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".