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Category: Travel

JaDa – Day 5

I went to the college without Divya. I knew our schedules won’t match for long, but this was too soon. To make the walk interesting, I timed myself. It takes two minutes from the room to the ‘hundred steps’, another two to climb, and one minute to descend. In five minutes, I was on the other side of the hill and that felt very promising. I can really do it for the next three months! I still reached 5 minutes late than planned, at the lab. A lab mate who promised yesterday to wait for me, was still waiting patiently. Together, we walked to the other end of the huge campus. I still wonder why their buildings are so far away. To the unhealthy kid in me, that was more than acceptable levels of morning walk! Walking in to the seminar hall, I was still skeptical if I were really expected to be present there. Obviously, their presentations were all going to be in Japanese, I would just stare blank. Nevertheless, I sat down for the entire session. The most unexpected thing happened then, in the middle of the presentation, as the professor got up to discuss the concept with the presenter. After the discussion, professor turned to me and began to explain the crux of the presentation in English. In a class of 20+ students, he doing that entirely for my benefit was very moving. After all, I wasn’t part of the class and was just a newbie there. After the presentation, things got a bit awkward when lunch was brought. Students picked up food packets and indulged themselves. Being a vegetarian here is difficult; even more difficult is to make people understand that it’s possible to survive without meat and fish! I somehow conveyed the message and politely declined the food. Sensing my confusion or not, I was told that I may leave as things were done for the day.

With half a day at hand, I went over to the BKC International Centre inside the campus, with Divya. The place is aimed to help international students to interact with each other and feel comfortable. The hot chocolate felt good there 🙂 To get more comfortable, we headed back to the dormitory. And got really comfortable with a calm settling mood. The evening got more relaxing and rejuvenating as we took a walk to ‘Friend’s Mart’ again. There’s more to that place than the store. Walking by them, it reminded me of the buildings in Fort Kochi – pretty and small.

I miss home, but it feels familiar here too. Its mixed emotions!

JaDa – Day 4

It rained yesterday. And we were warned not to use the ‘commuter route’. I was wondering what would happen if it continued to rain the whole night. It was disturbing. But again, that did not happen. Only that, today I had the added weight of the umbrella in my bag. I am getting better with the stairs now. I used stop and pant after 2 fleets. But today, I went up till three fleets before I paused! We were delayed by a small conversation with the warden – worth every moment! It was a surprise to learn that the old man had served in IT industry for a considerably long time, and owned a home in Pune, India. People are intriguing; more so here than anywhere else!

Divya has become desperate to get me to eat something here. But the more she tries, the more food I see, the more I feel like not eating any of them. Maybe my subconscious is grabbing on the opportunity to lose some weight! Today was pretty drab. More so because there were less people, and more places. We discovered new pathways and buildings in the campus, but why aren’t there enough people here! I wonder, maybe one should reorganise the population in the world, and bring people from the populated parts of the world to the less populated areas! A day without enough people in it is not a day at all.

JaDa – Day 3

The whole deal about jet lag and time zone difference was overrated until this morning. Waking up at 11 in the morning, I panicked that Divya left without me, only to find her sleeping too! We both struggled to match the time zone and our sleeping pattern. Saikat somehow seems unaffected by the whole deal, as usual. After a quick breakfast, we rushed to the university. Going so late into the lab was a bit weird, but thankfully everyone was occupied with some discussion. Wait a minute! Was I also supposed to be a part of that? I hoped not and swiped my card to sneak in. Going about by my plan, I had a private discussion with my guide. New challenge, every day! He suggested I make a presentation, and I was unsure how would the communication barrier be dealt with. But, I had more ‘important things’ to worry about the presentation, so I let it pass. In a while when Divya pinged, it was time for my rescheduled medical checkup. We both went around for a walk before my appointment. That’s when ‘Takoyaki’ happened! To be honest, the first food that was an appetiser to me in Japan is Takoyaki. Deep fried, perfectly crafted, garnished with spring onions and mayo – the mouth watering ball of joy – except the octopus inside! Oh yeah, apparently the lady has been going crazy about it ever since the beginning of the Japan plan. Trust me, I could feel my stomach grumbling for food just by looking at the well-cooked Takoyaki balls. We made a video of she gobbling them, and that felt like the beginning of a great trip ahead!

Medical checkup was a fun episode too. I wouldn’t forget the way the lady who checked my blood pressure told me to ‘relaaaaax’, with her animated expressions! Nor the lady who struggled to decipher my ‘complicated’ medical history. I would never grow tired of saying this – people here are unbelievably well-mannered! You feel guilty of being at the receiving end of their humility. Though I learnt ‘Arigato’ to be the Japanese word for ‘Thank you’, it never comes out of me. Because, when I thank them, I always do it from the deepest of my heart. I don’t even get to think enough to translate it to their language.

The rest of the evening went by as yesterday, as we explored the campus. Out of nowhere, I had this new desire for ice cream. Probably, I was hungry ever since the Takoyaki episode. Photos, more photos and even more photos, and we reached back for a heartwarming dinner. My first proper meal here – Puliyodharai!

 

JaDa – Day 2

The second day, the 10th of April, is when we finally went to the University. And when I say ‘went’, it’s not as simple as it sounds. The BKC i-house and the University campus are on two sides of a hillock. A fleet of 100+ stairs have been built as ‘commuter route’ for students. Yeah, a 100 steps up and a 100 steps down daily! I guess that’s where I am gonna lose my weight and not in the lack of veg food! All that said, I have this distinct feeling that it’s these stairs that I am gonna miss the most when I leave this place. Gasping for breath as I climb, and feeling liberated as I descend, I feel alive every moment here!

I wish I could talk more about the campus and the experiences in the lab, but somehow that seems inappropriate. It involves a lot of people, and a lot more of my perceptions about everything I deal with. But what I cannot miss mentioning is Shoko – our coordinator here. Although we had a lot of mail communications, I never expected to meet her as a sweet woman here. She’s been helpful the entire day, running around with us, taking us to places and showing us around the campus. After a brief time with our professors, we all gathered around her again for the routine medical examination. Owing to ‘logistic issues’, my medical check-up was rescheduled for the next day. Thanks to that, I got more time with Shoko, and she took me to more places in the campus! The day finally came to an end, we bid bye to Shoko and headed back to the i-house. It was a quick short day, but promising and eventful!

The excitement had finally started building up and there was no stopping us. Divya and me explored the campus and met people, as Saikat went by his schedule. Clicking photos, posing for it, and laughing over it, somewhere in between, I see a whole new level of bonding building up with this girl. Great times ahead with the duo!

JaDa – Day 1

The flight came to an end, but that was only half the trip! What awaited us was a mad rush to catch two trains and be not too late to get a cab to our destination. The Quarantine, Immigration and Customs clearance were done quicker than what we expected. That gave us ample time to get the next Haruka Express to Kyoto, at around 10.15 pm on the 8th of April. Talking about trains in Japan, it’s a sight worth watching how sleek things are. The seats that rotate to suit the direction of travel, the designated luggage space, the movable rods that stick to the wall – there’s lot about Japan that may be impossible to remember and jot down. After an hour and a little more, we reached Kyoto and rushed to the Biwako line for our next coach to Minami Kusatsu. Before we knew it, in roughly about fifteen-twenty minutes, we were at Kusatsu. We were skeptical of getting a taxi at that hour of the day; it was already past 12.30 am, next day. As luck had it, three taxis came out of nowhere, as if they were waiting for us. The taxi driver – an old man – single handedly stacked up our luggages into the car and opened the door for us! It was dark and silent, but somehow the place was comforting. The nice old man safely got us to the BKC International House, despite our minimal communication. It was nice to receive a ‘taxi bill’!

We were nearing the end of our adventure. Despite our unannounced arrival, the warden-in-charge, a polite middle-aged man, welcomed us to the dormitory. We woke him up in the middle of the night, but not for once did he frown. To know what humility means, one must definitely visit Japan! He took us to our rooms and left us on our own for a peaceful sleep. Next morning was dull and sleepy. We slept most of the day, except for a quick reporting at the reception for some paperwork. After the first meal at Japan, a bowl of maggie, we slid back into sleep.

That’s around when the whole exhaustion and unfamiliarity settled in. To push things forward, Divya and Saikat suggested we go out. Reluctantly, I went along and that isn’t a walk I regret. We walked to a nearby store, the Friends Mart(?). While Divya and Saikat got some ready-to-eat dinner, I got some vegetables and bread. The shop reassured faith of survival for the vegetarian in me! On the way back, we met Chalwe aka Charlie, from Zambia. He took us back to the i-house through a shorter route. Given the chilling winter outside, I am thankful to that! The evening went by, as we settled in for a cosy sleep. The following day was long one. Meeting the professors, planning the research, new atmosphere – anxious day ahead! It’s cold outside, and I am shivering. Japan is good, but wasn’t home more happy?

Japan Days – Day 0!

Ever since the whole Japan thing has come around, I had planned on beginning with this travel blog where I would jot down the minuscule details of my trip, as a memoir! But as life has it, things don’t always pan out as we plan. I was stuck without Internet, was exhausted and drained, and even felt too depressed to do anything in the past 2 days. So my amazing plan went down the drain! But here I am, trying to compensate for my loss and resurrect my travelogue! My day 0 went something like this!

Starting off early in the morning from home, I had a flight to catch to Mumbai. It was difficult saying the goodbyes to family, but let’s not get into that. On boarding the flight, I was looking forward for a quick nap until I met this lady next seat. Some people are just so, who come in with swish and make you feel good. A quick conversation with her made me feel excited about the trip. Mumbai was an icing on top! Having heard much about the Mumbai local trains, it was always on my bucket list. The pace of the city never stops to amaze me, nor does train journeys. After a quick meal, I headed back to the airport with suitcases full of excitement! Divya was already waiting there, and Saikat joined us soon. Along with the three other students from the University, the six of us headed towards immigration. My first international trip was just a couple of hours away! The 7th of April was almost ending. I wouldn’t have quite realised it had the gentleman at the counter not wished me, “Happy birthday, five minutes in advance!”. Small things make huge impacts.

My Day 0 doesn’t end there. It extends to the 8th of April, for that’s when the journey really began! Getting into the flight, I drifted into a settling sleep. I was woken up multiple times, but only to be greeted with a glass of juice or a meal. My last Indian meal for the next 3 months had Upma and Sambhar Vada; can’t complain! Alighting at Beijing for a lay-over was very exciting. It’s two countries in a go! But then, having no WhatsApp, no Google, no Facebook and no mode of communication to the rest of the world (obviously, since we didn’t care enough to get an international SIM) was frustrating! It was a moment of realisation that survival is near impossible, off-the-grid! It was more of the anguish of being unable to contact family, than anything else. Time ticked away, and the next flight took off. More meals to come, but this time to my dismay, things got stranger! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to even touch my food. Perils of a vegetarian! But again, it was my day; how could things go bad! Air China came in with a sweet surprise and made my day, all over again!

Japan, here we come! (Rest of the trip, on the next blog. Keep reading!)

P.S. A trip to Mumbai cannot be a part of another. The ordeal of getting my luggage from the railway station calls for a blog in itself. Durai and his timely help and a lot more; some other time, some other day!

Visual vestiges of a cherished obsession!

An endless journey through the seamless rails..

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Towards the horizon, vanishing and uniting with the ultimate..

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A delayed arrival @Trivandrum Central. An evening blend of colours above the rails..

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Ahoey! I reserved this for you, my invisible companion! The vacant face..
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Barred and unbarred!

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Aqua power – captured and un-captured!

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MEMU days – The scary double doors.

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MEMU days – Share the window – Single Window System!

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The bridge to traverse – unfinished as ever!

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What I never got bored of – the curves and the bends – drawing spirals in my head!

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This is not all about my train journeys. But this definitely is an indispensable part of my rail-days!

The obsession!

The most recent and dominant obsession that stayed in my life has been…what? I never had an answer to that question ever, as infinte things popped up in my mind, right from sleep, to books, to food. It never seemed too sensible to just pick one as ‘the’ obsession. Looks like I just resolved that confusion of mine. I have never been so obsessed about anything else, as I am about trains now. I am just so much in love with these train journeys that I am finding reasons to travel, which fundamentally doesn’t even exist! In the past week of 5 weekdays, I was travelling up and down for 4 days! Amidst which, I had too lab exams (which obviously is irrelevant!). My point is, for no real reason, I am lingering around the railway station. And today being the last day of the wonderful week, I even wished the train delays. And yay! My journey got extended by 30 precious minutes!

Meeting newer people on every trip, wondering at some people’s sheer piss-dom (the one that pisses off people in general!), running errands, leaning across the blowing wind, arguing for the right quantity of tea, prying at the near-by passenger, making sure he’s not a rapist, and the deluge of railway sirens and track cracklings! Each train journey is a unique experience, that could always make a post of its own in the blog, everyday! Not to forget the awesomeness of infinite picture-peferct photos! A couple of those photos may weave a story of their own, all by themselves! I miss the overnight train journeys, with the wobbly berth and the gentle lullaby of the train that puts me to a peaceful sleep!

Coming soon : Have a few photos and even a video, from my numerous train days. The ones with divine solitude and unbounded-ness! They will fill the voids I left in the post.

Over|Protected!

Yet another train journey. Yet another set of co-passengers. Yet another episode of effortless conversation. This time with a kid, much younger than my little sis! Meaning, I have no experience talking to such small kids. So as anyone could dare, I started off the conversation with a casual smile which she returned, and we held on it. She was an easy person to talk to, despite her age. Forgot her name already, rather, I quite didn’t understand the name when she told me. A less heard unique name. But her life, in the quite two hours of acquaintance, seemed usual to me. Typical parents, asking her to do that, not do this, take this, not take that, look here, not there, sit straight, not clumsy, oh my, the list goes on! The kid was being instructed about how to place the water bottle on the holder, as upto how to adjust her legs for the co-passenger (which was me!)!! I grew embarrassed looking at the child. At her untold apprehension. And inexpressive mannerisms. She was asked to wash, she did. Eat, she did. Wash again, she did. Take hands of the window sill, she did. Fold her legs to keep it neat, she did. Holy crap! Did they just stop by giving birth to the kid or did they go upto even teaching her to breath, giving lectures on pranayama!?!

I don’t share a similar childhood. I have had a much free and liberal days of growing up, when I got to mould myself into what I genuinely cherished and totally desired! My life is my decisions. And that’s the best thing that anyone can look at onself and say, at all odds and evens! And may be, this realisation is why I so much pitied the child. The parents seemed too unaware about how protection of their has outgrown the requisites and grown into unfathomable levels of obssession and over protection! All I could was to smile at her, making her feel done-it-all-seen-it-all aura, that I earnestly cooked up!

Through the land of windmills!

The title is what I named my feature on Nuclear Power Plants at Koodankulam! In Malayalam! I found that very amusing and beautiful. Kattadikalude naatiloode… But perhaps, that’s not how you write features for a magazine. What do I know about it anyway! Well, I am making another point here. May be its not always about what you know, but about how you express it. I am not an excellent writer nor an expert with words. But I am ardent in expressions of thoughts. In words. In speech. In action. Somehow. Thoughts are to be conveyed, shared and thought more upon. And there, I have a lot to share. My eloquence is one thing that makes me proud of myself. And only recently did I find out that, the blog is just one of the many forms of my expression, and not the ultimate of anything. There’s more talking to people, more interaction, more sharing of thoughts, more pooling of ideas, and exhaustive brain exercise! More like, I am just out of a long hibernation, and I feel revived now!

Going back to my feature, I have left that pending yet. Not that I can’t put down a few words and a liitle thought into them, and come up with the matter. But as I pointed out to myself, it’s not just about knowing but about the expression of it! Words are too few, for the infinite expressions of the multitudes of a mind’s knowledge. Waiting for my chosen few words, I think it’s worth it to give myself a break often. More than writing a lot of things, the focus is to be upon the expression of things. And to give away the best expressions of thoughts, thinking is what you need more than writing them down! Taking away a writer’s block, I am with a thinker’s pause!