Pics or it didn’t happen

April 21st, 2012

It didn’t happen, so there are no pics! It’s not that I didn’t ask Rezeda to marry me. Not that she didn’t say yes. I did and she did — we did. It’s that it was a virtual non-event, like agreeing on shared appetizers or when to leave the party. When your heart is open, every occasion is momentous, and life-changing leaps are like stepping over a crack.

For a bit of privacy, we waited for the seats across from us on Namma Metro to be empty. We’re the only people who don’t take photos on the shiny new public transit. We were on our way to Shiro for (as it turns out) celebratory sushi. Not that we mentioned our engagement to the staff — no need to make a fuss!

After more than four months of acquaintance leading to burgeoning friendship, we agreed in earnest to extrapolate further, expecting to encounter few truly irreconcilable differences in the pursuit of a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. In some traditions, this quest and its reconciliation are called engagement and marriage. We canceled our subscriptions to those traditions, so there’s no ring quite yet and you shouldn’t hold your breath for a wedding with guests apart from witnesses. Rest assured. There will be parties.

The fresh corn kakiage tempura was awesome and we left at the same time because the cops were coming to shut the place down at 23:30 sharp. My public announcement was fueled by celebratory enthusiasm, and as usual, the anticipation of your most affectionate curiosity. Thank you also for your congratulations and kind wishes.

Burning Man 2011

October 9th, 2011

I was to meet Syber in Reno airport on Friday night but my flight from Bangalore to Dubai was delayed by 2 hours so I was stuck in Dubai for about 20 hours. I called Syber to let her know that she had to do all the shopping. I stayed in the hotel and got some sleep. I flew to LA and went to Kinko’s. Then I flew to Reno. Syber picked me up at the airport on Saturday night, and we went back to the hotel to freshen up and then headed to the Black Rock Desert. I had left my sunglasses in Bangalore so I bought some great yellow sunglasses with a bit of faux leather wind shielding at the store in Empire. Syber did an amazing job of shopping — I never wished she had bought anything less or more!

We arrived on the playa in the wee hours of the morning, and Syber, as a virgin, was required to make dust angels and ring the bell as you will see in the photos. We found our camp BRCU (the Black Rock Center for Unlearning, a stellar crew of diverse freaks), set up our tents, and … well, I didn’t sleep much, because I had (mandatory, since I couldn’t do it in Bangalore) Ranger training all day on Sunday. It was the first time I had done training in anything other than the small, local Toronto group so it was good to see another version of that. It was all review but despite sitting in the shade all day I was quite punchy by the end which made me a great imitation participant for the simulations.

It was great to wake up on playa on Monday … everything was set up, but the city wasn’t really rolling, as most people had arrived the previous night. I had my new Nikon D90 DSLR and Sony HDR-PJ10E HD video cameras with me, and a lot of crazy lenses, so I made my way to media mecca or playa info to sign the video release form, and was told to come back once everything was set up. That’s when I checked my watch and realized it was before 9am. I wasn’t always up that early all week, but I did get around 8 hours of sleep — mostly cool & comfortable thanks to the reflective emergency blanket on my tent and the evolving shade — all week which was a refreshing change. A couple of years ago at Om I learned what it’s like to be properly fed while camping and partying, so I also got around 2 square meals every day thanks to the BRCU chefs, Bret & Jerry. That made a world of difference in my lucidity. Monday afternoon was more Ranger training, this time on the topic of radios. I was taking it because I’m comfortable and good with the radio, in contrast to most others who reported they were taking it remedially, but I still learned things and enjoyed myself.

Here’s where the days blur together; I had actual Ranger work on Tuesday evening, Thursday afternoon, and Saturday 00:00-06:00 which were, as always, an awesome time walking around with awesome people, doing very little things which make a big difference. I took a print of my memorial to Burning Dan to his camp, borrowed their staple gun, and affixed it to the Temple. I gave away most of my sticker collection. I took some photos. I taught my first yoga class. I had some great conversations. I provided Canadian hospitality to an inebriated, discomfited Brit. I hung out briefly with some good friends. I saw some great art. Most of the time, I was alone, which is why most of the photos of me were taken with the help of a mirror.

Then I left — back to Reno with Syber and Charlie, where we stuff ourselves at a Black Bear Diner, sat on a fake beach for a while, and most importantly, repacked our stuff. My clothes and camping gear had come with Syber, but her stuff, and my camping gear, had grown, so all of my clothes came back to Bangalore with me. Syber left first, so I had 6 hours to spend (never kill time, that’s like killing yourself!) in the airport, and I found a lovely person by the name of Dani (a different Dani from the one who took the photo above) to spend it. Then I flew to San Francisco and headed to Vitalia and Jerod’s place, and spend a great couple of days with them chilling and decompressing. Then I flew to Bangalore, and my environment returned to how it has been for the past year.

Here’s a photo by Dani.

I chose 87 of my 540 photos, which is still way too many for the blog itself, so you’ll have to suffer through my bare bones photo gallery for now. Maybe one day I will transcode some of the videos, too. I should have practiced more with the Lensbaby tilt stuff before running around the playa with it. Nikon Bangalore kindly cleaned my dust-ravaged camera, gratis!

One Trip Behind

August 7th, 2011

I went on this trip to Rishikesh and Varanasi with my mother and sister back in June. Since then I have been busy with work and preparing for Burning Man, but I figured I should write something about June before it’s totally eclipsed in my memory. More to the point, people have been asking, so here you go.

I stupidly deleted most of the photos from Rishikesh. WordPress’ photo interface is a bit tedious, so here are all the photos together … more after the gallery!

Let’s see. All of this is from memory, but remember why this blog is called Synthetic Narrative: at best, this is “based on a true story”.

Mum arrived on Friday, June 9, and spent a couple days in Bangalore getting her clock back in sync and a little taste of how crazy everything is here. Then we flew to Delhi then Rishikesh where we found a nice hotel on the Ganges. It was a bit of a hike up and down the hill every day, but there’s nothing wrong with a little exercise to wake you up or exhaust you. The place was kind of full so we got a bigger room than we wanted on the first night … with a kitchen. Which is to say, there was an extra room with a counter and sink (but no running water). The next day we had brunch and Alison went back to the hotel to pay, while mum & I went shopping for white water rafting tours. It was a bit sweltering, but definitely never as bad as it was in Ontario this summer, apparently.

We had seen many boats going by the hotel, which would explain why there are dozens of “tour operators” in Rishikesh. Each of them promised approximately the same experience at slightly different prices on slightly different schedules. We went with the one who mum called the “most professional” — which is to say that rather than being a guy with a cellphone in a room with a desk, it was a guy with an air conditioned office with a computer, behind a room with a guy with a cellphone and desk. His rafting trip was not even the most expensive. He also sorted out our train tickets to Varanasi for us. It was like CAD$25 for a 700km+ train ride in a sleeper car.

That night we moved to a cheaper room without a kitchen, but with a working geyser (water heater). We also got mum started with Settlers of Catan. You’ll see the travel version in the photos. I first played Catan in the travel version, and although it’s great, the fact that the numbers are static takes out a noticeable quality of randomness.

The next morning we were up relatively early for our white water rafting tour. The Ganges is very clean up there. The beach was crammed with boats with people having an effectively identical experience: Put boat in water, put on lifejacket, get in boat, get training, launch boat, go down river. We were teamed up with three Indian guys, who (like many Indians) didn’t really know how to swim. The first task was to jump out of the boat, which was very refreshing. After a bit of paddling practice, we went through some small rapids, then some big rapids. Between rapids we got to paddle, or swim around the boat a bit. Near the end of the trip was a cliff (8m or so) jump which was also quite fun. I think it would have been more fun without a lifejacket on, come to think of it. Then we went through a couple more rapids and were dropped off at our hotel, which was a kilometre upstream from “downtown” Rishikesh.

Then it gets a little hazy. Over the next day or two, we went to the restaurant in the 5-star hotel, which was nothing special. We went across one of the bridges (pedestrian only, which includes cows and motorcycles) to see some temples, we went across the other bridge, we had all sorts of awesome food, we walked up the river to across from the cliff jump. Then we took a rickshaw to Haridwar, walked around there all afternoon, and took the train to Varanasi. That was a 14 hour train ride or something crazy like that, but I slept most of the way. The sleeper cars are amazingly practical and almost comfortable. I can’t imagine them without air conditioning.

In Varanasi, an enterprising autorickshaw driver gave us directions from the train, shadowed us to the street, and gave us a lift to a very nice guest house. This was a great little quiet place with lots of foreigners coming and going. In Varanasi, we took the night boat tour and the morning boat tour. It was kind of shocking to see how nasty the Ganges was after 700km of mistreatment … but people were still bathing and doing their laundry in it. At night there were all sorts of pujas going on on the banks. Families seemed to be lining up for their turn at some sort of blessing or other. The river is lined with the palaces of rajas from all over India. These kings would build the palaces for their late retirement — basically so they could die next to their pyre. The craziest thing in this whole trip was probably the man selling documentary DVDs out of his boat on the Ganges … complete with a DVD player and CRT TV powered by a car battery.

We also did the temple tour in Varanasi, and the silk district tour which (of course) ended with a shopping session in which the shopkeeper shows us every piece of silk in the place, each of which is spectacular in its own way, and we helplessly try to whittle it down to a manageable purchase.

We celebrated mum’s birthday with cake and beer and Catan!

Then we flew back to Delhi where we parted ways. I returned to Bangalore to go back to work, and mum & Alison went to Aurangabad where they saw some spectacular caves, cathedrals carved directly into the rock. I need to see this place!

They came back to Bangalore later that week, and then mum went back to Canada and Alison went to Vietnam and has now moved to Sweden.

At no point did I do any yoga asanas.

Catching up on … January!

April 2nd, 2011

ThreeVery little happened in December. In February, Pete & Alma came to visit! We took the train to Mysore, where I spotted some crumbling masonry.
Peter also made a new friend, a yellow cow. Apparently we had just missed a festival in which all the cows were painted up.
Yellow Cow
Then we visited the palace, which I had visited before, but this time we didn’t have a bus to catch and we were able to spend the time to properly appreciate it.
Alma and a temple
We went inside a couple of temples at the palace, which was a great break from the noise of the crowds.
There were also elephant rides and a spiral staircase.
Spiral staircase.

Can you tell I am just narrating these selected photos?
Morning Kitty
The next morning, we took a car to the Madhumali elephant reserve and stayed in a nearby town. In the morning I spotted this kitty sleeping on a distant rooftop. This photo is taken with my camera’s 25x zoom while I wake up the kitty. Then we went to Calicut which is not much of a tourist town, but my hotel room had a bathtub so I got a bath for the first time since arriving in India.
Fallen Comrade
Then we took the train to Kannur which has a much nicer beach with a local MPs’ cemetery. Of particular interest were the communist party memorials such as the one pictured here.
Peter had purchased some fresh mussels, and in the surf he found a little ceramic urn, which was full of sand. So, we emptied it out, built a little fire, and cooked the mussels, which were delicious. It turns out the urn was previously used to hold someone’s ashes. So, we were sure it was clean!
Cows and Auto
Also in Kannur, there was a temple near the train station, where we experienced a Theyyam, and a Dutch/Portuguese/British fort.
en train Then we took the train to Goa, had dinner, and went to bed, and I got up at 5 am to fly back to Bangalore.

I’m sure there would have been more to these stories had I written them in February!

CouchSurfers and Mysore

November 13th, 2010


Last weekend I had my very first couchsurfers, seen here from left to right: Jorge, Jess, and Kasia (from Colombia, Belgium, and Poland respectively) who are AIESECers in Hyderabad. The arrived early Friday morning, and we made a big breakfast and headed out for the day. I’m not much of a tour guide so we headed towards the sightseeing tour area. On the way, we passed Cubbon Park and decided to stop to see if the aquarium was open. It wasn’t, but it’s a nice park … and there was this red building with a big cube in front of it. Cube

We continued to SC Road where there are many travel agents. Many people encouraged us to book a car, but we insisted on a bus tour. We signed up for that and then headed to the train station to sort out tickets back to Hyderabad.

Bull Temple The bus tour took us through various places in Bangalore — some places were closed because it was Diwali. We visited a summer palace, the Bull Temple (3rd largest bull statue in South India) … and you can see my feet at the Bull Temple here.

Lal BaghTree DogThe bus tour ended at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens. That name is a bit redundant — Bagh means Garden. Here is a Victorian-style photo of it, and also a dog napping under a tree.

On Friday night we went out looking for dinner. There were fireworks over the whole city. We headed to Avenue Road where other CSers from Hyderabad were … but we didn’t find them so we started walking around in the fashion district where there were no restaurants, but all of the narrow streets were filled with kids setting off piles of firecrackers and sometimes fireworks. After half an hour of that we piled into an auto which took us to Nandini’s. We never did find the other CSers.

The Enlightened Bull On Saturday, we left my place at 6am to catch the tour bus to Mysore. The bus did eventually arrive and we left Bangalore around 11am. We saw a bunch of stuff in Mysore. Monkeys You know, touristy stuff. Like a temple at the top of a mountain. With a three-eyed bull. And monkeys! CouchSurfers

If you have a spare couch then I highly recommend CouchSurfers. These three were awesome and everyone else from whom I have received requests seems awesome too, though I am pretty busy this week, and my streets is currently blocked by pipes, so I have downgraded from “definitely!” to “yes”.