Monday, 18 October 2010


Hello everyone,

We have moved to Bohemianisms at

(partly because i feel i need a fresh slate, and partly due to increasingly buggy and stale blogger interface :( ...)

The new blog will be more about short stories and little, random pieces of writing, little fragments of life that make me stop, and wonder at life, and all its little moments that make it what it is...

In the meantime, thanks for your continuing support of an increasingly un-updated blog site. The new one will be better - i hope ;)

Monday, 28 June 2010

the Princes.

Having read both Machiavelli's and Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Princes, I think i much prefer the littler, piccolo prince. Ah life - is what you choose to make of it, after all. And its pretty darn short, too (to waste on Machiavellian machinations - in search of... what?)

Monday, 21 June 2010

My new life

is a very working class neighbourhood of flats and flats rising up in seeming claustrophobic despair after being evicted from my hall of residence on campus. It looks pretty grim. But the rent's cheap, and i have a year to stay, until i finish my final year.

But appearances are always deceiving. There's always something more to it, and in any case, there's always plenty to learn. In this sense its like travelling again, and opening myself up to something new, learning and growing. (三人行必有我师)

As of now, i'm done with my work, and have "earned" myself a two month plus break (the carefree life of an undergrad - the last year! at (melancholic) times it feels like i have only one year left to truly live). The mission this time is Kosovo - the highlight of the trip, starting in Dubai (stopover), to Istanbul - Sirkeci Station (back again!), for the train ride into Sofia, and then all the way up to Budapest, Hungary. Taking in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Slovenia, Croatia...

This is certainly going to bump up my number-of-countries-visited-count ;)

Friday, 4 June 2010

Graffiti vs. politicians

Can't we see beyond our petty tribal differences and live together in peace? For surely there are more things that bind us together than tear us apart - the desire for peace, for love, and the strength and grace of the human spirit to do good. Surely this is more important than speaking a different language or having a different skin colour or even praying to a different God - which God does not teach the message of good, anyway?

Rockets and gunfire - we all bleed the same blood, shed the same tears, feel with the same human heart.

War good for nothing - why cant our leaders see that?


True simplicity -
flowing harmony;
no attachment.

Like piling fresh fruits into a bottomless basket - You enjoy it, cherish it when it is, let go when it is not.

In harmony with yourself and your world,  you create meaningful transactions with the world.

And each of us may come to enjoy different fruits more and see many different fruits - some bitter, some sweet, some funny-tasting, but all part of this life, being unique in our own individual interactions and harmonies with ourselves and the world.

But all of us have the potential to live our lives to the fullest - to our life's own potential. For a significant life is a meaningful life, and a meaningful life is one lived in contemplation and a compassionate understanding of one's own self, and one's world. Not one based on pretense, and built on illusion, and forced. But one built on harmony (with oneself and others); only then can we truly claim to be making the best of this life - otherwise, your world must be really tiny! ;)

For the only way is to care. It is making the best of this life - making it significant - by living consciously and in harmony, making the best of what we have, finding meaning in man's inevitable good and bad fortune, and our different, unique lives.

The richness of the Tao - truly infinite. True simplicity (of the mind!) is true richness - for when you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

William Blake - "He who kisses Joy as it flies / Lives in eternity's sunrise"

Friday, 28 May 2010

Vande Mataram

India taught me all the important lessons about life - about what it means to be human, about the human condition, human diversity, about the strength and grace of the human spirit. Truly, as the message of Khalil Gibran's Prophet goes, we are all much more than we think we are.

To me, India is the greatest nation on earth - for its sheer human-ness, and its humanity. India taught me what it was like to truly live, and open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to others, and the world. Granted, it is not perfect, but i really think i have learnt much more about being truly human in India than anywhere else in the world - a surreal stroll down the Ganges in Varanasi thinking about life, and death, exploring the back lanes and Vasantha Bhavan menus of Chennai, verdant paddy fields, glittering pools of water and Dravidian temples set amongst them like gemstones in the Indian sun in southern Tamil Nadu, the Gandhi museum in New Delhi and a stroll down Chandni Chowk, tranquil Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab...

A trip for the soul.

Friday, 21 May 2010

I love...

The smell of fresh grass in the rain... the soft rustling of leaves before a rain, especially at night... In the distance there are flashes of lightning...

The night sky - have you ever looked up, and realised that it is not black? In cities, on some days it is a deep purple, on others, just before the rain, a floating band of orange in the skyline...

Piano songs and a fragment of memory. The rain always brings me back to those places where you smell the grass, the fresh flowers, after a cool rain... There was Kandy in Sri Lanka with dreamy, hazy drizzles and the delicate tea-leaf-scented breeze coming in from the surrounding hill country, a rocky road in Olympos off the Mediterranean in Turkey, flash Himalayan downpours in Nepal (at exactly 3 o'clock in the afternoon...), a tropical storm in Tangalla where a mad Englishman and yours truly went for a dip in ferocious foaming seas that  battered us around... well, actually we lounged about in a semi-lagoon while thumbing our noses defiantly at the wild crashing waves that almost reached us (try harder).

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Some of my favourite pictures

the Ghorepani room... Some of the most evocative and memorable shots i took, coming back into "civilization" after a long hike up into the Annapurnas; and down into the South Annapurna Glacier - a menacing, other worldly place, a scar on the trekking map. Where it was glass-sharp jagged rock fragments and silent still green pools of liquid forming little lakes (i didnt want to know how deep) and the distant rumble of rock falls. In the sea of mist scattered solitary tors (i remembered the name from a geography class, 2 years back...) stand in remembrance, of someone, something... I could have been in another world - a post-apocalyptic one, i thought.

It was good to be back in Ghorepani - literally horse-water, where in the past the donkey caravans stopped for water and supplies. I stopped for a bottle of Kukhri rum (not bad for the price) and some chocolates, a welcome change from daily dhaal bhaat tarkari (a good rhyme, isn't it? rice with dhaal and veggies) - which in all honesty, gives you wings for the trek (the best one is in Chommrong, by the way - where the owner also speaks Malay!). Another 5 days or so from Ghorepani and i would make it back to Pokhara - and a supposed bandh (strike) that had just taken place, keeping in mind that i had entered Nepal, through the Sunauli-Maharajganj crossing from India, on the 3rd day of the Republic, where i remember well, back in a hot Varanasi cybercafe the BBC had predicted ominously there would be "bloodshed".

Friday, 14 May 2010


Reflections in the window,
Car lights at night -
Rushing diamonds through the sky

Life, through a train window, 6.50 pm, Singapore city.

In a postmodern moment, my thoughts turn to Katmandu. And then Sri Lanka - Galle, Hambantota... The words forming places, memories... my thoughts rushing by with the train into the night sky... Which once were a part of my life. Outside the window are streaks of lights, blurry diamonds - reflection and object, real and unreal, moving past, moving by...

Then i remember the early days in Southeast Asia, sweet teenage years (where time passes so slowly... you cant wait to grow up) lounging in sunlit backpacker cafes  - too-hot-o'clock, sipping a cold beer, reading a musty secondhand book, or more likely flipping through "the Bible" itself (LP), expecting it to lead us to Paradise... All that feels like a dream right now. And i remember how we strolled down the street in a little seaside town in Turkey by the Mediterranean, sunset...

And I find myself asking - So who the hell am i? A zen koan comes to my mind - what was your original face before you were born? All these, these impossible, simultaneously real-yet-unreal moments would be my answer.

On my iPod, the lilting, melancholic strains of Katmandu by Cat Stevens still makes the hair at the back of my neck stand.  

"and your strange bewildering time, will keep me home..."

Or, as i hear it (and like better): "and your strange bewildering touch, will bring me home..." 

So far away! 

Golden temple, golden light. 
Amritsar, 2008

Varanasi sunrise... A May day, 2008


Sunday, 2 May 2010

Free gold

Golden light in the evening telling me -
that this moment
is all (golden) eternity.

Everything, has its own solution.
(the universe moves on)

pic: Cyclist in golden evening sun by Martien van Asseldonk

Saturday, 1 May 2010

(And it is almost raining again...)

True happiness is appreciative.

But, of course, thats not what the capitalists and advertisers want you to know. For the system, happiness is always to be acquired - through the means they proffer so helpfully, of course. Happiness is then, like chasing money, always one step ahead of you - chasing shadows.

Happiness doesn't have to be acquired. We already have it - what more most of us lucky enough to have our basic needs met - food, water, clothing... It is something to be appreciated, and to be grateful for, and to share.

In any case, a prison cell may have everything - every luxury you could ask for, but it is ultimately still that - a prison cell. How do we get out? Quite simply - the key is with us. We just have to find the key, and the courage to unlock the cell and see the greater truth out there, in truly being human, and truly living a good life - for deep happiness and fulfillment is inextricable from being good, in harmony with yourself, others, and the world.

Isnt such simplicity boring, some may ask? I choose to ask, simplicity, in terms of what?

For this has come to be defined by the capitalist, consumerist system - in material terms.

It is time for us to be clearer in what simplicity actually is: Simple in material wants, but rich in spirit and human-ness. Which is more important? I personally believe true richness and happiness lies in cultivating the spirit, nurturing the soul.

(image from Urban Nature.blogspot)

Harmony. (Rain outside the window)

Is for all and each of us to enjoy, in a crimson end-of-the-work-day sunset caught on the train, in the smell of freshly cut grass, flowers yellow in the sun, birds chirping outside the window, the freshness of rain (washing away world weariness - and making me fashionably late for work...)

These to me, are like heaven-prescribed heartwarming cups of hot chai for the soul (with the scent of cinnamon and vanilla). Priceless - truly.

But we are often too busy to see it, and rush by it. Its like happiness comes knocking gently, and you tell it, no, go away, i'm busy looking for happiness. As a very insightful fridge magnet i once had proclaimed: Men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they rush by it.

For true happiness, to me at least, is not comparative - in the vein of "a happy man is a man who makes a hundred dollars a month more than his wife's sister's husband".

True happiness is appreciative.

Monday, 12 April 2010


To paraphrase from my favourite daily cup of Tao:

"For those who  yearn for a lot of gold;
is not then your precious mind full of gold?"

From Chozanshi's the Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts:

"I envelope the universe by means of my mind; and by means of the universe, there is nothing that obstructs my mind. Riches and honour, good luck and calamity are elsewhere. When you seek after such things, you may obtain them or you may not - this is not something that is guaranteed. The Greatest Happiness is within yourself. If you seek your mind wholeheartedly, you will obtain it for sure. Simply, do not seek after illusion."

"Confucius said, 'is human-heartedness so far away? If i seek human-heartedness, it is right here.' Human-heartedness is nothing other than the Greatest Happiness. When you pursue things, are unable to obtain them, and yet persist in desiring them, you merely torment yourself. You exhaust your life because of 'things', and will never know contentment... Those who don't realise that they are making their precious mind slaves to other things, will use their minds like this and exert themselves to the very end of the day. Nowadays people call men who are skillful in such matters wise. In the past they called them fools and men of little calibre.... Wise men know that such things are fetters and bonds... because what they treasured was within themselves"

- Meeting the Gods of Poverty in a dream

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Hindustan zindabad!

One of my favourite travel experiences is joining the Indian crowd cheering for their soldiers trooping off to the Gate with archrivals Pakistan in a solemn spectacle for the border closing ceremony at Attari-Wagah, 30km north of Amritsar.

A Sikh parade commander yells commands and legs kicking, feet stomping and arms swinging they march in pressed ceremonial khakis with peacock plumes on their berets and turbans to the wrought iron gate which cuts India and Pakistan - once one country.

Civility and respect prevail as the parade commanders execute a perfunctory handshake, before the flags are lowered, keeping diplomatically at the same level and the gate closed for the night. The tricolour Indian flag is then carefully folded and marched back to the border post by a proud young soldier.

Before the march to the border it was a party - jubilant Indians dancing in saris on their side of the frontier,  Bollywood hits pumping from loudspeakers. Tiny Indian flags and cold water are peddled to the swelling crowd by enterprising young man dodging lathis (rattan canes) of police officers. An army sergeant works the crowd from the army post, booming nationalist slogans and leading choruses of "Hindustan, zindabad!" (long live Hindustan) while tiny Indian flags flutter and wave in the swelling, bursting sea of people.

It was also, by the way, the closest i came to being crushed in a crowd.

This, by the way (again) was the VIP area which i managed to get into.

Peering over to Pakistan...

Fight club.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

the Office and the Beach

I just love forming juxtapositions during my free time at the Office.


In a cubicle, typing away (or pretending to for the matter)

Waking up with a hangover (the result of one too many gin and tonic last night) in magical Mirissa, the sun shining on another beautiful timeless day, walking down to the beach...

Taking the bus to work (again).

On a bus ride, somewhere, thinking about things, my life so far, replaying and reviewing scenes and conversations in my head, past lives, as the scenery changes outside the grimy window, from water buffaloes to verdant rice paddies to children shouting... in a language i don't understand, and yet in one i do - of joy, happiness, and innocence.

Reading newspapers on supposedly important and serious stuff like interest and exchange rates

Reading local newspapers waiting in airports, oscillating between bored and hyper-excited (even more so after paying extortionate amounts for airport coffee), waiting for my flight and getting all hyped up looking at departure boards (MH203 - CASABLANCA - NOW BOARDING)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

On expensive things revisited (Epicurus' take)

(sorry folks this font and formatting is driving me crazy too. its been at least 5 rewriting attempts and so IT idiot me now decides to give up and present it as is. Blame it on fate and Blogger then.)

Apparently Epicurus had, 2,000 years ago, reached a similar better conclusion:

That the ratio between Wealth or Expensive Things ("belongings" - which i find is such a sad word) and Happiness gained is heavily imbalanced, exponentially so as more emphasis is placed on wealth. 

(sorry still not very good at all at describing charts and graphs - it will have to speak for itself then)

Such that the "quid pro quo" of acquiring wealth beyond essential and necessary needs is often at no great help and perhaps even at detriment to one's true happiness (time with loved ones, appreciating what we already have, treating people fairly and equitably etc...)

As an aside, On work, i would like to be rewarded for my effort and hard work, not for my Machiavellian machinations and petty-minded bullying of others. I refuse to believe it is a zero-sum game. Life is not.

So is the pursuit of wealth worth it? Its your call. (we all have our different circumstances and trade-offs to consider after-all)

Epicurus does uses "pleasure" but one senses this has more a spiritual/mental, as opposed to material dimension to it. And spiritual pleasure (being rich in the spirit) lies in being Good, and living deliberately and consciously, thinking, and reflecting. And being at peace and accountable to oneself and one's principles.

For Epicurus himself said, "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life."

To end off, "One must regard wealth beyond what is natural as of no more use as water to a container that is full to overflowing" (and it is by no means a huge container...)

Khalil Gibran has this to add "And what is the fear of need but need itself? Is not dread of thirst that when your well is full, the (very) thirst that is unquenchable?"

p/s: may i very self-indulgently add here: see what i mean by "cheating the system" and calling the bluff (saying enough is enough), because the greatest trick this system has ever played on us is that we will never have enough? Actually, for me, it is only now that i see it clearly and beyond doubt, after by sheer luck bumping into Epicurus.

Certainly not quite what the advertisers would have you believe an Epicurean life is about:

(to be honest, this made me lol. Rich folks are welcome to scorn me as a country bumpkin, by the way - it may be true, but what does it matter - does it make me a less-worthy person to be looked down upon? If so, so be it.) 

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Moment of quiet -
inspiration strikes -

(for even watermelons manage themselves)

(my very unorthodox attempt at a haiku, sorry :)

Saturday, 27 March 2010

On deliberate living:

On deliberate living \di-ˈli-bə-ˌrāt ˈlɪvɪŋ\: A way of living that is about being "fully aware; present in the moment, to the experience that we are living through our body, mind, heart and spirit, in deep connection and relationship with the world and everything in it." (Stephen Hodge)

This is the edited version, as, as usual, it is much better than how i have put it, before i saw Hodge's version.

 "Conscious day-to-day living stemming from an attempt to understand, to empathise with one's world, one's environment and oneself, and thus actually living life spontaneously and creatively. That, to me, is true freedom. Be good. Be reflective. Be quietly contemplative. Be wildly artistic and expressive. Go and truly Live!"

Its about being (the joy of being), living, learning, and growing (and falling down, of course).

(and it is all beautiful, in that peaceful little way...)

(and if you're religious, even better!)

In Mandarin, i would just put it down in two words: 用心 ((very) literally - using the heart)

See also: Focused living

On understanding and empathy, I am amazed and very touched by this brilliant short article: The key to enlightenment is learning

Pleasure v. Happiness

Just to clarify the previous post (on Expensive Things): There is a fine line of difference between enjoyment (pleasure) and happiness.

Its like the weather and the climate, actually. The weather doesn't change the climate.The tail doesn't wag the dog. Pleasure is by nature transient. Happiness is more a state of mind.

I.e. pleasure does not always lead to happiness. Happiness is an end in itself. True happiness, to me, inextricable from being Good and living the Good life (in many ways), can lead to enjoyment, in that simple peaceful way.

HH the Dalai Lama extrapolates clearly - a murderer may feel pleasure at his actions, but does he truly feel happy about it?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

On expensive things

Nice? Of course.

On living simply, of course, people would say that, expensive things manifest more Quality (as Pirsig puts it), are more enjoyable, and better.

And of course, they are right. We should not be hypocrites, really.

But my question to myself is, is it worth it? The quid pro quo? What do you give, in exchange?

We make our own calculations, our own weighing, our own choices.

After all, we are what we are. (It is what it is, as a friend of mine likes to put it). I might be a rich man, and indulge in life and quality, but unfortunately or fortunately (in the face of fate it doesn't matter - there is after all no point arguing with fate) i am not. I am who i am - specifically, i am me, and my circumstances.

We all live.

(and there is of course also pleasure to be found in a simple meal, a long bus journey, a gentle sunset...)

We all live.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Tat Tvam Asi तत् त्वम् असि

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.

"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."

At these words Banzan became enlightened. 

Phewa Tal on a rainy evening, Pokhara June 2008.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Cappadocia is another world, man...

That day running to work these words were running through my head, and i was trying so hard to place them, and the emotions running through me - Cavusin, Beyaz Vadisi, Uchisar....

Evocative, yet, somewhat... distant. Familiar, but foreign, all at once.

And then i realised - Cappadocia.

Where it was a fairytale, falling asleep in little mushroom-shaped caves, waking up and walking through the fairytale landscape and the flowers all around - gentle clouds of dandelions blowing in the breeze touching my face - and no one but the whistling of the wind, and the sun shining... In the distance i can hear soft music, from a ranch... A snow-capped peak, a little village in the distance, at the end of the road, Anatolia...

I felt as if i have died, and woken up in another world. In my mind, if there is one picture of how paradise looks like, this is it.

I remember buying bags of fresh apricots at a little village stall and munching on them, walking through the indescribable landscape, tall weird windswept fairy chimneys, yellow flowers and sun, just sitting down under a tree and looking at all that fantastic landscape around me, resting, thinking, munching on my apricots...


" When someone is seeking", said Siddhartha, "it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing that he is seeking, because he has a goal. Seeking means: to have a goal, but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see the many things that are under your nose".

And in the finder's mind, the beginner's mind, there are so many possibilities! So many things to do! So much joy and wonder and discovery at the little things in Life. So much of Life to live, open hearted, broad minded.

"What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find."
- Siddharta

Saturday, 20 February 2010

On Living deliberately

On Living the spontaneity, wholeness, and humanity of the zen vision.
"When you realise that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you". - Lao Tzu.

The poem reads:

His life is not poor
He has riches beyond measure
Pointing to the moon, gazing at the moon
This old guest follows the way 

Budai/Hotei, or more popularly, the Laughing/Fat Buddha or Happy Chinaman (depending on where you're from) is clearly "a man who has everything - everything he needs".

And i find good support for my living deliberately and contentedly on the first few introductory pages of a book on Western philosophy - "Good living for me means having the time to actually think and make my ideas coherent, instead of being forced to act on impulse - quickly and not very intelligently, to everything in my life."

It is, after all, about living consciously, deliberately - that is all. Life, after all, is about living, and growing (changing) with Life. Let the world happen, and I with it. Even Plato himself, one of the fathers of Western philosophy, said, with perhaps a hint of an enigmatic smile, "the Good is One", ancient Greek zen.

Intriguingly, for me, Zen is not just a mystical Eastern philosophy - many Western thinkers, from Thoreau to Blake and even Weber have explored it, mused on it, pondered and wondered on it. And even now, we finally find out that "happiness might ward off heart disease".

For me I like to look at the interstices of Eastern and Western thought, and at the overlaps, at how they differ, and complement. I like to think that good philosophy has a certain universality - nature does not like gaps. Just as living a good life, being happy, and being Good, which i feel comes much more easily, and naturally with living consciously, living humanly, and in peace, joy, empathy and understanding of others.

For did Confucius not say, human-heartedness is the greatest happiness.

And for did the Bible not say, "I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).

In any case, I aspire to, like Budai, as HH the Dalai Lama wisely says, "seek not to have what you want, but want what you have".

Friday, 19 February 2010

A conversation.

I think, what really changed me was that trip to remote northern Laos, where I had the chance to stay for a while with these farmers, who work so hard just so they could provide for their families, and sit down and have dinner together at the end of the day. To me there is so much honesty, so much grace, so much nobility in them.

And most of us think that we, being more affluent, more urbane, are more advanced, more sophisticated, better than them.

It breaks my heart, to think that sadly, that is how we are conditioned to think, how we treat people - based on how much money you (seem to) have, and we all take part in this charade, this aspiration to power - which is simply the ability to make people do things they don't want to do.

Such that a richer person is the one you look up to and aspire to be.

But i often ask myself, why can't i be more like these people, these supposedly "unsophisticated poor simple people", who are, to me, are the truly noble, truly living, graceful, human beings.

A romanticised view of poverty? I think i can point a finger, also, to the romanticised view of wealth and power, as "important-goals-in-life-that-make-you-a-better-person", and given the choice, i think i'd much rather be deluded, poor and living and learning in grace and love and simple things. And Peace.

It is the belief that everything is for sale, that a monetary value can be attached to everything that breaks my heart. And that if you can buy more and better stuff, you are so much better than someone who can afford less (no illusions here).

I turn my head, and i see advertisements telling people to "Give this or that for Valentine's Day". It breaks my heart  to see that everything is reducible to items, to commodities, to a monetary value. So how much is your love worth? How much is your family worth? So we all sell ourselves (and our principles, our dreams, our ideals and our conscience) to the God of Modern Capitalism. It is hard to get rich, if you treat people right, if you are honest.

But of course there are good rich people.

But of course I believe in the very postmodern notion that the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

El mundo nuevo

I've been thinking about this whole travel and zen relationship for a while, and in a flash, i realised, that's it - travelling alone over a period of time through a foreign land challenges your preconceived notions and assumed "norms" and prejudices, throws them right out of the window and forces you to live in the now, the here.

Case in point.

A moment of Zen realisation would be, almost getting run over by a technicoloured auto-rickshaw blasting Bollywood hits, a poster of Ganesha (everyone's favourite Hindu God) stuck on the rear window ensuring immunity (to him), while you wake up and cross the road for some chai and morning dosas.

Its just like saying "mu", big time. Wakes you up to life happening RIGHT NOW, in every moment, every breath you take, every minute you live.

The feeling of being alive - like waking up on a cold morning and dipping your toes in the icy waters of the Mediterranean.You can smell it, too - the sea, there is a certain freshness, a certain new-ness, a sea-smelling fresh excitement greeting the new day. And not just the Mediterranean - everywhere - from doing the laundry at home to climbing the lofty Himalayas. There is a definite, jolting realisation of the fact that this is your life, an urgent, desperate need, desire to live consciously, deliberately, to hurl oneself at life's Apollonian and Dionysian and really live, eyes wide open with childlike amazement and wonder. As Shunryu Suzuki's book is titled - Zen mind, beginner's mind.

初心,not 粗心.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

On freedom.

"I do think people could fall into the trap of understanding freedom as ‘I do what I like’. I don’t really think that’s freedom because you’re still bound by your desires. So where is the freedom? Freedom would be…you understand your desires, the compulsion of those desires, the addiction of that, and you are able to transcend that. Otherwise…your passion is determining your behaviour." – Father Lancy Prabhu

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Taking the train to work, i found myself telling my friend. Let's go home, one day, start up a little business, sell groceries or something. It's been a long time since we were home - small town boys remembering cycling to the local provisions shop and around quiet neighbourhoods where time is the dark green leaves of an old mango tree falling, falling.... It feels like yet another different life - we have come a long way, and maybe now, it is time to go home.

I still do love my country, even if they still insist on telling me i'm a pendatang. It makes you at times cynical, at times sad, but I realise, at the end of it, i still do love my country, in a bittersweet, unrequited kind of way.

I guess, now, i just don't expect her to love me back anymore (allow me to lapse, again, into a little moment of cynicism... it is a coward's refuge, i guess when one-should-instead-strive-to-be-Nietsche's-model-of-the-Uebermensch)

Or Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


Ara Güler, Istanbul

I just realised today, that all my "poetic" meanderings on travelling and places and memories seeming like just a beautiful dream, another life (so near, yet so inexplicably, heartbreakingly far - faded photographs), can be put into one quote, as someone much more succint than me had already done.

That "the beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy" (Ahmet Rasim).

(then I'm suffering from beauty overdose, perhaps)

But its just amazing someone else feels the same, and bothered to put in down in such a marvelous nutshell. I thought i was just a little crazy and lost in nostalgia, which, like beer, makes everything look a heck of a lot nicer.

And i think i can bring in Theroux here for back up, who says that "travel is glamourous only in retrospect".

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Listening to the rain falling on a tin roof in Goa, still awake at 2 a.m. at night in the midst of a tropical storm, thinking, thinking... about Life, pondering the constellations, flashbacks of all the places i have been to, the girl beside me... Its all a beautiful dream. Timelessness. Times and places, all mixed up, sailing through the cosmos...

Now the life with flash cars, a steady job, respectable home installments to pay seem unreal.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Future travels

I look into my crystal ball, and i see...

Afghanistan, one day, inshaallah when there is peace, and Pakistan.

During the heydays of the Hippie Highway in the 60s, it was one of the most beautiful places on the trail, snowy mountains against an azure blue sky, crossing from Iran to Herat and staying for days lapsing into weeks and months, before finally picking up the will to cross the Khyber into Pakistan, and finally India - the last stop, where the trail splits to the beaches of Goa - endless golden stretches of Palolem, Varkala, Anjuna, the holy city of Varanasi by the Ganges, up the Himalayas in Nepal and legendary Katmandu...

I long for those days gone. And my own stories, my own epic, now that its been 2 years and they have melded into the past... like a faded photograph, a dream, another life. Maybe there is no going back - you are, afterall, only 18 once. But it was such a beautiful time of my life, where you really lived, and opened your eyes, uncynical, un-bitter, innocent eyes wide open in wonder to all that overwhelming sights, sounds, smells, touches of this world.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

¡viva la aventura!

That feeling of... adventure

Slants of sunlight lighting up the railway station and its usual clamour, the dust from the rough concrete floor and the excitement swirling in the morning sunlight around train stations... With all my life on my back and looking up at the departures schedule - "Next Train... Platform..."

A quick chai if time permits - which is usually the case. In Sri Lanka, the ticket office - one single counter - finally opened at 1220, and the train leaves at 1230. But no worries - the train will be later. "Normal, normal", so said a stoned tuktuk driver rounding crazy bends on a rainy road in the Hill Country.

That feeling is indescribable (not the tuktuk ride - still on the topic of train stations and departure boards and announcements) - it seems like magic - magical words, a magical feeling - "the evening Shatabdi departing for Amritsar leaves at twelve-thirty a.m..."

That's what travel is all about. Perhaps it is the freedom (a large part, for sure), and throw in also that little bit of old fashioned vagabonding romance, wanderlust, and excitement... And you have an adventure in the making. Our very own epics - where the only audience you have to please and enthrall is yourself. And years later, sure enough you look back and feel in awe and fall in love, once again, just tinted and made a sweet bitter-sweet by nostalgia and melancholy this time.

pic: Nanu Oya train station, Sri Lanka december 2009.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The best spam i've ever read.

Back from the office and i check my email and there it is... What was a piece of my old life taunting me. A surreal moment of postmodern irony bringing a smile to my face. Life! Sometimes, it too, likes to share a laugh and a joke.



Gulet cruise

3 Night's/ 4 day's Boat Cruises Turkey Fethiye to Olympos

You wake up to the sun warming you on the top deck and you jump straight into the crystal clear turquoise water. Scrambled eggs and a full Turkish breakfast are waiting for you whenever you decide to come out. The morning is spent reading, sun bathing and dozing while the captain takes you to your next destination. Perhaps it's Cleopatra's Bath, where you swim amongst ancient ruins, or maybe Butterfly Valley, where the adventurous can walk up the rocky cliff to the primitive town of Faralya for spectacular views of the Mediterranean. After a luncheon feast, it is time for a well-earned snooze on a sun bed. Sleep comes easily when set to the sound of the gentle lapping of the sea. Maybe you are feeling energetic? Grab a mask and snorkel and explore. As the sun begins to set, you could wade onto shore for a stroll, or throw a line in the water to supplement the evening meal - the freshest fish, still-warm bread delivered by tiny traditional boats, a mountain of salad and fresh fruit, and of course - ice cold Efes beer. After dark, bring out the backgammon set and sample a Turkish specialty - apple flavoured waterpipe - before falling asleep under the stars on the front deck. Repeat for four days.


Ah. :) 

Anchored at St. Nicholas' island! Where Santa Claus really came from. Didn't know he was Turkish, did you?

at Kekova - cruising over the sunken city...

Compared to my life now:

You wake up at 630 to a frantically ringing alarm clock, the sky still draped in darkness, and you stumble half asleep straight to the bathroom to wash up. The bus doesn't wait for you as you run down to the bus stop. The morning is spent squeezed against other automatons of the capitalist industrial complex, while the metro takes you to you next destination, the Office. After grabbing a cheap coffee, it is that wonderful time of checking emails and hoping nothing new comes in. Sleep comes easily. Maybe you are feeling energetic? You can always volunteer for more work. As the sun begins to set, you are still in the office.

:) Lovely. I just love how postmodern and ironic life can be.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Why a career is good for you.

So far i have yet to discover why.

So you get report to work at 9 each day (830 for me), work till 6, get back around 8 and then sort yourself out and go to bed. Tomorrow will be the same.

So you earn money. Maybe loads of it.

So you work hard.

So you get promoted. But that's the next 40 years of your life, day in, day out, earning more and more money, moving to a better office, getting a better sounding title on that namecard...

So? What's the point? You get home too tired at 7,8, for a precious few hours of your own time, and then sleep and wake up the next day and the whole thing repeats itself.

And this is for the better half of your life. 

And i don't live for the weekends. I live for every day, every moment, and life certainly does not start when you're retired or 40 or when you have "made it" or something. I find such statements preposterous - in their flippant waste of life.

And the money? What can it buy you? Prestige, social standing, the latest and the best consumer goods perhaps. But i'm sorry, all of those don't really interest me.

A career - and that's most of your whole adult life, pursuing a career, navigating the office, and its very material, very unmistakable rewards - but even so you can't enjoy them until you're retired, can you?

But what about inner growth, spiritual development? Living, and growing as a human being?

For those who enjoy their careers, you really are a better human being than i am (and thus probably wouldn't mind the offence).

Me, I work. Still, I need the money - some money. But i see myself as a merry prankster, ever the rogue, trying to cheat the system (and not minding if i get screwed - i'm just going to laugh long and hard at Life one day when i'm a penniless old man roaming the streets with his memories) - by squeezing some money out of it through work (which i value), but not career that has become almost a calling, It's all about balance overall, isn't it?

Money as a means to other things. Realistically, not being a Zen ascetic or possessing enough courage yet to just entrust Life to Life, some money is needed to live, to travel, to enjoy the occassional good book and a good drink, as this urban Life delivers. I may be a beggar in Life, a vagabond, but when someone throws you a feast, you're not gonna say no, are you?

Enjoyment as it comes, but not attachment. One of my favourite Zen quotes -  "What is your Buddhism? Piling fresh fruits into a bottomless basket" - that "the way of Zen is to embrace the abundant experiences Life offers and to enjoy them in the moment while they are still fresh. Then to hold on to nothing, but to let the present become the past, confident that the basket will continue to be filled with new extraordinary fruit as Life constantly unfolds its mysteries".

Urban Zen. For me it is the intention, the mind. You can still live beautifully in a shit environment where almost everyone wants that bag and that house on the hill and never has enough of anything. Living beautifully, a beautiful mind, accepting, and trying... That's grace, that's human.

Life, after all, is a dance. You push and you pull, you give and you take. Ditto with life.

I look into my own little personal crystal ball and see myself paying off my bank loan, and then going off to teach in India for the next few years, throw in a stint as a barista back home perhaps (far more satisfaction making something with your own hands - Quality relationships - than pushing paper), quit, go off on a working holiday somewhere, come back when it is time to come back, fry burgers in McDonald's, learn more about life, do some social work...

I will be a penniless old man one day. But i guess that's a fair price to pay. My philosophy in Life has always been - because you can't have everything in Life, you make your choices, as consciously as possible, and be happy with them and accept the outcomes, the good and the inevitable bad. Being conscious and content, and hopefully, Happy.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


A funky little yellow and purple shop tucked in the Istiklal Caddesi selling, of all things, potato chips with 16 different condiments to choose from - the yogurt comes highly recommended by the friendly staff. I stuck with safer cheddar.

One my weird-fond memories of Istanbul is walking down the Istiklal Caddesi and stopping for a midnight snack at Patatas after a few beers, sitting in its arty interior with wall scribbles in many languages and purple chairs with yellow tables watching the midnight crowd on the Istiklal Caddesi, still going strong and the shops still open for business. It's a bohemian, 24-hour slice of Istanbul - where buskers sing melancholic tunes accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful strings of the oud (the Middle Eastern predecessor to the lute), writers hawk self-published books and little winding alleys lead into hidden taverns and tea-gardens on cobble-stoned streets with potted flowers, with bohemian shops selling mystic shawls, lampshades, Spongebob boxers and books with titles like "why Jack Kerouac is important".