive spot by not motioning a squat on the ground with knees drawn up, I would not force open the ripped seam. If the lining seam does rip open, it's a never mind to me. After all, today is a weekday, there aren’t many beachgoers around. People may not have noticed. Only a few children run for bat-and-ball cricket game at the shore.

So, I plunged into the waters under the terrifying heat of the sun. I like it. It is a total recharge for me.

Thinking back I don’t remember the last time I was being completely a fool doing foolish things. Being foolish is sometimes an experience that we ridicule ourselves. And it could turn out to be fun and may become a precious experience.

Doing open water swimming here gives an overwhelming ecstasy. Let me figure out how to tell you about it later.

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 01:15 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

Janmashtami

Five Thousand Years Ago, Lord Krishna was Born

sunny 39 °C

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I looked closely at the field of the date imprinted on the wall calendar suspended on the entrance of Yogiram Ashram, it stated 28th August 2013 Wednesday, a declared holiday – “Janmashtami”. I completely had no idea what the day is. Living near to the ashram, I pay attention to any public holidays, whether it is a national or state declared holiday or even a religious holiday. The holidays are the days when we see devotees drawing in huge crowds to the ashrams in Tiruvannamalai.

I searched on google for Janmashtami. I found it – the birth day of Lord Krishna.

Two days ago, Hindus over the country of India, South Asia and many followers of the Krishna faith abroad have celebrated Janmashtami over the birth of Lord Krishna. It is celebrated in the August/September month, on the eighth day (Ashtami) of Krishna Paksh (dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadon according to the Hindu lunar calendar.

Lord Krishna, the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu, was believed to have been born about five thousand years ago, on the 19th July 3228 BC in Mathura. Indian as well as Western scholars have accepted the period between 3200 and 3100 BC as the period in which Lord Krishna lived on earth. It is believed that Lord Krishna had lived for 125 years. Counting from year 3228 BC to the present, we are able to say that Lord Krishna was born 5241 years ago.

Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting without water the whole day and night and staying vigil through the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna's infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs and dance. Some temples also conduct reading of the Hindu religious scripture Bhagavad Gita and chant the mantra Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.

Janmashtami is celebrated over two days. The first day is Krishnashtami or Gokulashtami. The second day is called Kalastami or more popularly Janmashtami.

Krishna was the 8th son of princess Devaki and her husband Vasudeva. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas from Mathura (in present day Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh). King Kansa, Devaki's brother was afraid of a prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki's eighth son. Kansa had both Devaki and Vasudeva locked into a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki's apparent miscarriage of the seventh, Krishna was born. After his birth Lord Vishnu ordered Vasudeva to take Krishna to Gokul where he can live safely away from his evil Uncle Kansa. So Vasudeva took Krishna with him and crossed Yamuna to reach Gokul. Krishna grew up in Gokul.

According to Bhagavata Purana, Krishna was born without a sexual union, but by divine "mental transmission" from the mind of Vasudeva into the womb of Devaki. Krishna was dark and extremely handsome. The word Krishna literally means 'black'. Though his skin colour may be depicted as black or dark, in other images such as modern pictorial representations, Krishna is usually shown with blue skin. He is often shown wearing a yellow silk dhoti and a peacock feather crown. Common depictions show him as a little boy (Bala Krishna), or as a young man in a characteristically relaxed pose, playing the flute. In this form, he usually stands with one leg bent in front of the other with a flute raised to his lips, in the Tribhanga posture, accompanied by cows.

People consider Krishna their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend all rolled into one. Krishna has influenced the Indian thought, life and culture in myriad ways. He has influenced not only its religion and philosophy, but also into its mysticism and literature, painting and sculpture, dance and music, and all aspects of Indian folklore.

I arrived at Trincomalee town, northeast of Sri Lanka in the morning of Janmashtami day. I would have attended the prayer held in Yogiram ashram and joining the celebration of Janmashtami had I stayed longer in Tiruvannamalai. I was anxious to imagine the crowd of people thronging to the ashram during this special day.

Riding on a long distance nine-hour train from Colombo through the night, I was dozing off with my head staggering disorderly away. My head was rocking side-to-side and forcibly had banged on the window. I was awakened. Then I dozed off again. I possibly had a head rolling onto the shoulder of the rider next to me. And the train rattled noisily on its way to Trincomalee.

That night at Dyke Rest in Trincomalee, the local community have had a motion for street procession in celebrating Janmashtami day. The procession was arrayed with a chariot illuminated in lights. No bullocks were used to pull the chariot but a few strong young men took up the task. In the decorated chariot on its sanctum, a statue of Lord Krishna was placed on it. The simple procession attracted not a huge crowd but it signified heartily a reverence the people of Dyke Street have upon Lord Krishna.

Living in a little inn at the cape of Dyke, Trincomalee, you’ll be blown away by the sound of waves beating on the shore. Trincomalee boasts the gateway to some of the finest beaches of Sri Lanka, if you wish to know.

In the month of August, the Indian nation gets to enjoy several public holidays. Eid Mubarak fell on 9th August, which was celebrated one day after Malaysia. A week later on 15th August, the Indian nation was seen hoisting their Tiranga Jhanda, the tricolor flag with an exuberant spirit while they marched to perform the parade rites. It was the nation’s 66th Independence Day they celebrated with sovereign pride. Then, on the 28th August, it is the special holiday that marked the birth of Lord Krishna.

Happy Birthday Lord Krishna. He is 5241 years old now!

Oh, I am also not forgetting to wish a Happy National Day 31.8.2013 to Malaysian friends, and have a great holiday ahead.

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Chariot illuminated in bulb lights celebrating Janmashtami at Dyke, Trincomalee

Chariot illuminated in bulb lights celebrating Janmashtami at Dyke, Trincomalee

Posted by Quah Khian Hu 01:54 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

A Hundredth-Day Mourn

Our Age According To Lunar Calendar

sunny 38 °C

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Today is a commemorative day to our family. It is the hundredth-day mourn that we are in grief to our Aunt Lian who had crossed over to another realm on 17th of May 2013.

I had a short chat on the net with my older sister several days ago, and I found out that she and her family would make a trip back to the hometown in Teluk Intan. They have planned to attend and assist my father to carry out the tradition ritual of offering a salvation prayer to Aunt Lian.

Aunt Lian was firstly admitted to the council hospital in the hometown when I was still travelling in Sri Lanka. I took a flight home with a throb of suspense after hearing the news. Looking back four months ago before she was admitted to the hospital, though Aunt Lian was already getting weak of old age and only serving on soft diet due to lack of competency in swallowing, it has never given rise to our mind that bronchopneumonia, an aspiration pneumonia was in attack. It was to cost Aunt Lian her life soon later.

In the council hospital, the physician after having done up with his medical diagnosis, he had no choice but to treat Aunt Lian on a high dose antibiotic therapy to counter the chemical pneumonitis caused by the entrance of oral contents aspirated into the bronchial tree of the lungs. Bacterial pathogens had added to the inflammation. Aunt Lian was advised to feed on Ryles tube then onwards. Feeding solids was no more a choice. Sixteen days later, Aunt Lian was discharged from the council hospital for home. We were relieved. But our relief did not last long to alleviate our series of apprehension. It was only a temporary relief.

That morning, Grace Lai with a breath of anxiety arrived at the hospital searching for the ICU ward after receiving an anxious telephone call from my sister. She, a joined at the hip to my sister had hurriedly rushed to Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya wanting to visit Aunt Lian and hoping that, in the way she always could, to alleviate some anxiety from bouldering our minds. At that time, Aunt Lian was already equipped completely on a life support. We did not relinquish every single chance to revive Aunt Lian from coma. But survival rate was not optimistic.

In the afternoon at 5.15 pm, the team of nurses was summoned by the emergency unit to the ICU ward where Aunt Lian was ridden. Aunt Lian was seemingly a body without soul by then. The nurses were hastened into the ward to rescue and had tried to resuscitate Aunt Lian. All they have done, they had done beyond they were able. Aunt Lian made a cross over that afternoon very peacefully. It was a deep grief to us. The dark day was only four weeks apart after Aunt Lian was given a green light from the council hospital in our home town to allow her a discharge.

Looking at the medical record, Aunt Lian was 74. She had neither suffered from major sickness nor ailments in her younger days. She was adamantly healthy and dreadfully resisted to be treated with western medicines for any illness that inflicted on her. It was a belief to her, very adamantly that – slight illness, naturally the body will recuperate by itself. And for major sickness, she’ll remedy on herbs and having relied on the rumpled pieces of herbal prescriptions written by the olden day sages. Those herbal prescriptions were believed to be efficacious.

When I was a child, I always heard her making a claim sort of an invocation that, “Otherwise after the herbal remedy, our lives aren’t after all ceded down to the ‘Sky Kingdom’ in the heaven?” And she had an index finger pointing upward to the sky. She had lived through the brutality of the era of wars that disastrously ruined the lives of many. Hers was not spared. She had also lived under the circumscription of a maltreating childhood and a never easy harsh adulthood. Having we understood what she had gone through in her life, we are not able to deny but passionately to cede with her that she had every right to preserve her own perception and way of thought.

In due course at home in the hometown, the funeral caretaker arrived with two white lanterns waiting to be suspended on the entrance of the mourning hall. The hako shaped paper lanterns were inscribed with a brush calligraphy written in black ink made of soot. The syllables in Chinese were written, read as such – “70-Blossoms-With-9”.

Literally it is taken as seventy plus nine, or in other words, it means seventy nine years old. In the tradition of our community, a deceased who had died of an old age, old enough to be recognized as a good death would be honoured on the mourning lanterns with the inscription of a blossom on it. The older a person crosses over, it is perceived that an abundance of wisdom the deceased has experienced in his or her life. It is an honour to the deceased.

Hock Boon, a close acquaintance of mine, came to me after seeing the mourning lanterns, whispered to me by my ear with his propensity trusting that he may not have heard appropriately of what I had shared with him in the hospital earlier. He muttered below his breath, “Isn’t Aunt Lian 74 years old?” Having asked his words, Hock Boon began to feel a little uneasy himself, assuming that he could have gone too far to have uttered his words as such in a mourning funeral though it was out of a concern.

As a matter of fact, Aunt Lian’s biological age was 74 years old and it is also decently correct to have said, she was 79 according to her lunar age. How does it find to sum an extra 5 years that was added on to her biological age?

To describe this, Aunt Lian was born on 21st January 1939. The Gregorian year 1939 according to Lunar calendar was a rabbit year but it has a spilt over of Tiger zodiac during the beginning months of 1939. It also means that the ending of the Lunar year of Tiger had fallen on the beginning of the Gregorian year of 1939. My aunt whom was born on January 21 was a zodiac of Tiger though 1939 was in fact a Rabbit year. In the Chinese astrology, a person who leaps through another zodiac symbol in one year gains a year older. So, Aunt Lian was honoured to keep one extra year here.

The tradition believes that once when a baby is conceived, the embryo in the womb is as real as alive. There is already a life in the embryo. Otherwise the embryo in the mother’s womb would cease to have grown big. A live baby that sits in the womb of the mother is a baby of soul. The conceive of the soulful baby for 9 months in the womb is counted as if he has gained one year of life before he is brought forth by birth. Like anyone who uses Lunar calendar for age counting, Aunt Lian was honoured to keep another year here.

When one crosses over to another realm upon his or her demise, the tradition honours the deceased with a three-deferential-respect. First, it is an oblation offer to the sky kingdom. Secondly, it is an esteem lauded to the earth and the third, it is a respect given to the deceased own self. With three respects, the deceased is honoured with three years added on to their biological age.

On the mourning day till the funeral, sables were worn. We may not have observed the deep old traditional convention of wearing sables in black and fastening a piece of black gauze on the arm but we had put on white trousers and white top in return. My father as the patriarch of the family has opined that Aunt Lian, the eldest sister to my father, whom was having no blood kinship in a way to the four of us as her nephews and nieces, white sables were appropriate. It was one of the ways we thought we were able to show our heartfelt gratitude to her.

We did not observe the usual way of our tradition in burning paper replica money, but we burnt a paper replica house for Aunt Lian instead. Old traditions die hard. We know that it appears ludicrous to expect a deceased person to receive the paper replicas in a physical form in their realm, but it is mere a symbol of our affection we found on her.

On the funeral day, the remains of our Aunt Lian were cremated in Temoh, a small out-of-town village situated not far from Ayer Kuning. If you travel further on the same old federal road to the north, you’ll arrive at Ipoh, the state capital of Perak. The urn of ashes of our Aunt Lian was placed in the temple of the crematorium of Temoh.

In sorrow and grief, my father had expressed his lament that Aunt Lian was a woman of no kinship descendant. She was not a married woman. “But never mind”, we told our father. “She has her nephews and nieces, the four of us as her children.” In fact, she was already a grand aunt to the children of my brother and sisters.

Aunt Lian is a surrogate mother to us, as deeply she showered on us her affection like a mother when we were still toddlers. She raised us like her own when our mother died at young age. Losing her is like losing a piece of our souls. We hold grief to be departed with her. We know we have to continue living our lives to the fullest but grieving is inevitable. Grief is like a drawer that one opens, takes a look and, stows it back away. In the afterlife, soul never dies. She lives.

In the Yogiram Ashram this morning, on this 100th-Day mourning day, I prayed to Lord Shiva hoping that the soul of our Aunt Lian is placed together with the souls of the virtuous. Om Nama Shiva Ya, I prayed.

I have a notion to search for an Indian sweets shop in the town later. I solemnly wanted to purchase several packets of Indian sweets hoping to serve the ashram aspirants who would come to dine at the ashram in the evening today. Gulab Jamun or Pak or Bal Mithai will make me delighted – as a form of thanks giving and a mindful appreciation for everyone who had kept Aunt Lian in prayers and remembrance.

Lastly, do you know how old are you according to Lunar calendar? Of course you have to completely ignore the 3-year honour that adds on to your age. I bet you know what I mean. It is a taboo that you have to be alert of.

(Having stayed in Tiruvannamalai for a month, it’s time to leave India again before I am caught in trouble with the immigration office here. I would be leaving India from Chennai International Airport for Sri Lanka tomorrow. See you in Sri Lanka!)

January 1939 Calendar

January 1939 Calendar

January 1930 Calendar

January 1930 Calendar

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 03:14 Archived in India Comments (1)

An Iridescent Plume

A Feather Bearing A Magnificent Eyespot

rain 29 °C

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Pixar Jun my nephew, seven at that time was verily anxious wanted to take a close look at the long covert plume I grasped in hand. The plume of the train of a peacock with its iridescent colour of green and blue, ornamenting with a magnificent eyespot at its tip was extravagant enough to arouse an extra attention from him. He had wanted to see closely for himself the limelight of the eyespot, hold it and eagerly sway to stroke it by his nose but his illogical feeling was calling him vehemently from doing so. He showed a struck of reverential fear and had his hand rebounded from reaching out to the long iridescent plume. “I get restless and uneasy with it – the eyespot. It’s something extraordinary”, he cried out.

I had just returned home from Batu Caves that evening merrily holding the plume of a peacock walking into the house. Batu Caves was celebrating Thaipusam that day. Over a million of devotees and tourists had thronged to the cave during the day to observe the celebration. Of the many pedlars, one attracted my attention. I rarely come across such a large display of peacock’s covert plumes. The plumes were magnificent and brightly iridescent. Those plumes were contained in the pottery jars waiting to be picked by the buyers. I chose one. I was taught to pick the best selection – the criteria, I shall look out for its eyespot. A magnificent one would have a complete rounded eye and it should be bright and iridescent like a glossy ornament bearing over the tip of the plume. The last time I held a peacock plume, thinking back, it was 31 years ago.

That year in 1982, my father brought home a long and glossy peacock plume. We children were mesmerized upon seeing the plume, for it was an unusual feather we did not normally see. We were taught a proper way to safe keep the plume to avoid causing breakage to the feather and crushing on its eyespot. So, it was ended up erected on a dictionary volume and, we had it to flap on the reading desk for quite some years.

It all began with a feather. A peacock feather that was shed from its upper tail to the gravel ground of the Hindu koil, the Indian man picked it up. He saw my father and gave it to him. The Indian man was probably a swami known to my father, who took care of the peafowls raised in the ground of the koil. My father set an eye on it, looking at the brightly iridescent eyespot of the covert feather with admiration and he was told perhaps, “You may wish to bring it home. Your children may admire upon this feather of the symbol of immaculate decency.” My father was pleased with the feather given to him, a massive symbol that it is always associated with the deities in the belief of the Hindu pantheon.

My father had been working in a less urbanite area, in a tyre workshop situated by the coastal road leading south to Sabak Bernam, around twenty kilometres away from our home of Teluk Intan. If you travel down south by the coast, you’ll notice that the coastal road cleaves its way through the fertile soil. It divides the land into coastal shore adjacent to the Straits of Melaka to the west and lowland peat soil to the east. Over the years both the shore and lowland have been bulldozed for plantation. With then a great number of oil palm estates have sprung up and got cultivated on the soil. Many Indians gained their livinghood in those estates and resided there then.

Looking at the horizon ahead, to the left and right, it was dotted with a number of Hindu koils and shrines built by the estate residents. Of course, my father would have to combust his motorcycle engine on his Honda 70cc riding pass the Hindu koils, a few of the temples he would have to run into every day before he was to reach the tyre workshop.

“How did you obtain this magnificent feather? Why does a peacock’s covert plume ornament with an eyespot?” I looked upon my father with many more questions anxiously lingering in mind.

At the age of eight, I have not seen a life peafowl, and it was beyond my imagination of how magnificent a peafowl is with its iridescent colours and extravagant display of its plumage bearing a shape of an erected fan. I had only watched it through documentaries on TV of how a real peacock would be. In those days of early 80s, computer was rarely a household unit while internet was rocket science. Google and YouTube were aliens then. We were not exposed to quick facts electronically in the simple way we enjoy now by clicking on the mouse.

With an awestruck, I thought, “It must be seriously astounding if I could get to keep a peafowl at home. I’ll get to harvest (pluck) freely as many feathers, as shimmering as the one my father held in hand, when I need to make another feather skipper.” A mischievous chuckle threw out from me.

My father began with his story.

“The Hindu swami of a koil, situated not far away from my workshop recently brought home from Southern India a clutch of peafowl eggs. He had selected the eggs from the breeder to make sure that these peafowl eggs are fertilized before he brought them back here for incubation,” my father revealed the knowledge he had with the swami.

Then, he continued, “The pair of blue peafowls, a lovely peacock and peahen, both matured birds that were bred by the koil had no longer returned to their nest in the captivity. Swami had dreary waited every evening hoping that these peafowls will return to the nest to roost but they hadn’t. Poor swami, he could have waited till the twelfth of never. Several years ago when these peafowls were chicks, Swami took them to the koil, bred them with a hope that these birds will add some livelihood to the koil. Swami reveres the peafowls as a symbol of immaculate decency that he holds upon Lord Krishna and Lord Muruga.”

“Before this, the koil had also tried to breed a flock of peafowls. Those fowls were kept in the open of the uncultivated gravel ground growing with shrub bushes and undergrown trees. Swami did not get to enjoy the privilege of seeing his peafowls breeding offspring. They flew away one day and never returned to the koil anymore,” my father added.

As a child, I nodded but with a little baffle filling in head, “Flew away and not returned to the koil anymore?” My father replied, “Yes. During the breeding season, in the year when these birds were ready for breeding, they flew far away in searching for a larger flock for their mates. You see, while swami was thinking of a way to secure the peafowls from leaving the nest, he has thought of a notion if to put the dominant male peafowl in captivity. A long rope will be clinched on its leg to a pole. The rest of the peafowls will still be let loose in the open for them to search their forage. As long as the dominant peacock is caught firmly in captivity to the ground, it would be a high chance that the peahens will remain in the nest.”

This notion is deprecated. Among the Hindu community, peafowls are revered sacred. When swami was deliberating such a notion, it was merely a thought that lingered in his mind. Clinching the leg of the peacock is considered cruel as to imposing ill treatment to such a sacred bird on earth. That is supposed to be a bad karma in the creation.

The species of blue peafowl, which is also known as Indian Peafowl, is the native breeder across the Indian subcontinent. They are usually found in the drier lowland in the deciduous forests of the Indian subcontinent. It is inevitably that the estate ground does not appear suitable for the blue peafowls to breed. However, the peafowls may still adapt to live in other cultivated regions. Peafowls tend to live in flock that made up of a cock, and the muster would at least have a handful of 4 to 5 peahens. When the peafowls are ready for breeding during the breeding season, with only a handful of peafowls or even fewer found in the estate ground, these birds tend to leave behind their existing nest in searching for its mates far away.

With a clutch of peafowl eggs brought to the koil from India waiting for incubation, it gave hope to swami that those eggs would fertilize, develop and hatch into several pea chicks. That would give rise to a fresh pedigree of peafowls for swami to raise care. It is a 31-year-old piece of story that I thought it amusing – if artificial incubation denied otherwise, then a bantam hen would be handpicked to do the incubation on behalf of the mother peahen. The mother peahen that laid those eggs was now nesting far away in India. I had wondered whether the eggs after incubated under the bottoms of the bantam hen for 26 days, whether any pea chicks pipped the shell?

With a fawn over his head, Pixar Jun may have been too young to appreciate the meaning underlying in the symbol of the eyespot bearing on a peacock’s covert plume. Pixar Jun was truthfully expressing himself as a child at seven. I completely understand why he felt uneasy for it. When I was eight, I was reverentially taken aback too the same way Pixar Jun reacted, when my father first posed upon the peacock plume to my embrace.

As a child I was not able to comprehend how a feather, already itself shimmering in glow, glazing iridescently in colours and, unusually ornamented with a massive glossy eye on its tip, was being adored. I would find it creepy. The massive glossy eye bearing over the feather had really taken me aback as a child.

Soon when I grew older, I was able to appreciate how splendid the magnificent eyespot is. It resembles a splendid beauty of the spiritual eye of our inner guru sitting in the centre of our forehead. It also resembles the symbol of immaculate decency for its association with Krishna. I adore it for its charm. Indeed it is splendid. I hope that one day Pixar Jun will adore the magnificent eyespot of the peacock’s covert plume.

By the way, the pedlar was holding a large quantity of peacock feathers in the pottery jars calling for sale. Have you had an idea where do those feathers harvest from? Pluck from the upper tails of the peacocks out of their lives? That is a bad karma in creation. A point to ponder and find out.

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Pixar Jun, at 9 now

Pixar Jun, at 9 now

Posted by Quah Khian Hu 03:04 Archived in India Comments (3)

Swiping Spree Of Credit Cards

I Had A Quiver And A Throb Reading The Bill

overcast 35 °C

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If I hadn’t acted quick enough to terminate the credit facilities, I would not have imagined how devastated the bill will haunt me later. The stealing crooks absolutely had a jolly evening with a swiping spree, the evening when my money belt was found stolen on the bus when I was heading to Chennai. It was all for free, at least to them but I have had a quiver and a throb watching the unauthorized expenditure in dollars and cents calling to be charged by the bank.

Cards were swiped on that evening at the electronic household shops in Chennai, and they succeeded. An alas to me. The stealing crooks had an unusual courage to steal my credit value further on the following day, of which I tipped my hat to them.

Why?

Would you have enough dare to use the stolen credit cards, as if they are yours to pay for a stay over a resort? If you have no guts, the gutsy crooks have plenty.

It was a long list of try-outs they had hoped to get through at the credit card terminals available to the merchants on the following day adding on to the try-out at the resort in Chennai. But they were denied, fortunately no more credit card spree for them. Every single succeeded unauthorized transaction including the not succeeded ones, were transmitted back to the headquarters of the bank in Kuala Lumpur and had been acted for investigation.

Over in Kuala Lumpur at the headquarters of the bank, I reported to the bank that I shall not be held account for the amount spent by the stealing crooks. My name imprinted on the cards, obviously a Malaysian name forming two words for first name and another word of family name, is as obvious distinguishable from that of an Indian. How on earth the crooks, apparently are Indians able to claim they are me?

If the stealing crooks were to make a bigger daring leap, with my passport already in their hands together with the credit cards, they are able to withdraw a sum of cash from the counter. All they need is to find man with a mimic feature to the photograph of the passport, and he has to be gutsily brave to claim my identity as his in order for him to cash the credit from the counter.

Never do this. It is a serious criminal crime subject to severe punishment.

Posted by Quah Khian Hu 03:07 Archived in India Comments (0)

Wild Goose Chasing Is Over

I received A Nod For Exit Permit

semi-overcast 32 °C

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After running around at the police station and immigration office in Chennai for several days, and tiring myself with the wild goose chase trying to fulfill the instructions - unclear and ambiguous, as instructed by the officers of the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO), finally I received a blink of nod from the authority of Chennai. It was a relief when I was issued an exit permit. With that exit permit in hand finally, now I am able to embark the airplane at the Chennai International airport for home.

The immigration officer at the departure gate of Chennai International Airport took the single-page exit permit, scrutinized scrupulously for every word printed on the page against the temporary emergency passport issued by the Consulate of Malaysia. Then she verified my travel details and corroborated them to the electronic database recently submitted by our consulate to the FRRO. She now knew every single detail of my whereabouts by the press of a button. Afterwards, she sealed an embarkation stamp on the emergency passport – “leaving Chennai 10 July 2013”.

Six days ago, Zarina had instructed her subordinate to get ready the issuance of temporary emergency passport for me at speed, so that I could leave India for Malaysia without any delay. She had thought that I would leave India as expected by everyone.

But upon hearing my request, Zarina immediately held up an incredulous scepticism upon me. I had wanted to stay and be remained in Chennai, and I requested that I wish to collect the new passport through the Consulate of Malaysia in Chennai.

“What? Haven’t you have a plan to go back to Malaysia? Are you sure?” Zarina was asking, “Why not return to Malaysia?” She pondered for a while, and with her scepticism growing on a doubtful face, she said, “It would be difficult for us to help you if you intend to stay back in Chennai. This is critical. What is pulling you from going back to Malaysia?”

She has a plenty of reasons to frown sceptic upon me now. It was a script to make her frown – what is this 39-year-old man do in Chennai for so long?

She has been cautious to counteract for any possible crime dealing with the passport stealing syndicate. Why not? Of nowhere when someone had claimed to be a Malaysian, approached her for help, claimed losing his passport and seek to be issued a temporary one, also not forgetting to get a cash loan from the consulate though it was not in huge amount. She has every right to be careful. Even before I got to meet her, she had already performed a lengthy interrogation about my background with my sister in Kuala Lumpur through the phone.

The passport stealing syndicate is inevitably happened. In the record of the consulate, there were many cases of loss of passports reported by fellow Malaysians the way I was victimized by the stealing blackguards.

In her soft vocal cord she made a reveal in a rustle voice. She wanted to get me to be attentive to what she would say, “Malaysian passports are a hot item here with the crime syndicated by the minion blackguards. The crime is getting rampant. When the passports have fallen into the hands of these minions, the passports will be sold to their mastermind under the global syndicate that specializes in forging passports. They will make forge of it before manipulate the passports for crime purposes.”

Then she advised, “It is better if you could resolve to sort out all your travel documents with the respective ministry’s departments in Malaysia as soon as possible. We may have submitted a link of your case with the immigration department of Malaysia, but you have to report the case in your presence when you return home to make sure that your passport will not be used for crime by the blackguard syndicate.”

She further added, “Recently the police in Malaysia have uncovered an international syndicate specializing in falsifying the international passports. The syndicate also falsifying the stamp belongs to the Malaysian Immigration Department. The syndicate was uncovered after when the police detained three men who were involved in robbing a woman near the Sungai Besi Toll Plaza in Kuala Lumpur early June recently.”

Fearing my passport will fall into the hands of the blackguard syndicate, I relented. Finally I decided to fly home to Malaysia to sort out the possible complication from arising and I shall get things done, all to be done in Malaysia.

What will I do when I finally get home in Kuala Lumpur?

I ought to get a new passport from the National Immigration Office in Kuala Lumpur. Before that, I have to restore my nationality identity by getting the identity card to be replaced. Because I lost the passport which has another 3 years of life span before it gets expired, I have expected to be summoned over by the officer of the immigration office for an inquisition when I submit my application to get a new passport.

I have paid a hefty penalty in Chennai while dealing with various authority departments. I hold the prospect to be fined again when I get home for losing my identity card and travel documents. The penalty is just getting to stick in my craw.

I already have a burn of hole in my pocket. Having aggregating the cash loss, credit card scam and the never ending penalty to be paid, I wish I would have been able to use the RM5,000 in a more consented manner at my will.

Coming to the end of the mishap before flying home, I hold a gratitude to believe that all’s well that ends well but if only several of the FFRO officers could uphold their work etiquette and conscientiously knowing the importance to do service for the public. That was the only annoyance madding me out of my wits during the days when I was having trouble in Chennai.

As for the Consulate of Malaysia in Chennai, I come to aware that the duty of a vice consular does not limit her to her office duties only. You’ll see Zarina run around in Chennai like a home butler-in-call when she receives a call from the distress crying Malaysians. She serves like a nanny of the consulate for the fellow Malaysians.

At last, thank god I will not be deported home by the immigration of India the way they usually do to deport the illegal immigrants. I am returning to Malaysia as a traveller with a valid travelling pass holding in hand waiting to be shown at the departure gate. Wait for me. I’ll be back to India once when the travel documents are produced in Malaysia. It will be very soon.

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FRRO Office in Chennai

FRRO Office in Chennai

Posted by Quah Khian Hu 02:46 Archived in India Comments (2)

Inviting A Wolf To Your Shack?

When Someone Astoundingly Knows Your Financial Affairs

sunny 36 °C

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Finally I found Zaman at the first floor of a four-storey shophouse situated not far from Egmore Railway Station. The upper levels of the shophouse, three levels altogether, are modified into a modern middle class yet carry an Indian sketch of a typical motel you’ll see in most parts of Chennai. Zaman, the manager of the motel at his early 50, was enthusiastic enough to converse with me in Malay.

He has been working in Malaysia for over a decade but had returned to Chennai some years ago. Occasionally he does fly to Kuala Lumpur to meet his in-law family as he claimed. He should be able to offer me a room from the motel he was on duty, and I was expecting that he will, judging by the way he was holding regard to my presence as a Malaysian. He did not hold suspicion on me like other motel officers did.

Having a flair for oratory in Malay was his trump card. He was able to win over people and build an acquaintance with fellow Malaysians with his ability to speak in Malay. Many South Asian nationals who work in Malaysia deserved a tip of the hat from us, as most of them judiciously develop a will very quickly to learn to speak Malay within in a short frame of time after arriving in Malaysia. I was convincingly impressed by the way he spoke Malay. Malaysians are quick impressed humankind anyway, even if someone were to sing us a song with a hoarse voice completely off the tune.

Before we could decide a thing, he was to obtain my personal particulars to fill a form. Certain details were considered private to me. I had wanted to digress away from revealing much of my details. You wouldn’t want to add on a distress, one trouble that I already had with the immigration office, still not resolved, and now having exposed to a risk of attracting a stranger like a pollen discharged from its anther calling to be packed by the bees. You wouldn’t want your financial affairs to be opened up for reading like a book by a stranger.

“Where do you live? Let me have your address”, Zaman was asking.

“Puchong”, I answered.

“Which part of Puchong?, he asked further. And before I was able to respond, he continued, “Puchong is a huge housing estate’, as he was extending his right hand over to my wrist wanted to view my national identity card. I showed him nothing. It was stolen too.

“I know Bandar Wawasan, Taman Mutiara Puchong, and particularly Bandar Puteri township”, with his analysis and behaving like a property analyst, he added, “Bungalows, Semi-Ds, Terraces. All the properties there are intensively desirable, luxury and costly”.

Before he could finish his with engrossment about the properties in Puchong which are 2,600 KM away from Chennai, and testifying someone’s property worth in dollars and cents, I nearly interjected over his talk. I nearly divulged to him with a nod, “I am a resident of Bandar Puteri”.

But I held aback completely hearing that phrase from him.

“Wealthy people are residing there. Many residents are damn wealthy”, he prolonged on with his benchmarking, “The housing estates sitting over the hill of Bandar Puteri are a symbol of affluence of the Puchong zone”.

He must have been either reading aplenty or having some dealings with the property market in the capital city of Malaysia. He was benchmarking the value of the properties with a near precise market price, that I must admit, and telling me for several times of the whopping amount of money, all in cash term that the household will get to pocket upon realizing their property. It is a critical taboo you would never want it to be done on your behalf – someone counting your ownership of cash on your behalf and the counters begin to show signs of glittering eyes upon you with dollars and cents on it.

He punched the calculator placed on the counter, brought it up to show the display of the calculator, telling, “See, a household would have to earn this much of minimum monthly income to finance their property and sustain that lifestyle in Puchong”.

It was a bigger startle for me and I had held back further. Even if he struck a huge bingo, I wouldn’t want to take the risk to complement about his near precise hit.

“Which part of Puchong do you live?”, Zaman asked for a second time after finishing with his prophecy of telling me the property analysis.

It took me several seconds to refigure how I should be responding. With a short ponder and a little stutter, I claimed, “Emm, Emm, I used to live in Puchong, but now no longer”. It was obviously a lousy lie to make Zaman buying my lie. I shook my head several times, testifying a statement of “no longer living in Puchong” instead of carrying the meaning of a “yes, I do” the way shaking head is usually interpreted by Indians.

Having a bucket of experiences getting being cheated and a pail of encounters getting being bluffed when I was on the road, unless if I have completely lost my sanity, it is a taboo for us to expose our financial affairs as demanded by anyone we meet. We ought to keep our identity and reveal the minimal. If you fail to do so, you are just inviting a wolf to your shack.

It is a game many people understand - rules in taking precaution measures. Going through the mishap of having lost of passport and cash valuables, I should not take the dealing with people on the street in such a light heart. I’m for sure not taking this write-up to disdain Zaman. That it is not any of my intention to discredit him a trust but I was only doing my part to exercise a precaution measure to safeguard my ownership.

The societal demographic between Chennai and Kuala Lumpur underlies a degree of unlikeness. No doubt there are a good number of residents living with a great affluence in the housing estates like Puchong, the vast majority of the residents are ordinary white-collar working class people. One may not need to be wealthy to own a terrace house, as long as we earn an honest living the way most ordinary working class people in the city of Kuala Lumpur do. Chennai has its own set of benchmarking.

For the days I was at the motel here, I was called Abang. Literally it means older brother. I treasured the way the brotherhood was demonstrated among the people of the community here. At the same time I wasn’t at ease, in fact I was feeling awkward to be regarded as Abang by someone who is more than a decade older than me. And Zaman grows a longer beard than I have. Or maybe, I appeared to be deceivingly older, only that I am not aware.

An aerial view of the greater Puchong

An aerial view of the greater Puchong

Posted by Quah Khian Hu 07:38 Archived in India Comments (2)

Being A Stateless Person

The Empathy Of Being A Stateless Person

sunny 36 °C

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A person who proves no travel identification is treated as bad as a stateless person. When you are not able to show up your passport and you happened to be far away in someone’s country, you ought to act sleek and ingeniously hide out till you get one in hand.

In Malaysia every year, there are whopping counts of south Asian nationals deported back to their countries for not observing yet breaching the local immigration rules. Many are illegal immigrants. News broadcast by the media on such incident is not anymore uncommon to us. But I never expect that one day I will face the fate of a fallen angel, and I have to endure the fate like one of them, to be deported home from India.

Zarina had expected the occurrence of bigger challenges ahead of me, but she did not reveal to me. She was fully aware that with only a temporary emergency passport issued by the Consulate of Malaysia, which has no enclosure of travel visa and any exit permit, it shall not be taken as a green light – a travelling pass for me to roam freely in Chennai. I also thought I remembered her of saying to her subordinate that it was better if I should not leave the consulate yet, be afraid of the trouble in case I was inspected by the policemen. I was hard headed and completely oblivious, thinking that I had been travelling solo for a long while and I am capable of jumping over the hurdles whenever any impediment arises. She wouldn’t want to mar my ego. So, I decided to leave the consulate on the same evening.

Arriving at the same budget inn in Egmore, I recognized the middle-age man wearing a white skullcap with bushy beard growing over his face. He stood at the registration counter counting his cash. I walked in.

As he flipped on my temporary emergency passport, from the cover to the last page, and over to the cover page and then flipped it all over again as if something had gone missing. Having his eyebrows raised with his finger pointed to the cover page of the passport, he thrashed a query with an incomprehensible face, “Emergency?” Then, he raised his eyebrows again with an applied pressure, and this time he lambasted out, “If emergency, then why are you still here? What do you do here?” He held a great suspicion wondering what was wrong with me showing him such a passport, a peculiar one, and worse there was no enclosure of travel visa which should have been endorsed.

Nothing was wrong with me. I tried to convince him with the police report and whichever way I thought I was able to win him over, yet he was not convinced even a little. He only asked for, “Visa”, then “Visa”, and “Where’s visa?” I almost dropped dead going great lengths to explain to him. I knew I hit the wall. If I were able to show up the Indian visa, I would not be stranded in Chennai then. Afterwards, he threw my passport back to me. He had not wanted to entertain me no matter how hard I tried.

Never mind, it wasn’t a big deal. There are still plenty of motels in Egmore to explore.

Stepping in to another medium size motel, I saw an elderly man sat at the registration counter. After went through with him the way he had wanted to inspect my emergency passport and having satisfied him with a session of queries like a police-bandit interrogation, the elderly man without a second thought had turned me off. On what ground did he do so?

He was holding a great suspicion that I may turn out to be an indefinite suspicious person, and worse he had suspected my background as if I have obscured some mysteries behind but not to reveal to him. He shut his ears completely and tended not wanted to give me a look more. He alleged, “Who knows anyone is a terrorist?” He conveniently took my politeness for granted to liken me a terrorist? Do I appear like a terrorist? He had gotten me on my nerves. But I tipped my hat to him for storming such a wild allegation.

Never mind this time, I will gulp off the wild allegation. Why not keep trying on other motels? Two trees down but the woods are made fertile with plenty more trees.

I was attempted to use my final weapon - trying to instill a little coercion with threat - “If you still can’t take my words with satisfaction, I may have to get you to speak to my consular from the consulate!”

I was hoping that they will incline to submit to my threat. By threatening them to clinch to someone holding a legitimate authority, they’ll rather save the trouble they foresee they will face if they were to deal with the people of authority. So they have to relent and be submissive to my demand. I thought my coercive strategy will work out in such a way.

“No room for you!”, and I read their gesticulation the way they lambasted. They looked sharply upon me, feeling offensive. I was abashed for the backfire.

A lesson learned. Never think of flexing your weapon, more if it is a threat by intention, if you ever think of mobilizing your strategy in such a way. People wouldn’t buy your plead if you coerce them with a threat in it. They’ll tell you, “So what! Even if you have a consular to back you up. Who cares!”

With a bucket full of lousy feeling contained with dejection, and after having walked through the haven of budget motels of the narrow but long Kenneth Lane, and having reaching its end, I had miserably failed to convince even one reception officer of the motels. I thought maybe I should diverge away from the hustle-bustle Kenneth Lane and test the waters with a renowned hotel this time.

When a foreign guest gets registered with a hotel, they hotel caretaker is bound to submit a report of arrival of the foreign guest to their authority. For a larger scale hotel, they are supposed to make the report to their authority via online. India is monitoring the whereabouts of the foreign arrivals, the way many provinces in China are also doing.

“It’s our duty to make sure we register a person, whether a local Indian or a foreign guest, only when the guest has the ability to make known to us overtly of his background. Nothing should hold suspicious and obscurity. Do you know that the authority will come after us, summon us over to their office to clear the air if we deemed to have harboured a suspicious person, a persona non grata or worse a terrorist? We are not able to take the risk to check you in to our hotel”, the officer of that renowned hotel was clarifying to me while returning my emergency passport to my hand with an apology.

If I were allowed to check in to their hotel, I may have to think twice. Looking at the room rate from the brochure I was given by the officer, I have to forgo half a month of the room rental I am paying now in Tiruvannamalai, in order to make good for a room for a night stay in this hotel. Budget traveller is always hyper cost conscious per se.

Recently in early July, Bodhgaya was attacked by a series of terrorist bombing. The bomb attack had targeted the holy site, an ancient holy town associated with the life of Buddha where pilgrimages around the world would flock to this holy site to learn about Buddhism and meditation. The attack had triggered the alarm of once a peaceful holy site but now becomes the target of terrorism. It aroused the anger of many Indians likewise their politicians. Every hotel including the smaller ones is now getting cautious to register a foreign guest, more accurately to say a suspicious guest of unclear background.

Do you think that a highly ingenious terrorist will camouflage to disguise himself as a guest just to get a stay in the hotel? It doesn’t make much sense.

Rules strategized on paper are viewed perfect. But rules can sometimes be broken. I’ll seek for someone who may heed less of the rules. See what will go on then.

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 06:07 Archived in India Comments (0)

Stranded In Chennai

My Passport Is Stolen!

sunny 37 °C

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I am now stranded in Chennai without possessing any identity documents.

I only realized my money belt was missing when I was ready to withdraw my passport to show it to the security policeman guarding at the international departure entrance of the Chennai airport. It’s already a month I have been living in Tiruvannamalai. Abiding to the new immigration law, I have to leave India, or in other words, to get an exit stamp on the passport before I could reenter India again.

By keeping all the eggs in one basket, when the basket is skidded, hit and overturned, all the eggs inevitably are broken. No eggs get survived from the shattered hit. None of my identity documents are intact with me. They are now in the hands of the blackguards. My cash currencies in rupees, both Indian and Sri Lankan are gone with the wind. My credit cards and bank card are bygone given to the blackguards for them to jolly use.

Colombo was waiting for me to endorse up the visa I hold in hand. This is my second consecutive time I had not succeeded to travel into Sri Lanka after I have stayed a maximum 30-day period in India. Losing off the non-refundable air fare to SpiceJet for not flying to Colombo is a smaller matter than, how am I supposed to live in India without having any identity documents to prove the authentication that I am a Malaysian travelling legally in India?

Vividly I recalled how they were getting to sit on the bus so closely to proximate over my buttocks by a group of young men who boarded on the bus when the bus had travelled almost half the way of its journey. I was on the way to Chennai. One of these young men was very unusually eying over my daypack I rested beside my lap. Only that this time I relaxed myself to be less vigil. I had normally being hyper watchful for my belongings when I sat on the bus. I did not normally keep my money belt in the daypack but I relented to do it that day for no reason.

I blamed it over the firm belief of trust I instilled on people, a belief that a person may be entrusted for their integrity the way I was influenced by the atmosphere of the ashram in Tiruvannamalai.

Suffice to say that my inner emotion was wobbling and not receptively harmonious, and shooting out blame was liken to an erupting volcano. I had not appropriately learned enough. I must admit.

This is not the first time I was targeted a victim by the crooks like a harrowing hare hunted by a harrier in the broad daylight. The stealing crooks, at different time and at different venues had tried several attempts to take my valuable belongings unlawfully away from me but had never succeeded. This time, I succumbed to their sleeking trick.

I headed to the nearest police station, the Chennai Airport police station. The small police station is about the size of three times a normal police kiosks. A sergeant was on duty. He was attempting to contact the inspector-in-charge. Instead of waiting to be attended by the inspector, I volunteered to draw up the report. I ought to write a report in a language that is well understood when I bring it home to Malaysia. The sergeant was hesitant to allow me writing the police report the way I wanted it to be elaborated. He snubbed my idea of itemizing every detail of the loss that made it a long two-page report. Surely I would argue to oppose to his objection as I was already told by the service officer of the bank in Kuala Lumpur that they required certain facts to be validated by the police in Chennai. With such a validated report, only I can claim to dispute the scam transactions used on my credit cards by the blackguards.

The sergeant also gave me a snub on the notion that I should not state in the report that I lodged the case at the Chennai Airport police station where I was present. It should be lodged at elsewhere where my money belt was stolen. I was already helpless and I needed immediate help from the police. They should not turn it into a fault finding session to make my life more difficult. I retaliated, “Isn’t the police force here and the company elsewhere in Chennai governed by the same IGP? Any different?” Both of us had a stunt of thought for a while, and the sergeant was held back a little considering the backfire.

The police station only managed to offer a minimal assistance, but they succoured their way out in the night to reach the consulate of Malaysia on my behalf for me. Having done up with the police report and validated with the police validation stamp, and after having to sit waiting for some while, Zarina rang the police station.

“I have made an arrangement with Rao for him to meet you at the police station. He should be arriving very soon. You have to make sure you stay put, don’t go anywhere”, Zarina was speaking with her empathy for me over the mishap incident. I could sense it. “He is going to bring you to a hotel. You shall take a rest till we meet up tomorrow morning. He’s getting some cash to loan it to you too”. Being very consoling, she alleviated an emotion by saying, “Quah, don’t be hampered by this stealing mishap and try not to let the agony of losing your identity belongings worry you up. We are helping you”. That was a very soothing and recognizing statement I heard that night.

Zarina bt Mohamad Ali, the vice consular of the Consulate of Malaysia in Chennai, had earlier contacted Rao. I had asked her who Rao is, and where was Rao. Rao was expected to arrive at the police station so soon at the drop of a hat immediate after Zarina made the telephone call. Jaya Prakash Rao, is a Station Manager, an officer attached to the Malaysian Airlines MAS in Chennai. There exists a unique relationship between the GLC – government linked companies with the consulate. The officers of the GLC in Chennai, from MAS and AirAsia occasionally take instructions from the consulate to assist the consulate in some official matters. I guess my status now is sufficient to warrant – an official matter dealing with the consulate.

Rao was abided by taking instruction as ordered by the consulate. So, he had wanted to put me in a well renowned hotel located in the city centre. On the safety reason, and repetitively stating for the same safety reason again, he viewed that I should listen to his suggestion. Then, he was arranging for a transport to mobilize my journey to the hotel and also to the consulate office the following morning. Adding on to the instructions, Rao was about to arrange for the meals for me, that I wouldn’t have to ponder of where to go when comes meal time. It was well an accommodative plan they have stored in mind for me. All I have to do is to sit a mellow laid back and watch for the events work for me. I was a little abashed and that was not the sort of treatment style I used to receive when I travel. I was sure the bills will come to knock on my pocket when my cash facility is restored soon. That night before we departed, Rao extended some cash to me, and I felt grateful to receive his aid in time when I needed help the most.

The following day, I told Zarina I would be heading to Egmore, a hustle-bustle railway station zone that is known for its haven for budget hotels. I will search for my discipline in my own way. I thanked her for all the help.

Ma Devaki, upon my departure from the ashram before heading for Chennai, I informed her about my leaving. She gave me a piece of her thought, as if reading the fore events ahead – “If you needed help, you may fall back to the ashram anytime”.

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 05:54 Archived in India Comments (3)

Arunachala Hill – A Full Moon Girivalam

CIRCUMNAVIGATE THE BASE OF ARUNACHALA HILL

sunny 39 °C
View Journey 2013 on Quah Khian Hu's travel map.

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I have been writing in the blog to boast about how I have been preparing myself to walk circumnavigate the base of Arunachala hill on barefoot. I had a barefoot walk to the town centre and return home. I do not expect myself to encounter obstacle to complete the 14 km journey on barefoot. Mathematically saying, if I run a 10 km quarter marathon for 60 minutes, I will need only one hour and 24 minutes to complete the 14 km. If I walk the entire journey, say 4 km for one hour, I’ll need only three-and-a-half hours to complete the 14 km. If I add on another half an hour for temple visit and offering oblation along the way, I don’t foresee myself to walk for any longer than 4 hours.

A four-hour journey was exactly what Uncle Raman described to me and he had expected me to fulfill his prophecy. Uncle Raman, a neighbour of Ala Melu who lives two houses away from hers, was sitting at the corridor of the tea house having his sip of chai when I walked past. I was about to make my way into the main street of Ramana ashram. Time was 2.30 pm, I felt my ductless glands secreting lots of adrenalin hormone as I was about to begin the walk, taking Ramana ashram as a starting point. I noticed him wanted to say something. But before he managed to utter his first words, I spoke ahead of him, “The street looks empty, no crowd at all? Isn’t today a girivalam day?”. Obviously there was no human crowd on the street yet but only seeing peddlers selling mangoes and watermelons by the roadside and some cows finding some greens to graze by the drain channel.

“2.30 pm is not an appropriate time to begin, it’s too hot. Devotees are avoiding the heat during afternoon. You should come out to join the crowd by evening and if you stay late, human crowds are built up by midnight, it would be the busiest time on the street”, Uncle Raman was clarifying. At 39 reaching 40 degree Celsius under the scorching heat, who on earth will not hide away from the burning sun until it sets down? I have only thought to begin the journey earliest possible, and hoping for early return before it reached late night. I was a Cinderella in the making but a male version.

If you have not gained much insight about Arunachala hill, or completely not heard about it until recently, it is perfectly acceptable. Geocentrically, possible you are a simpleton when you learn geography. No worries, I am not much better. One night, when I was attending a pooja at the Shridi Sai Baba centre in my hometown of Teluk Intan, while listening to Praveen’s singing oblation to Lord Shiva, I was blown away and had an exalted mood after listening to his singing. Of the words I will not forget, Arunachala Shiva was one of them. Soon times later, I was able to hum the lyrics the way he sang. That was how I began to get to know Arunachala, a scared hill that holds reverence unto Lord Shiva.

When I began to walk by the crowd, only I realized I have to study more than I had already known.

According to Uncle Raman, particularly during the months of November and December, during the full moon day according to Hindu calendar, the Hindus will celebrate Karthikai Deepam festival throughout India but this festivity is particularly significant in Tiruvannamalai. Legend has it that Lord Shiva appeared as a column of fire on Arunachala hill, creating the original symbol of the lingam. According to him again, one will come to aware an expressively meaningful lingam stones, all eight of them along the journey. One of the eight lingam stones, Agni lingam of fire, it’s the nearest in town. It is situated adjacent to Ramana ashram. Literally if you see lingam as a stone, it is then a stone. If you see lingam as a composite of universe energy underlying within the erected lingam, then you’ll see it on a completely varying sphere. During this festive time up to half a million people throng to Tiruvannamalai. Many scale the hill and others circumnavigate the base of this hill that has a circumference of 14km. I only have a mediocre knowledge about Shiva Lingam, I have no eligibility to tell you more about it. There is an in depth knowledge immersed within the understanding of lingam, if you explore on it you may find a plenty to gain.

On the left and right to the horizon ahead, it was dotted with endless koils, big and small and many little shrines. Each of them holds devotion to their respective deity. Seeing groups of monkeys swinging on the trees above a little shrine, I wasn’t wrong to find out it was a shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the lord of monkey. There was a little Shridi Sai Baba centre built by the 8th kilometer of the journey, and I paid unto him an oblation of anjali mudra with a humble bow. Seeing Baba is seeing a guru and I felt at home, the Baba centre of Teluk Intan.

I have an incident that night, you may find it amusing but I am still pondering whether to tell you.

When I was reaching less than half of the complete journey, by the undergrowth trees and bushes of a gravel stone yard near a little shrine, I noticed several men stood by some pots above the stove, with their hands handling ladles and dippers ready to scoop some rice and rasam out of the pots for distribution. All I took note was the undergrowth trees and shrubs by the bush, I had not taken notice for the free meal. So, I went in. When I came out of the bush, two men whom I believed were the volunteers of the shrine caught me by my left arm, held it tight and clenched to it so firmly without having wanted to release.

“What have you done? What did you do in the bush?”, they were throwing interrogation on me, and repetitively queried me with the same questions. They couldn’t figure out what a person, an outsider had done in the darkness of the undergrowth bush of their territory.

What did they expect me to say? Should I say, I had an ease of my bladder? No, that was too academic. Should I say I had a clear of urination? That was too subtle a manner to speak. I was thinking of a proper word to tell them, and I knew they were a group of peasants who do not speak words of English. Then I thought of a common word to express.

“I had a pee!”, I divulged to them and I thought they understood me. And their reaction? “Pee? Pee?”, they held me puzzled when they look at each other, then they faced me with an exclamation, “pee?”. I found I was hopeless to explain as more of them, including children began to besiege around me. What do you expect me to say then?

In a reluctant way, I raised my index finger and pointed it to my crotch. With both my hands lifted up then, I put them down by each side of the crotch and I made some sound of whistle blowing off my lips. What happened next? What else, burst of laughter. The children burst into laughter seeing my way of acting making me like a silly fool.

I have never been able to urinate the way anywhere as many people pleased to do. There were pilgrims everywhere along the main road, having chosen the undergrowth bush deep in the dark was my belief an intelligent choice. However, that incident was an ice breaking with the villagers and afterwards I had a treat of rice dinner cooked by the shrine volunteers.

At the 8th kilometre, I was held up for a stop from an exacerbating painful shrill over my feet. Abruptly I felt I needed to pull over as both my soles began to show sign of burning. I knew it was the sensation of my soles having a friction against the ground for long hours. When I turned my right foot over, there were signs of blisters developed in patches. Pockets of blisters with fluid plasma collected in between the big and index toes and within the sural edge. When I turned over another foot, I had a more intense burning sensation and I found more blisters developed on it. I was determined I would be able to make the girivalam to the end. I held up my breath. With my teeth gritted and holding my fists tight, I rose from the brick pavement that I sat and continued to stride off the journey.

I had not been able to perceive the meaning of frantic pain until I surrendered to a deadly cry for a stop some moments later. I had another four kilometres to go before reaching the end point. The blisters on the epidermis layer over the soles of the feet began to shear off from the lower layer. As I continued to walk, the skin began to shear off deeper. It was not anymore a common wound of blisters. For every step I landed my foot on the ground, I had a thousand needles poked on the blisters and having a red hot pepper smeared over the reddish opened wound.

Rising from the staircase of the shrine where I sat while holding tight to my self-disgruntled emotion, with an appalled face I decided I must continue the journey. There was no way I will give up. So, I began with – left, one step and right another step. One two, one two, and I did it very slowly, pace after pace for the rest of the four kilometres.

It is not my motive to write in such a solemn pitiful manner to impress you that how much I had suffered for I am a devout aspirant in offering an oblation to Lord Shiva during the full moon girivalam. No, if you understood in such a way, then you have got my message upside down. That is completely not the idea of what I wanted to convey to you.

What I wanted to tell is, be alert for the level playing field. I deceived myself at a playing field that is completely contrary to the way I live. All I thought I will well survive but not. We live in a pampered, a very material over-indulged society. When I was taken away a pair of footwear, only a pair of slippers not anything else, I almost had a frantic cry for developing severe wounds over the soles. The Indian little boys and even young girls were care free for whether they have a pair of cushion beneath their feet or not. No anything big deal to them but a great deal for me.

Because we are too indulged in every worldly possession and living over pampered, if we lose to hold one of them, we feel life is handicapped. Don’t you think we are highly vulnerable to our list to-have and seem to be softly fragile? It is worth a ponder. Oh a reminder, we can boast but never be boastful too early.

Do you know that in humans for example, the skin on the soles of the feet and on the palms is 4 mm thick and it’s the thickest skin in the body. The soles of the feet are extremely sensitive to touch due to a high concentration of nerve endings. The skin located under the eyes and around the eyelids is the thinnest skin in the body at 0.5 mm thick, and is one of the first areas to show signs of aging such as crow feet wrinkles. Do you know about it?

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Posted by Quah Khian Hu 22.06.2013 06:18 Archived in India Comments (0)

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