Tag Archives: travel

Life is… a few moments to live for, with years in between…

I am used to travel; lots of it, actually! I guess being in the profession that I am in, as a SAP and Learning Expert, and for as long as I have been in it, I should expect that… Last week was the second unscheduled week away from home and family, and I couldn’t see a company sponsored fly-back coming any time soon(first signs of recession?!). So I decided, after days of retrospection, to buy myself a weekend home… and started crawling around the familiar travel websites, looking for the cheapest option to fly back home on Friday night… this time on somebody’s recommendation, I looked at ezeego1.co.in. If you ask me, all these travel websites feel the same to me, but there was one thing about this website that I liked, that they displayed the total fare for a flight instead of telling me that a flight cost Rs.1000 only, and only when I clicked on one of the obscure links around it, I would find out that the added taxes(?!) would total up to quadruple the original cost! Seeing the total fare accelerated my selection time…

I quickly found a flight that suited my schedule and paid for it, only to be told after the transaction concluded, that “E-Ticket cannot be printed”… I called the airline and was told that they had not received payment from the travel website and as such, my booking was unconfirmed. The woman on the line politely indicated, that I might have to pay for my ticket (again?!) at the airport in case the payment was not received in the few hours before the flight… ok, long story short, Ezeego1 assured me that I would receive a confirmed e-ticket on email and I did, after which I thought it prudent to check with the airline… so I called Air-India to check, and I found a female voice on the other side who was extremely uncomfortable speaking either Hindi or English… I managed to extract the information I needed, and after an uncomfortable silence, the lady said “OK, what do you want?”, and I realized why we’re still a third world country and hung up… I thought there would have been a selection process for airline staff who need to answer calls from international travellers, maybe I was wrong, or perhaps our national carrier has set the bar too low!

Got to the airport after a 2 hour drive through Friday-night-madness-traffic in Bangalore… and had an uneventful trip home, finally arriving at my in-laws’ doorstep at 12:15 AM, to see my wife and daughter waiting for me downstairs…

Throughout my 14 month old stint as a father, I have never been away from my daughter for more than a few days, and the insecurity that I might return from a trip to see my daughter wonder, even for a second, who I was… kept me from accepting longer tours of duty…  I must admit, that the same paranoid thoughts were going through my mind when I saw her that night, but her beaming smile told me everything I needed to know… Mau was thrilled that Pa was back…

Minutes later, I saw my firstborn walk on her own, for the first time…

…and suddenly, I didn’t know why I even had second thoughts about coming back, I would never have forgiven myself for missing this. But thankfully that was not how it was meant to be, and I guess that’s what the essence of life is, a few glorious moments that make life worth living, even if there is absolute frustration and boredom surrounding those moments… I would have flown around the world twice over… hell, I would have walked all the way, if I knew I was going to watch my beautiful sunbeam take her few tentative steps into my arms on her own little two feet…

One of the worst bosses I have ever worked for… once said, “Family is everything”. He’d be glad to know that I agree…

A Bangalore story…

All right, if one more Bangalorean (or should that have been Benguluru-ian?) tells me that traffic is the city’s worst problem, I’m going to cause a traffic jam myself… Don’t worry about how I’m going to manage that, there are enough examples around me to learn really quickly from, I guess the bigger problem is going to be finding an unclogged street to clog!

If you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up at 12:23 in the night, this is why…
Some time ago, this evening, I was in a taxi (no names, I’m afraid of lawsuits, but they’re the one’s with the bluish Logans in Bangalore and bluish Esteems in Bombay, now you guess…) trying to get from a remote-ish part of town to a slightly less remote part of town and we’d just started… when something really weird (but common in Bangalore, I was told) happened. Our chauffeur was guiding the taxi out of a mud road into an intersection where in front of us, there was a truck approaching and from the distant right, a bike with three people on it… Neither the truck driver nor our chauffeur expected the biker to try to squeeze in between us, two larger vehicles almost nose to nose on a narrow road, but believe it or not, he did… and ended up crashing into the taxi’s driver side door at decent speed causing a sizeable dent, and almost inserting his pillion riders under the truck’s wheels. The truck driver, obviously worldly-wise about bike-etiquette in this part of town, braked long enough for the two passengers to pick themselves up and run like their bums were on fire, and then drove casually along to wherever he was headed…

The rider of the ill-fated motorcycle, a scared, weepy schoolkid without (obviously!) a drivers license, or any money, was quickly rounded up by the locals, one of whom(I’ll call him the idea-man) decided to educate our chauffeur on the best strategy to adopt to settle this issue, while some drunks from a local “country” joint decided to entertain themselves by trying to slap some good driving habits into this kid.

Now, since the kid did not have any money, the crowd decided that they would keep the bike hostage while the kid arranged for the funds to repair the taxi. At this point, I was very curious to know what they’d planned for me to do in the meanwhile. The chauffeur said after consultations with idea-man, that he’d leave the bike there but keep the key, drop me to my destination, then come back and sort this out. I went back and sat in the car, which was parked(?) brilliantly in the middle of the road, and waited…

Looking impatiently out of the window, I suddenly saw Mr. idea-man hurriedly taking Mr. chauffeur aside, while the crowd decided to disperse rather quickly, leaving only the three of them there. Considering the commotion just a moment ago, you’d find it difficult to believe how scores of people can disappear that quickly. But they did, and so did Mr. idea man, probably after running out of ideas. Mr. Chauffeur had a quick chat with Mr. Biker and I saw Mr. Biker hand his mobile phone over to Mr. Chauffeur, and take his key back… Now I was puzzled, big time!

When Mr. Chauffeur returned and finally drove us away, I asked him what made the crowd disappear like that, and he said, “Sir, that boy… that boy, Muslim boy, people don’t want trouble…”. The statement floored me, it was almost as if he’d said that kid was from Mars and had a plasma-gun in his pants. I asked him why he took his mobile phone, and he said “I ask him to give call on his own phone, that way he won’t know my number… no trouble for me… then when he calls, I ask him come to workshop and settle repair money, I not come here again…”  …end of story!

I know this sounds preachy, but for a country that’s upto it’s own neck in all we keep saying and saying about protecting ourselves from hostile outsiders, we have a long way to go in facing our own prejudices.

I remember someone asking me recently, how I feel when I go into a Muslim-dominated area… all right, let’s give this some thought… how am I supposed to feel? Hang on a minute, am I even supposed to feel something? If I wanted to go to some place where I wanted to feel something, I’d go to Venice, or Everest, or the North Pole for God’s sake (now don’t ask me which one… God that is…)

What I feel when I go to a Muslim-dominated area is nothing… I don’t feel like patronizing anybody by saying I feel more love for humanity when I go there, I also don’t feel alienated like a lot of people would admit to feeling.

I am a Hindu, but I’m not proud of it… it’s not the religion I have a problem with, it’s being slotted. The day I was born, I was the same ugly, pink, wailing, slimy little creature with a pipeline hanging out of my belly like everybody else…  I didn’t ask to be categorized on the basis of my birthday, my colour, my religion, my nationality, my education, my IQ, my political views, my sexuality…  it’s something that happened after that, and its something I have to live with. Hopefully, by the time my child grows up, we’d have done something about this human fascination with categorization… hopefully!

One image comes to mind, and floods me with hope… an image of a policeman shot in the chest outside CST Station in Mumbai, being carried like a child by a huge bearded man, his religious preference being made obvious by his missing moustache, on a bike to hospital in an obvious disregard to religious prejudices, probably ending up saving his life. I guess it takes an attack to our very core, to bring out the humans in us… but I wish there was an easier way, a way that wouldn’t have to take close to 200 lives…

This post ended up a little profound, and it wasn’t intended… but what the hell, it’s my blog!

See you on the other side of some more Bengaluru-traffic-and-its-strange-stories.

Agony and Ecstasy

For the first time in my three week long existence in the blogging world, I am about to do something that every blogger is expected to do all the time… I am about to post something without having a real reason to, and believe me, there is an eerie kind of pleasure in doing this.

Today, actually in the next hour or so, I will have completed my assignment here and left Kolkata for home base. I leave with mixed feelings. That, I guess, contributed to the title. On the one hand I’m pleased at completing my mission, acing another assignment, going home… on the other, there’s something about this place, and the bitter-sweet experiences I’ve had while I was here that make me just a little sad…

The uncertainty of what the future holds for me is what gives me wings… I thrive on the rush, the high I feel when I negotiate turn after
unpredictable turn, in life… so going home not knowing what it holds for me does not scare me, in fact it excites me… still, there’s something about these few weeks that have probably changed me forever… and I will always hold Kolkata in memory for this…

Incidentally, last night I experienced something very heartwarming on a cold stormy street, something that’s special because of how unexpected it was… I was in a car in the Salt Lake area, heading towards City Center, a local hangout. Neither the driver nor me had any idea where we were, though we knew we were close to the place. So I did what a lost soul does best… I popped my head out of the car and yelled “City Center?” without looking at whether there was anybody there. Unfortunately, there was a dignified looking old man, wearing a spotless white T-shirt and gray trackpants standing right there… and I hadn’t seen him there. My yell scared the living daylights out of him, and I immediately apologized, though I thought his reaction was funny.

Regaining his composure, he pointed his walking stick back towards the ground (as soon as he jumped back, startled, he’d pointed his stick at me like some kind of shotgun, I think he must be a retired serviceman or something…) and told me, “You have to go right from here”. I looked right and saw there was no break in the divider for us to turn through, but I looked back at him and said “Thank you”, expecting it to be a simple “Go
straight-take-U-turn-go-straight-again-turn-left” affair. But as we drove ahead to take a U-turn, I could see that the old man was looking worried if I’d got the instructions right. I didn’t, in my wildest imagination, expect what he did next… he trotted across to the divider behind us, crossed it and the rest of the road before we turned and reached there, and motioned to me… I got the driver to stop, expecting the man to probably ask for a lift or something. The man just pointed down the road and said, “This way… just keep going straight for a mile and you’ll find it…” and walked back across the road without even waiting for my “Thank you”. Amazing… aint it ?

I know it sounds like an ordinary story, but there’s a reason why it’s special to me… I think one reason why ordinary human beings don’t go out of their way to help other ordinary human beings is because most of the time we don’t appreciate it enough, and what this old man did for me, I wanted to appreciate from the bottom of my cynical heart.

Dear Mr. Good-Samaritan-In-Salt-Lake, Thank you and if you don’t mind me saying it, Cool Trackpants, dude!!!

Bye Bye Kolkata !

Adios, folks… me is off to the home… when I get the connected to the Internet again, I write more post to the blog. Till then, take care… and happy ruminating !

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

A tale of two temples: Part I

When I started posting to this blog, I’d made a list of those topics that I wouldn’t write about… I guess all of us here have done that at some stage. Today I break that promise… by writing about a subject that has already earned more than it’s fair share of controversy and debate in recent times; “Religion”. No, I’m not a very religious person… In fact most people that know me personally would say that I wasn’t religious at all. But the truth is at times, like most people, whenever it is convenient, whenever I find myself in a situation that I think is not within my complete control, I do depend on an unknown force to help me pull through.

I was born into a Hindu household, but I respect Hinduism as a faith, more than a religion. In this, I respect Hinduism only as another pair of glasses people wear to depend on the unknown. Hinduism is the pair of glasses I have been brought up to wear, but I don’t think it gives me any better a view of God than Islam or Christianity or Sikhism or any other “religion”. Which explains why I’m most comfortable keeping my faith private, very private. This begs the question: if I want to keep my faith private, why in hell (or heaven) am I writing about it in a public space… Let me explain… Your’s truly does not visit a lot of temples. In fact, the last two times I did (in 3 years), I did it to keep somebody else’s commitments. Both of my experiences reinforce a point I’m trying to emphasize in this post. On Sunday, the 15th of May 2005, I decided to visit Kalighat Temple in the City of Joy. I went there only because I didn’t want to sound rude and spoilsport to the company I was keeping. Let’s just say that I have the experience to know that even today, most people do not look at a person who refuses to visit a place of worship, as a normal person. So they proposed and I went along… with an open mind. Besides, most “Citizens” of Joy highly recommended this visit. Anyway, this is what happened: As we stepped out of our car, three bare bodied “Pandits” with super-sized Tilaks insisted on escorting us inside the temple. We thought, “Well, they think we’re wide-eyed tourists… we’ll show them…” and said to them in a relatively authoritarian tone, “We’ll find our way around, thank you!”. I must have had a particularly uninviting expression on my face, which is probably why two of them grumbled and left. The one who remained calmly said “This is my job, don’t worry… this way please” and kept walking a couple of feet ahead of us, continuously warding off the flower-sellers, beggars and assorted junior pandits who seemed to be falling off the very walls of that entrance in front of us. He led us straight to a dingy shop in the corridor where there were assorted ingredients for a “Pooja” being sold for the “right” price and almost ordered us to keep our shoes there. I immediately did what a true Arian does in such situations and straightened up and told him to piss off and that I didn’t need his help to get around. As soon as I did that, a couple of people standing there made some noise about how you should not speak with anger with a “Pandit”, at which I lost it completely and asked them to piss off too, though in much more politically correct language. I swear I didn’t swear even once… we proceeded to another stall, took our shoes off and asked for the Pooja platter. The man at the stall proceeded to load a small 9-inch plate with about 20 kilos of stuff, including but not limited to, 2 coconuts, a huge garland, a box of vermilion, and hundreds of smaller unidentifiable trinkets. You couldn’t imagine how much stuff you could balance on a small metal plate 9 inches in diameter, but let’s not change the topic. I asked him how much the platter was for, and he cutely said, “We have a wide range, Rs.501, Rs.751…”, I cut him off and said “Rs. 51 please…”. I have never seen a quicker change of expression than at that instance. Suddenly, the contents of that platter miraculously reduced to just one coconut and a half-dried garland. I thought, “What the heck… it’s the feeling that counts”, and left towards where I thought the entrance of the temple was, but I was in for another surprise… I knew then that this was just the beginning…

“Walk this way…”, one of the hangers-on said, more like an order than a request, “and take your socks off too, they’ll get wet”. I looked quizzically at the man in the stall and he said, “He’s your Pandit… he’ll take you inside, you won’t have to stand in the queue!”. We followed, like ants in a straight line… As we entered a shabby corridor, one side of which was occupied by at least 10 beggars, most of who looked pretty affluent for beggars. As we walked inside, our Pandit whispered in my ear, “Your jewelry, your money and your cameras…. Be VERY careful!”. “Yeah, right, I thought… the only ambiguity is about who gets to rob me first…”.

The atmosphere inside the place was decidedly spooky, strange people lying motionless on the ground here and there, like dead… several pandits staring knives and daggers at us. The irritation I was feeling was overwhelming as compared to the spookiness, and faith was nowhere in the picture. As we walked around a smallish, very dirty building, I noticed… there was NO queue… “Sucker…”, I told myself, ”but what the heck, the faster I’m through this, the better.”. He led us to a closed door, a man sitting beside it, apparently the Pandit in charge of worshipping whatever was behind that door (We were later told that was the sanctum sanctorum). The Pandit asked us to recite a few mantras after him and noticeably accelerated proceedings after looking at the suspicious way in which I was staring at him. Trust me, I have heard Sanskrit and Bengali before, but whatever he was muttering sounded like it was straight from Qo’nos!

A few seconds later, he borrowed a coconut from our platter, repeated some of the gibberish, sprinkled it with some vermilion and said the first intelligible thing in several minutes, “Rs. 501 please…”. This time, I thought I’d take it cool, and took out a 50-rupee note and placed it on the coconut. The respected Pandit took the note and threw it back at me… and said, “If you can’t honor God, why do you come here?”. Seething, I asked him, “What does a poor man do here?”, and he said, “Even the poor pay more…”. I said, “What difference does it make? God has no use for money… and you look rich enough already!”, and was immediately asked by those with me to shut up… eventually I didn’t pay him more than Rs. 51, but I was too sore to continue this any further… but my torture didn’t end there…

By now I was tiring of being the pain in the ass for everybody around but for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to think that it was all right to shower money on people masquerading as agents of God. I was convinced it was wrong to do so… and my conviction was strengthened quickly by what happened immediately after. The Pandit escorting us told me it was not a good thing to question age-old rituals and the guardians of the same. I didn’t argue, only because by now, I was tired of being the only cynic around. We went around another small, even dirtier building, the gates to which were locked, but there were at least three or four people lying on the floor inside, making me wonder how they got inside in the first place. By now, the place had started to resemble the aftermath of a wild rave party, with people lying around the place in meth, coke or ecstasy induced slumber. There, a fat dude, again with a larger-than-life Tilak on his forehead, called us to another door, with a few stairs leading to it. We were made to stand on the stairs, three abreast, and after some more gibberish, we were told by our escort that the fat dude was the chief Pandit in the temple and if he performs our Pooja, any wish we make could be realized. A few seconds later, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a few other people undergoing the same treatment and heard, to my surprise, their escort telling them that the man in front of them was the head Pandit of the temple!

I played along, by now, all religious thoughts banished from my mind. Never before, I tell you, had I felt so atheist in my life, but why blame God for what his representatives do? Then, something right out of a Hindi film happened! A man walked up behind us, and passed on a 500-rupee note to the Pandit and said, “Mr. Anil Chaudary sent this for a Pooja”. The Pandit, temporarily interrupting proceedings, went on a little tirade complaining about how he does not do Poojas with such small offerings. Then, nonchalantly, his point made, he continued and some more mantras later, asked me to place some money on top of the coconut he was holding. I proceeded to place Rs.101 on his palm, and he looked at me like I was covered in something green and slimy and said, “You should not insult the Gods like this, we don’t even accept anything less than Rs.1001, at least do more than this! ”, showing me the 500-rupee note that the imaginary “Mr. Chaudary” had sent. I told him I couldn’t better that and this time, I was being absolutely honest… I hadn’t expected this to be such an expensive trip and had left my money in the car. Our man proceeded to lecture me about how he was the head Pandit of the place and if we couldn’t afford him we shouldn’t have come to him in the first place. He also happened to tell off our escort for bringing such cheap devotees to him. I told him, “I didn’t come here to meet the top Pandit, I came here to look for God, like all other devotees… so if you feel heartbroken about this, sorry but you’re not any more or less important to me than any of the others here…”.

I didn’t want to lecture him, particularly because that’s my profession and I hate it when I get into a lecture, especially when I’m not being paid for it. I was boiling inside by now, so I told him to give us the Pooja offering so we could leave. As we left, we went to the stall to fetch our footwear, and I paid the stall-owner the promised Rs. 50, when our escort said, “Sir, give me Rs.100 too, I ensured you didn’t have to take the queue”. I was stunned. I asked him “What queue?”, a question he didn’t answer but instead said, “I also took you to the head Pandit, and not many people have the good fortune of getting their Pooja done by him”. I said ”You’re lucky we’re near a temple, because otherwise you’d have been on the floor, counting the teeth that fell out of your mouth when I whacked your face. Take what I’m giving you and shut up… before I lose whatever decency I have left in me…”.

I walked off with thoughts in my mind of how long it’s been since I’ve spoken to anybody in that tone, but I was really over the edge by then. I walked away from that place feeling ashamed, frustrated, angry, disillusioned, violent and embarrassed, all at the same time, but definitely not anything I expected to feel after a close encounter with something so celestial. And looking back, I now realize just how violent and rebellious that hour-long trip down salvation alley made me feel. I had never felt this way before, and I hope I will never have to. I’ve come close to feeling like this, though. That was about a year ago at another temple, one that was much smaller and lesser known than the Kalighat temple, several thousand miles away to the west coast of the country. But more on that in part II

One thing I just realized is that, at the end of the day at Kalighat, after all the racket and the emotions involved, we eventually never got to see the Goddess… aint that strange ?

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Time Flies when you’re having fun…

That should read: MY time flies when YOU‘re having fun… I’m back to the other side of the country after an ultra-eventful weekend back home. I wrote before I left about how pleased I was about this happening… On my return here, however, I don’t really know if it was really worth it… I hardly found enough time to do anything I wanted. This morning I woke up really really early at home wondering where I was… and for the first time in my life, praying that I didn’t have to go. It’s strange because I’m the kind of person who’d happily hop onto any kind of transport to travel anywhere as long as I got to be on my own… That was a few months ago…

Now, after 12 flights in one month, across the length and the breadth of the subcontinent, and this coming in a year that has seen me travel over 30 times to as many as 6 countries. That should keep any wanderer satisfied, shouldn’t it? Well, among the million things I’m feeling right now, satisfied is not one of the adjectives I would use to describe any one of them. Better words are tired, drawn, burnt-out, irritable, irritating, confused, exhausted… HOMESICK etc. etc…

I hate that I had to add HOMESICK to the list above… at one stage in my life, I would have thought it extremely insulting for anyone to have asked me if I was homesick… I pride myself on my fierce independence and my insatiable wanderlust. I still think of myself as a nomad, traveling always excites me… but today, after a 2 hour 30 minute flight across the country on Business Class, I feel deprived.

It’s not that when I’m back home or close to home, life is always perfect. Well it’s anything but. Still, for some strange reason, sometimes, I
feel good about traveling only for the high that I associate with coming back, something like the after-effects of abstinence…

Maybe it’s got something to do with how work has taken over most parts of my life, maybe it’s got something to do with repetition, monotony, but I still find my work fun… it’s a passion for me, and I think it doesn’t look like that’s going to change very soon…

It almost makes me cry when I think about things I haven’t done in a long time… hosting a party at home with friends in whose company you
tend to forget the artificiality of real life, walk through the clouds watching the raindrops forming around you and falling so gently that you get wet without even feeling it, take my bike out and ride at 125kmph with the wind blowing in my hair and the adrenaline pumping in my veins… watch a movie that makes me laugh… or cry with somebody I want to laugh or cry with… wake up at 12 in the afternoon only to go back to sleep for another hour and not end up feeling guilty about it… the list is endless…

No, I’m not depressed… although I know this post makes it difficult to believe… No I’m not depressed, I know, trust me, I’ve been depressed before and I know how it feels…

I’m determined… to dream about things I love doing, and things I would love to do… I’m even more determined to chase those dreams till they become real.

And I think one of the many things that will help me is to decide to do what I want to do more often than those things that I have to do…

Till then, back to work…

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]

Somebody up there, likes me… at least for today

I have spent the last week wondering if a human being could actually will something to happen to him. I am not an overtly religious person, but I have always depended on an unknown, unseen force to pull me out of situations I don’t find myself comfortable handling. More often than not, I succeed, but I give credit to the unseen force even if it may have been my efforts that achieved the desired results. It makes me feel more human. And who doesn’t like wishing for something and seeing it come true, even if somehow, secretly, unintentionally, their own actions were, in some way responsible for what happens?
Now in the process of chasing storms for the perfect footage, I was subjecting myself to an overdose of wishing, and hoping… At the same time, my assignment in a city I have not entirely come to like (as yet) was keeping me adequately busy… In my free time, when I wasn’t looking up in the sky for lightning or watching the rain or lying down or watching TV, I was wishing I could get some excuse to go
back to the city I love, for the weekend… My client had just funded a round trip back to my city last weekend and would have thrown a fit if I had so much as hinted at spending another 20k of their money just to spend a couple of days in the place I grew up in… The company I work for had no reason to intervene… If you ask my client, they’d tell you that I’m doing a kick-ass job here, and my company wouldn’t risk that kind of feedback for the world. So I gave up on the wish, well almost… Till today, I received a call from my office back home… asking me what I’m doing for the weekend and if I’d mind coming back for a couple of days and then return back to my assignment on Monday morning. There had been a grave problem at office and my presence was needed in a hurry. God bless problems… what do you think I said? In my head, I was saying “YESSSSSSSSS, YESSSSSSS !!!!” like an east europian pornstar, but I actually put on my best “Let me check my schedule” tone-of-voice and said “Maybe I do mind, you could have given me longer notice… wellllll, anyway, ok… I think I should be able to…”

Jumped on the web, booked a ticket online in about 0.543 seconds flat. Ok, that was a minor exaggeration, it could have taken marginally longer… You know, for a techie, you can’t imagine how much this online-booking concept scares me… anyway at the end of it, guess what…

I AM going home………….. So what if it’s just for a couple of days?
Only tonight, I’m hoping there’s no storm… there you go… that’s another wish… anybody listening up there?

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]