Epitaph for My Granma

It’s my maternal granma. Last two days were very trying for the whole family, as we could not help my granmaa in any way to ease her. The only thing we could do was pray that her sufferings come to an end. And, the only solace is that she passed away on a day that is supposed to be holy as per Hinduism.

After speaking to my parents in the morning, today I thought that mentally, I was prepared to hear the news. But, within few hours, when I saw my dad's number flashing on my mobile while driving, I suddenly felt cold and tired. After hearing the news, kept calling my family members just to relieve my restlessness.

Small things and incidents are deeply etched in my memory. She used to tell that as a preteen, I used to scare her by my tomboyish behavior. To tame me down, she put me in religious classes, where I was taught Suriya Namaskar and then transcendental meditation. 

What a lady she had been! Her bluish gray eyes were warm and stern, and I used to long that at least my kid should inherit it. She was my first inspiration, especially in handling dire circumstances. She had unshakable faith that things will turn around as we wish.

Now, I realize the pangs of being an expat. It is a matter of few hours flight trip to home country, but due to our current plans, unable to go there and do my last rites, as the only granddaughter. This is what we choose, when we become expats.


Tantalizing Filter Coffee

In India, the day used to start with a cup of strong filter coffee and grazing through the headlines in the news paper...

I used to make the coffee brew from a blend of coffee and chicory powder. By the time I add the boiled milk with this coffee brew, the aroma would wake my half-sleepy daughter as well!

Filter Coffee is typically served in a stainless steel tumbler and dabara

The tantalizing flavor can cheer me up even in the wee hours of the morning.


Clouds and

Natural steps trying to reach clouds...

 Tree tops trying to dust the clouds...

Twin towers trying to touch the clouds...


Taman Tasik Perdana - Tram Ride

Several times, we have tried to locate Taman Tasik Perdana, which is in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, but the crazy signboard used to lead us in circles.

Well, no complaints. This beautiful haven hosts many other attractions as shown in the above signboard. Every time we have visited one.

This time around, only my kid and I went for a drive in that area hoping to find our way. We saw a tram ahead of us and my kid wanted to take a ride in it. So, I cut in front of the tram and asked the driver, about the starting point of the tram ride.

We got lucky. He said that the ride starts from Taman Tasik Perdana, so we just followed the driver and found our destination finally...

Taman Tasik Perdana means Lake Gardens. Even around 2.00 PM, it was cool because it is covered with canopy of trees. Now, our main aim was to take the ride. 

The fare is just 50 sen for a ride!

And it passes through all the gardens that can be accessed only by this tram or by walk.

As it was a weekday, the road ahead was deserted and we were the only passengers for the first 10 minutes.

The tram was moving at a leisurely pace, and both of us were having fun and giggling at silly things. Later a family stopped the tram near this place...they must have been picnicking here.

We crossed the lake where there were pedal boats, but again there was no sign of life there. Next, we saw this...but not sure, what kind of ride is available.

After completing the trip, we wanted to explore the place and just walked for about 5 minutes and ended up here...

We wanted to go to the Dinosaur park as well, but it was too lonely and I was not comfortable to take my daughter all by myself. May be, next time we would tag my husband along with us so that we can dare to explore more...


Other Side of Working Late

Watch out, you too might end up like this...or wish to end up like this!



Walking down the Memory Lane

These days, it is becoming hectic to manage stuff that needs to be done. So, I wanted to relax with something that doesn't need my full concentration...so, lazily started browsing through some of the photos taken in Kuching, East Malaysia, 6 yrs ago.

While am still travelling through the memory lane, I decided to pen down those treasured moments...

Kuching Waterfront (Esplanade) was our favorite haunt over the weekends. We just used to watch the men fishing at the dock or gaze at the cruise boats longingly. We wanted to go for a cruise, but couldn't get seats, as it is crowded over the weekends and holidays. We were so bent on making it over a weekend, so our friend went over to the esplanade a weekday and made advance booking.

As it was a much-awaited trip, we had a sense of achievement, the minute we entered the boat! It was a time when we never had a digital camera, so we had to watch out how many pictures we take. However, we did manage to scan those photos so that we could share it with our family, back home. Here is one such shot...

We had the typical newbie expat syndrome and used to calculate our trip expenses in Indian Rupees, so it was a great stress to decide on budget for each of our trips. In spite of this constraint, we did manage to go Bako Island, which is about 45 mins drive from Kuching and then another 40 minutes boat ride.

We were under the impression that we would be going to Bako in a comfortable cruise type of boat...but we had no choice except to cross the wavy sea in a terrific fishing boat...

Though the backwater looks peacful the wind was strong when we were on sea. Thrill won my fear...and we had a great time at the Bako National park.

We took the shortest trekking route, because we were told that it was not advisable to take children in the longer treks.

Well, this post is getting longer, so let me continue with Kuching nostalgic memories in another post...stay tuned:)


Tribute to Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin's bi centenary birthday is celebrated worldwide on 12 Feb 2009. He is the renowned naturalist, who did major break through in the field of evolution. Efforts have been taken to put his complete work online.

BBC is celebrating Darwin special programs. Google has released this logo:

Long time ago, I remember reading that Darwin was hiding his theories from his wife, because he did not want to hurt her religious beliefs. So, when I started to hunt for info related to this incident, and I came across an interesting imaginative blog post that is posted on behalf of Emma, Darwin's wife!

Then, I came across Devolve Me, which is a funny tool released by Open University, in lieu of this celebration. When you upload your photo, and follow instructions, it will show how you would look, if you lived millions of years ago. They do claim that it is not a scientific tool, but just for fun, I tried and got these...

Intrested to try? Click here.

Yummy Steamboat @ Ahimsa

Steamboat is a DIY (Do It Yourself) food, popular in Malaysia. At the restaurants, they provide a mini stove/electrical hotplate and steaming bowl. You can choose the soup and other ingredients of your choice. At times, I even wonder, why do you need to go out DIY and eat? Of course, when a large group hangs out for this kind of food, there is no end for fun:)

Every time I see people having steamboats on the roadside Chinese eateries, I was tempted to try, but unfortunately, all served only non-vegetarian. In those places, the soup always had chicken stock or seafood as its base. At Ahimsa, a nearby Chinese Vege restaurant, they have vegetarian steamboat, but until a couple of days ago, I couldn't get proper company to tryout the dish. My friend, Grace Tan agreed to accompany me.

After discussing, we decided to go for the smallest set on the menu, which turned out to be a lot for just two of us...

I tried to label all the items on the plate, but it looks pretty unreadable on this post. So, here goes the list:

Tofu - Soya milk based chunks, similar to Milk based Indian Paneer
Seaweed coated tofu
Tofu skin - dried bean curd
Few variety of mushrooms
Fake Prawns - made of dunno what flour!
Two types of fake meat - also made of "dunno what flour", but supposed to taste like chicken and mutton...
Mixed vegetables - Chinese cabbage, carrot, greens, long beans

There was even fake fish ball, but I couldn't stand the smell, we asked it to be replaced with mushrooms.

The attendant told us that we could choose two types of soup, which can be re-filled, free of cost! First, I was puzzled, how can we choose two variety when there is one bowl to steam...then I understood how, when I opened the bowl:) After making few queries, we settled for Chinese Herbal soup and Tom yam soup.

I was thinking that everything should be dumped in one shot...but I learnt from my friend that we should be adding few items at a time and when it is ready, we serve it and then add the next round, so that the ingredients don't get soggy.

As per Indian style, the main course would be either roti or rice varieties, which is accompanied by "side dishes". But, here it is the reverse. My friend suggested that we keep the mee (noodles) for the last round...her explanation was that "side dishes" are the main course and we should enjoy them first before filling up with mee. Yet another expat experience.

Then, I was told that the items in the soup taste better when dipped in sauce. And I was not sure, which flavor to select. After tasting few sauces, we selected Thai Chilly sacuce and Nyonya sauce.

I prefer to taste the original flavor of the items before adding any other dressing. Well, in this case I liked original, and then Thai Chilly sauce, which gave a tangy and spicy flavor. But, I was not that pleased with the Nyonya sauce, maybe it is an acquired taste. (Usually, Malay styled Chinese food is referred as Nyonya food)

For the second round, we prepared the ingredients in tom yam soup. After a re-fill, and loosing cont of how many bowls of soup we had, finally we decided to call it a meal:) 

When we took stock of what was still left, I realized that my friend was right, yes, we ended up without eating mee, because we were too full...um the taste still lingers...wish I could go again with a large group of friends, who are willing to have vegge steamboat^^


Educational Programs

As part of their Internet awareness campaign in Tamil Nadu, India, Google has launched the Internet Bus Project. They aim to educate people on the benefits and the use of Internet.

They plan to visit some of the major towns in Tamil Nadu and arrange for interactions with the locals. They are even promoting this through adverts. Some of the promotional stuff is available in Google's blog.

Well, this should be appreciated. However, I just wonder, what can be achieved in a short time span (see the Internet bus itinerary, given in the above link)? This kind of shortsighted programs that wish to create awareness in a society where even basic education is not available for everyone sounds like pure marketing gimmick.

I wish that a corporate of Google's standing should adopt a rural village that has no access to any of the basic amenities like drinking water, roads, basic health care or primary education and help in making their lives better. By doing this, they can cultivate an awareness and work for the upliftment of the society as a whole. Google, can Internet help in achieving these objectives?


Colorful Lion Dance

Lion Dance is a part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. In Malaysia, we have been watching it for the past six years and every time we feel as if this is our first time.. Yesterday, at the neighborhood shopping complex, we watched one such performance and I captured it in my mobile video, so the quality is not great.

As per the Chinese belief, businesses invite lion dancers to usher good luck in the New Year and chase away evil spirits. Fresh vegetables and fruits are offered to the lion. This is called as choi chang.

The dancer who has adorned the lion's head tests if the produce is real or disguised crackers by performing few feline like steps and then deftly picks it up as if the lion is devouring the food.

The loud beats of gongs, symbols and drums and the attractive white and gold lions swirling in harmony is captivating.

Today, in Sri Kembangan we watched yet another troupe performing Lion Dance in front of the roadside shops. This is the first time we saw the Lions in pink, and they were performing like gymnasts and as the drum beats became louder, the performance was also reaching its peak.

As climax, it was amazing to watch a lion climbing on the pole held by fellow performers and taking the money garland offered from the first floor window!!!

When I was showing the video and photosto a local friend I came to know that the dance shown in the above video is of Southern Cantonese style, whereas the gymnastic type of dance is the Northern Kung-fu style. Whatever the style might be, it is just awesome to watch the performance. In fact, to capture the pink lion, I just double parked on the congested roadside...

21st-century Skill Set

How often at school have you wondered, History is so boring and why am I supposed to memorize dates and places? What am I going to do with it! Yes, you are right. Most often what is taught in school is NOT used in real life. This could be one of the reasons, why brilliant students fail to shine in their careers.
Why do many employers hesitate to recruit a fresher? May be, the employers doubt their market-readiness or it could be the lack of time and resources to train a fresher. Given this situation, shouldn't the education system be changed to help students cope with their career?
My kid is following Alpha-Omega education system, which is based on self-learning syllabus. This system increases self-confidence and allows the students to learn at their own pace. However, I still feel that there is a gap, but was unable to define exactly what it was. This gut feeling, coupled with my thoughts on the employers' attitude towards the fresher, urged me to explore further in this angle.
I learnt that Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic are identified as the 3 Rs of the 21st Century Skill Sets. Yet, generally, creativity is supposed to be the much required skill in both education and business. When education focuses on 3Rs, how does it strive to bring out creativity? What is considered as creativity by educators and employers? While I was still thinking and researching in these lines, I started to explore more on educational and employment requirements. In this saga, I came across an interesting table, (which is given below) that confirms my doubts...

Obviously, the employers and the educators differ in ranking creative skills, which could show us why education is far behind in meeting the expectations of the employers. The striking difference in this table is the ranking for two skills:
Problem Identification or Articulation - This is ranked as the 1st skill by employers where as educators do not have high regards for this skill, therefore they rank it in the 9th place! In businesses, identifying the root cause of a problem is the key to prevent any future recurrences. At school, everything is pre-defined and there is no room for assumptions, so students do not get a chance to identify any problems.
Problem Solving - This stands in the 8th place as per the employers list whereas the educators place it in the 1st rank! Often we come across employees who try to solve the problem, instead of looking beyond the problem and analyze the reason behind it. Here problem is looked like school exam, so their only aim is to score high grades. In business, this type of attitude towards problem solving is like fire fighting, which would result in waste of time and resources.
Here, I recall an interesting quote by Oscar Wilde:
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.
Though this is true, we should still take steps to facilitate learning. To align education and businesses, a couple of steps should be taken by educators and businesses, they are:

  • Educators should focus in designing practical learning based syllabus instead of memorization based learning.
  • Employers or rather businesses should actively get involved in designing higher education.


Compassionate and Caring Social Media

Finally, the Social Media is slowly turning to help the neighborhood, or rather the digital-neighborhood. Last time, it was mainly used to promote themselves shamelessly or their businesses. Now, the trend is slowly changing and here are a couple of posts that changed my perception:

Though I didn't contribute to this post, I started following this blogger, because of his compassion and smart way of presenting ideas in simple graphics. From his recent post, I was led to find yet another post that was asking for a contribution, not in the form of monetary contribution but emotional support for a single mother who is suffering from cancer and struggling to bring up her two children.

Compelled by this post, I updated my Facebook status to reflect this feeling and immediately a friend responded! I request you guys to visit the above blog post and show that you too care.

It is a good sign that the power of social media is utilized in a positive way.


Morib - Jetty

From Pantai Morib, we headed to a nearby fishing jetty. I thought that the boats were stranded and unused because they were tethered on a low-level sandy bank. 

Then the fishermen said that in the evenings, the seawater comes to this inlet due to high tide and the boats float high enough that they could get into it directly from this platform!

We saw a couple of fishermen cooking in the boats and learned that they live in that boat itself! During daytime, either they rest or do some maintenance work, like mending the fishing nets.

Then, to our surprise, a small motor boat was wading slowly towards the platform. We learnt that these fishermen went to the sea in the daytime just because there was a special order for large prawns for Chinese New Year celebrations! 

First, I was puzzled how can they be so sure to catch large prawns? Then, they said that they use special net for catching prawns. In fact, they had two nets and you can see the different contents, as shown in the above inlaid picture.

Though I don't eat meat or seafood, I would love to go on a fishing boat at night, just for the sake of experiencing. Let me see, when I can get such a chance...


Pantai Morib

As you enter the road that leads to the beach (pantai in Malay), you get to see the historical memorial that describes the details of the Indian group who landed here during the Second World War.

If you are looking for a white sandy beach, blue water and soft waves gently lapping the shores, then Pantai Morib is not the place for you. In the mornings, the sea recedes almost 1 -1.5 KM from the shores due to low tide. 

I didn't like to walk on the mucky bed...but loved to picnic under the casuarinas.

Watching the sea from this watchtower was breathtaking!

The clouds were looking at themselves in the stagnant water:) 

Without much effort, the kites were soaring up...

We dozed off in the cool breeze. This is a good place to with family, especially if you are on a shoestring budget.


Malaysian Aboriginals

The Malay term Orang Asli means original people or the sons of the soil. In Malaysia, there are few places where you can visit them by paying entrance tickets. Well, to me these places look so artificial to the point where everyone seems to be "working their part of life". 
Luckily, I had a chance to visit orang aslis in their natural habitat in Kampung Tongkah in Morib. The path leading to this place was so narrow and we nearly missed it.

As we entered, barefooted kids scattered and hid themselves. Then we saw something interesting...

Now, I couldn't talk to them directly because my Malay is only good for pasar malam shopping! My friend helped me by talking to them in Malay, but even she had difficulty in understanding their dialect. We managed to learn that this is their worship place. They believe in ancestral spirits and ghosts. Perhaps, we had really seen an Animist temple!
Since this settlement was near the seashore, their staple food was fish.
There were several huts, but they use it only to put their clothes and do some basic cooking. The floor was bare without any furniture or other household items...

Look at this small thatched shanty...

This is their drawing room or rest house...and the only sign of civilization is this colorful bicycle.


Kampung Life - a Glimpse

Cattle rearing, managing livestock, growing cash crops, toil in the hot sun, all these are synonymous with village life. We happened to see all these activities in a kampung (village) near Pantai Morib.

Simple wooden house far away from pollution, speaks for itself:

The livelihood of the family that lives here depends on the cattle, goats, turkeys, chickens, a small beetle leaves plantation and leeches. Here, you don't have to worry about trying to beat the rush hour traffic to reach workplace on time or do things just because your boss says so. At first, this might sound idyllic. However, they follow disciplined schedule everyday right from dawn to dusk. In this family, each of the family members, including the 9 year old, share the chores! Nothing comes free right?

Look at the goat shack...

The minute I tried to open the lock, all the goats rushed towards me thinking that am going to take them out for grazing:)

The turkeys and the chickens where busy doing their business.

After tackling all the tireless actions in the hot sun, they work in the betel plantation in the evening.

There is a special place for betel leaves in Indian, especially Hindu culture. It is used in prayers and medicinal purposes. 

When this family learned about the monetary benefits of growing leeches through a radio program, they decided to give a shot at it as well! Since it was their trial phase, they had just converted an old water tank to grow leeches.

These young ones would become ready for market in six months. They are mainly used in beauty saloons for various treatments.

Have you heard a common joke where a dull student would be ridiculed that he is fit only for grazing the cows? The joke tries to imply that these kinds of tasks are lowly and does not require any hard work or intelligence. But, in reality, it is neither lowly nor simple. In fact it requires a lot of meticulous planning and hard work.

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