Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting that Yellow Fever Jab in Bangalore

[The procedure for getting the yellow fever vaccine in Bangalore appears to have changed since I posted this. Thanks to "Anonymous" in the Comments section for providing the updated procedure (as of Jan 2014). Here is what he/she says:

"The vaccine costs 400/- INR now. 
1. Get your appointment on Mondays, preferably before noon, by calling  080- 22210248 for an appointment for Wednesday (if Wednesday is a public holiday, the jab is administered on Thursday).
2. Carry a copy of your travel tickets & your original passport. 
3. Go to the center by 9:30 AM. Google Maps gets you there perfectly. You have parking as well. 
4. Your name is called out at 10:00 AM. Works very efficiently. Fill in the simple form, go to the room next door, pay the fees and you get a receipt. 
5. Come back with the form & the receipt. Your yellow card is issued with a number on it. Fill in your name, passport number, DOB & mandatory requirements. 
6. Go to the administrator & your number is called out.
7. Get the jab - if you are in by 9:30 AM, you can exit by 10:45 AM. 
Works very efficiently if you are organized. Extremely punctual & courteous, if you have all your paper work."]


My original post in Dec 2012 about the procedure:

In preparation for my trip to East Africa, I realised it was mandatory for all travelers going there (regardless of whether you're headed to mainland Tanzania or Zanzibar) to get a yellow fever vaccination and certificate. They will ask to see your certificate at your port of entry. If you don't have it, you will be directed to the inoculation room at the airport before you can clear immigration.

There was hardly any information online about getting the shot in Bangalore. So here’s me doing my good deed for all those trawling for information about “yellow fever vaccination in Bangalore” on the internet.

While some private hospitals (like Manipal) do administer the vaccine (I’m not sure how much they charge for this), a certificate from them is not recognized.

The only place that can issue that all-important certificate (and administer the vaccine at a subsidized rate of Rs 260) is the Public Health Institute.

I groaned when I realised this. Government organisation. And we all know how any Indian government institute is going to be. The website will tell you that the vaccines are given only every Wednesday – for which you need to make an appointment over the telephone beforehand.

So I tried calling – but each time, either nobody would pick up (big surprise there?) or even if somebody did, they’d say all the appointments were “full” (only 10 appointments are given for each Wednesday) and to call back later.

That’s when a doctor neighbour who’d gone through the rigmarole himself gave me this invaluable piece of advice on how to go about it.

1. Go to the Public Health Institute in person first thing Monday morning (9 AM) along with your passport.
2. Wait in queue there (there were about three people already waiting when I reached).
3. When the guy in charge finally shows up (around 10:30 AM), he’ll open his register and ask each person when their date of travel is. This is where you FIB. If your date of travel is even 10 days away, he’ll ask you to come back the next week. So tell him your date of travel is about a week away – he will just have to give you the appointment (and they don’t ask to see your tickets!)
4. The guy will enter your name and passport number in the register and give you the date and time of your vaccination appointment.
5. On Wednesday, show up well in time with your passport and two disposable syringes. They have their own syringes as well – a lot of people did not have their own syringes – but do you really want to risk it?
6. Once the guy in charge has arrived, he’ll cross-check your name and appointment in his register and give you a form and the yellow fever booklet to fill in before sending you to another office to pay Rs 260 (take exact change to save time).
7. With the payment receipt in hand, you will now have to wait your turn as the doctors call out each name in the order entered in the register.
8. The shot is a trifle painful (intra-muscular), but it’s valid for ten years, so that’s a blessing.
9. The doctors will sign and seal your certificate/booklet and you’re free to go.
10. Wait outside in the parking lot for the inconsiderate morons who’ve parked their two-wheelers haphazardly, blocking your exit.

I didn't spend too much time waiting around for the shot. In the time that I did have to wait, I found myself conversing with two nuns headed to Congo.

I also had time to observe this braggart who was first in queue for the appointment. He looked dressed for Africa already – a safari hat atop his bald head and a long handlebar mustache. Was he headed on a hunting expedition? “Look at my passport,” he declared, rifling through the pages dramatically to show his neighbour, who looked on quietly. “I have been to so many countries, you know!” Obviously not pleased with his neighbour’s lack of adulation, he turned to the third person in queue and brandished his passport. “I have traveled everywhere!”

Okay, wise guy. Obviously, “everywhere” does not include Africa and South America – two continents that require you to have the yellow fever vaccination which is valid for ten years.

On the day of the vaccination, the guy had changed considerably – the hat and handlebar mustache were gone. What was even more conspicuous in its absence was his bluster. The wind had been let out of his sails and he sat quietly, glumly staring at the floor. I think somebody was mortally afraid of injections. *Smirk*

Public Health Institute (Opposite: S.J.Polytechnique college),
Near Atria Hotel/ K.R Circle, Bangalore-560001
Telephone Number: 080-22210248

(Landmark: Maharani’s College. The quickest route I found from the centre of town was from Vittal Mallya road, cutting through Cubbon Park and coming out onto the crazy roundabout at Nrupathanga Road)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Skybrawl or Something Like It

Something I thought quite impossible happened last night. I watched the new Bond flick “Skyfall”. In a theatre. I paid good money to watch Daniel Craig try to act in a role that I believe rightfully belongs to Pierce Brosnan. The only money I've paid earlier for Craig-as-Pains-Bond films is about Rs 50 for a DVD from Mr. Dodgy DVD Guy.

It was painful. No, don’t get me wrong. The movie itself was nice. I actually enjoyed it, even if I did wince now and then when I saw a striking resemblance between Craig and Alfred E. Neuman. (If you’re going to protest my opinion, I suggest self-immolation.)

The movie viewing experience was the painful part. As my rotten luck would have it, I ended up sitting beside a young boy, who looked about 12 or 13. I didn't think I’d have any trouble. At that age, there isn't any bawling and crying - unless you kick them in the shins or give them a really bad wedgie.

The movie was scheduled to begin at 9:30 PM. As always, it began with dozens of commercials. The boy’s reaction to this should have given me some warning about what lay ahead. He kept yelling, “Start the movie!” which was okay for the first 15 minutes, but then it really started to get old and, frankly, quite pointless. The commercials rambled on for a good 30 minutes, regularly interspersed with “Start the movie!” cries from my unrelenting neighbour. At 25 minutes, I saw his point. While Krook and KO nodded in support of his clamour, I beseeched, “Start the movie already! This punk’s popping my right ear drum!”

I almost clapped with relief as Craig flickered onto the screen and my neighbour settled down.

My relief was short-lived. I soon realized that he was one of those kids who couldn't keep still even for a second. He kept shuffling around, violently shifting about in his seat every minute. I theorized that his pubes had chosen that particular evening to start growing out and were prickly or something. Only that could explain such blatant discomfort.

The boy then put his filthy socked feet on the seat. That did not concern me. What irked me was that he then lay down sideways in his seat, leaning against his mother on the other side, while resting his toe-jammy hooves against my legs. When it became quite clear that I was to play footstool to this little punk, I voiced my protest.

“Excuse me.”

No response. From either him or his mother, who was also curled up in the same position, leaning against her husband. They looked like they were cuddled together on the family couch at home. Only, I was there. Being a freaking footstool saying "Excuse me". For someone who smelled like decomposing cabbage.

“Excuse me!”

Still no response.

So I did the next best thing. I jabbed him in the ribs. He sprang up as I hissed, “Move your feet.” With a mumbled apology, he sat upright for a little while.

Soon, he decided to curl his feet under him. While doing so, he kicked the tub of popcorn resting beside me on my seat. Another quick mumbled apology followed. Luckily for him, I was nauseous from the assault of toe jam and sweet caramel popcorn on my senses. I nodded benevolently and general bonhomie was restored.

Not for long. In time, while the uncomfortable shuffling continued, I felt his elbow touch my arm and then come to rest quite comfortably against it. I figured he wasn't aware of this clear violation of personal space – since he’d proved himself to be somewhat socially daft already. So I politely wiggled my arm a bit to alert him.

No response. The elbow was still comfortably nestling into my arm. My arm wasn't even resting on the arm rest. Little Punk had clearly breached the border and didn't care. Either that or he had a prosthetic arm. How can you not sense you’re touching another person?

With a sigh, I considered my options.

I could go with the idea that the arm was a prosthetic. I could yank it off and beat him with it.


Only there would be hysterical parents and child abuse lawsuits and serial child beater tags to deal with for a long time after.

Reluctantly, I went with my second option. I shoved him with my arm, made a big “pssk” sound with my lips and glared at him, making Kathakali eyes.

Maybe that worked. Or maybe my threatening thoughts were conveyed to him telepathically in that moment. Or maybe he thought I was having a weird facial spasm that was contagious. Whatever it was, something worked.

He shrank away, drew his arms close to himself, placed his feet back on the floor and very quietly and motionlessly watched the rest of the movie.

A wise judgment call by him I’d say. One more infraction from him and I’d have boxed his ears so hard, he’d need closed captioning for his next Bond film. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On Renouncing Random Revelry

I do not go to random parties any more. You know, the kind where you sort of know one person and this sort-of-known person invites you along to a party being hosted by a person sort of known to him/her at a location mostly unknown to everyone.

It used to be fun meeting new people. Although lots of the new people I have met recently have been, for the most part, uninteresting. True fact. Everyone seems to be so caught up in working on their outer trappings – what we look like, what we have, our next Facebook profile picture, what we are perceived as, climbing the professional and social ladder and so on. We seem to have forgotten just keeping it simple and keeping it real.

The upside of random parties is that it gives you anecdotes to narrate at other random parties or just a funny tale to narrate to the inner circle of buddies.

I am reminded of this party KO and I found ourselves at some time ago. As we walked in, we realized we were amongst the few Indians there. Everyone else was French. There was plenty of alcohol and not much food. This mad-hatter, we sort of knew, unwrapped what looked like a large mound of road kill and dumped it on the barbecue. He may have run over a cow on his way and robbed it of its entire rump. Or that could have been his missing roommate. Who knows? It just looked (and smelled) really dodgy. Nobody touched it. He ate most of it himself. The potted out French people spent hours examining and cooing over a dragonfly. I got into a contest of “who has the oldest friend?” with a couple of fetuses and won. The socially awkward host had a monosyllabic name that I cannot recall. The mad-hatter made the French people dance to traditional Indian folk tunes. The best part about that party was leaving it.

My first Spanish teacher’s Christmas party was another disaster. Bin, BC and I had high expectations, thinking this would be a really fun party with lots of new and interesting people. We drove around in circles looking for a “Basset Road” as my teacher had instructed. People gave us the strangest looks as we asked for directions to said Basset Road. When we finally reached, we learned why. It was “Basith Road”. There were just six or seven people at the party. Our fun gay Spanish classmate slipped out quickly and we were soon bored. There was a German Yoga teacher who bowed deeply each time she whispered. She only whispered. At some point in this group coma session, her cocky 19-year-old son trotted over to us and said, “You know, OUR parties are not like this.” I wanted to poke him in the head. My Spanish teacher insisted on collecting all our disposable plates before washing and scrubbing them. All the while she bellowed at her husband, “Jaaveed! Why you bought plastic plate? I hate eet! I HATE EET!” All of Basset Road must know that now.

At another party, hosted on the occasion of Diwali, the gates were flung wide open for anyone. Literally anyone walked in, off the street, for free food and booze. The terrace area was packed with energetic dancing people. Bin was doing the “looking-for-my-cockatoo” dance with random strangers. I found Krazy Frog welcoming people at the gate with hugs and handshakes –inviting people he didn’t know to a party he wasn’t hosting. In fact, he didn’t even know who the host was.  Nobody did. The stuffed shirt we’d met an hour earlier got into a fight with a drunken stranger. There was a scuffle. Suddenly, everybody wanted to beat everybody up. In the midst of that row, the host’s father was beseeching people to eat biryani. We left. There was more action there than we could handle.

So yes, I think I am done with the random parties (for the most part). Random parties may make for amusing anecdotes, but time spent with my closer friends makes for lovely memories. That’s a deal clincher right there.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Missing the Woods for the Trees

The blood relative I call my mother has begun taking driving lessons. After years of driving everybody around the bend and notorious backseat driving, she has now ventured behind the wheel. I watch the proceedings with a certain amount of skepticism tinged with amusement.

For years, my mother claimed she was fully capable of driving. This after learning at the most popular driving school in the hills I call home. 

This school boasts of an ancient Wilys jeep with just a single gear. There is no ignition. They teach you to start it by rubbing two wires together. There is no horn. The British probably stole it along with the Kohinoor. Instead, students must stick their heads out and yell. There are no wipers. One must stick the old neck out and drive during a downpour. They list a raincoat as compulsory safety gear in the school’s manual. The instructor has no dual control. In fact, he has no control. He chooses to nap while the jeep careens all around town and over the hillside. 

So you can imagine that a real driving school car with a real instructor and real driving came as something of a surprise to my mother. She’s learnt that cars can have as many gears as she has fingers on a single hand. Keep the car on the road, not the kerb. “Ooops, sorry!” doesn’t quite cut it when you nudge an old woman off the kerb. Don your seatbelt and not a raincoat when you step into the car. 

Not too shabby for twenty days of lessons, eh?

And before people begin chastising me for mocking a blood relative, let me tell you – I have high regard for my mother’s decision to get behind the wheel when others her age are getting on wheelchairs. Of even more significance is the fact that my maternal side of the family would not qualify, by any stretch of the imagination, for excellence in driving awards. 

While the younger lot have driven their cars into hedges and unwittingly parked their luxury sedans atop coffee bushes, my maternal grandfather earned the dubious title of “The Flying Thatha (grandfather)”.

His cars ran out of clutch plates faster than his house ran out of milk. He didn’t think it necessary to keep an eye on the road. Being slightly hard of hearing, he’d twist his head all the way around to listen to his passengers in the backseat while zooming up the winding roads. He’d lean out his window and wave – with both arms – at the innumerous people he knew walking along the road. 

However, his moment of fame came when his brakes failed and he flew off the side of the hill, crash-landing on trees in the valley a 100 feet below. While the car was a total write-off, he emerged quite unscathed with just one regret: “I lost my gum boot.”

What else would you expect from anyone who survived a near-fatal crash?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

To All The Travellers I’ve Loathed Before

(And shall loathe ever more)

Dear Indian Traveller,

I am going to just come right out and say it. You have exhausted my patience. I am tired of cringing in embarrassment at your obnoxious behaviour while on holiday, on domestic and foreign soil. Allow me to elaborate on a few of your more popular misdemeanours.

My shoulder is not a headrest. Or if you insist on making use of my shoulder to rest your oily mop, at least do me the kindness of not hogging the arm rest. How about a little give and take? I do not take kindly to being your beast of burden, especially on a flight that is longer than, oh, three minutes. On the same note, I will not accommodate the filthy shoes, diapers and face wipes of your mewling and puking infant. I do not appreciate your spawn kids wiping their grubby hands on my jeans or sticking boogers under the seat. How about some respect for personal space?

My lap is not your feeding trough. You may not need to ask for that extra serving of scrambled egg if you didn’t splatter a generous helping of your breakfast on my lap. Please refrain from blowing your nose into the white cold towel handed to you. The seat pocket in front of you is certainly not a place to stuff your soiled snot-laden towel.

I’m all for interesting conversation with a co-passenger. Make that mutually interesting conversation. Hitting on me is interesting only to you. So are topics such as the precarious condition of your digestive system, your erratic bowel movements, your bunions, your daughter’s chastity until marriage, your thousand pilgrimages with your Sharmy Aunty and so on. And forgive me for not sharing every detail of my life with you, a stranger. That does not make me a cold person. It makes you a nosy person.

Why must you leap up and stand at the ready as soon as the plane touches down? It makes it worse when you’re in the middle seat. I have no burning desire to be staring at your mostly repulsive derriere until passengers can actually disembark. And why must you plonk your hand baggage on my head while you wait?

Moving on from airplane etiquette now.

I understand that the concept of queuing up and politely waiting one's turn is largely alien to our culture. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt to learn it now, you know. It is not okay to asphyxiate a solo traveler trying to find information at a kiosk. It is not okay to pull his chair out from under him. And it certainly isn’t all right to give each other high fives after having successfully ousted him from the kiosk.

This might come as something of a surprise to you. But nobody really wants to know who you are and where you’re going. Must you compete with the decibel levels of a public announcement system?

Scowling at and being rude to a confused salesgirl is not going to help matters. Especially when you are the moron who walks into a swimwear shop that is covered with bikinis and asks for “long trouser”.

Finally, you and I just happen to be from the same country of origin. That does not necessarily mean we have a whole lot in common, we should be travel buddies or that we must even pretend to like each other. When you go down in a blaze of unglory, try not to take me down with you. That’s all.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Where there's a wheel, there's a weak heart

Too much has been said about bad drivers. I wish more were said about bad passengers or navigators.

Now if you are someone who has had to drive around a new city or an unfamiliar part of town with an absolute waste of human flesh sitting in the passenger seat trying to give you directions, you’ll get my drift.

Take my mother, for instance. As I approach a busy intersection, I ask her (well in advance) “So do I turn right or left here?” She answers with “meep” or some other sort of sub-human noise until I find myself having to stop in the middle of the busy intersection, blinking in absolute confusion, as she swivels the old head around 360 degrees and then says, “Stop…. I think you have to go back”. By this time, of course, the traffic cop is clicking my picture, annoyed male drivers are yelling unkind things about my gender and a fruit seller is having a minor meltdown trying to convince me that the thing I need most in this dire situation is a pineapple.

Then there are the finger pointers. “Take a left here” they say while the alien hand confidently points right. Or there’s a confident gesture saying “straight ahead”, which wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t at a sodden T-junction.

Now, let’s not jump to conclusions and figure that only directionally challenged women make bad navigators. My friend G2 could prove you wrong in a jiffy. Before setting off on our recent road trip to the coast, we picked him up from a part of town only he was familiar with.

- “Which way now, G2?”
- “Just go straight ahead.”
- “But it’s a one way!”
- “(Gasp) Where did all these one-way signs come from? They weren’t there last night!”
- “Now where do I go? This says ‘no entry, roadwork ahead.”
- “THOOO! Just go through this. Idiots simply put signs up for nothing.”

Two minutes later, we found ourselves in the middle of what was once a road with mounds of mud and open storm water drains all around us. There was nowhere to go but back.

Once we finally made it to the highway with G2 still holding onto his place in the navigator seat, I instructed him to warn Cheddar, who was driving, about any upcoming speed breakers. “Of course”, he said matter of factly before jamming his peak cap down firmly on his head and donning his aviator sunglasses. I kept quiet for a reasonable amount of time after we unceremoniously hit our heads on the roof when Cheddar failed to see a few speed breakers. When I was certain my cranium was about to split open after a third bump, I voiced my protest. “G2! You are a useless navigator. You cannot sleep! Warn Cheddar about the speed bumps!”

“Ok.” G2 turned to Cheddar, “Hey, just look out for those dark patches on the road. Those are bumps. Try not to hit them.” And with that, he was asleep, awaking only to ogle packets of buttermilk being hawked on the road and to argue with Smitten that the mini-truck with carrots was, in fact, carrying papayas.

That brings me to the sleepers. On a road trip, I insist that everyone stays awake throughout. It helps keep the person driving alert, while the constant conversation can break the monotony of a seemingly never-ending highway. Easier said than done. Case in point: KO, who thinks nobody will notice she’s asleep even if her only contribution to an ongoing conversation is “Zzzzzzz.”

The sleepers, however, are a tad better than the shriekers. The aforementioned mother is a prominent member of this group. While I carefully make my way through a crowded goods-laden street, my heart leaps into my mouth as I hear a piercing scream from the backseat.

- “Oooooooh, wheeeeeee wheeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

I slam on the brakes, clutching my chest where my heart used to be, fearing that I might have run over that little lost puppy that was in the middle of the road.

- “What?! What?! What happened? OH, GAD! DID I KILL IT?!”
- “Blue potterrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!! It’s soooooo pretty!!!”, she trills back in response.

I’m throwing in my keys, I tell you. I am not driving anyone anywhere. I am being driven up the wall.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Introductory Ignominies

I’m sorry, but did I miss the memo on how people ought to introduce themselves now? Since when did “North Indian” and “South Indian” attain an ethnic label all their own? Are official Indian government forms now demanding you declare yourself thus?

“Me? I’m just a North Indian guy”, someone once introduced himself to me. What? That tells me absolutely nothing about you, apart from the fact that you are possibly of less than average intelligence for introducing yourself like that. Or you credit me with little or no geographic sense. Either way, you are far from becoming my favourite person. I feel almost apologetic that my geographic knowledge is as sound as it is. Dangle a tempting enough reward and I can name every state and union territory. Yes, I am geeky like that. It’s still a hell of a lot better than being plain ignorant or just mindlessly accepting absolutely pointless labels.

An even bigger sin is introducing yourself while adding “I am from North” or “I am from South”. Forget the fact that you probably lost your definite articles about the same time you lost your marbles, but you leave me hanging onto the edge of my seat. North of where? South of where? The equator? North Hampshire? South America? One of the Koreas? Pray, tell, where is it that such a dazzling nincompoop as yourself sprang from?

And if “North Indian” and “South Indian” are indeed accepted labels now, why aren’t people going around saying they are “East Indian” and “West Indian”? What is this - the Doordarshan weather update of the 80’s which conveniently left out the entire North East and the cloud-covered Andamans? I mean, if this is the way it’s going to be done now, we might as well go the whole hog.

Truth be told, I am sick and tired of hearing the aforementioned labels and this growing regionalism around me. For the love of God, just name your home state. If someone hasn’t heard of Bihar or Andhra or Uttaranchal or Kerala or some Pradesh or Nadu, they probably aren’t worth conversing with anyway. Unless you enjoy particularly scintillating conversation with half-wits. In which case, you might as well introduce yourself as an imbecile. Imbeciles, in my experience, are not limited to any specific geographic regions. Most unfortunate. Ideally, they ought to be confined to strait jackets.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cooing over Kurumgad

I am not a city person. I will maintain that to my last breath. Sure I can honk with the best of them, bicker with the worst of them and appear perfectly at ease in a city bursting at the seams with people, vehicles, noise, smoke, garbage, a million one-ways, insane mayors, loud people, rude people, inconsiderate people, "I-me-myself" people, people and more people. But I need to get away from it all. For a little peace and quiet. Nothing like a little trip to the hills or to the beach to restore good cheer and general sanity. I am beginning to conclude that people grow progressively nicer as you move closer to the coast or further up the hills. Serious. It’s the boors in-between who seem to have no other purpose in life other than to drive every living being in their vicinity absolutely mad. The coastal lot is happy, laidback, pleasant and cheerful while the hillbillies are pleasant but quieter, gentle, helpful and courteous. It has to do with the cleaner air closer to the coast or on the hills. How else would you explain it?

So while I spent the previous weekend sauntering around the cool green hills I call home, with two pooches and billions of chirruping cicadas, birds and the odd frog or two for company, last weekend saw me making my way to an island with four certified mad hatters I call friends . 

Sun (plenty of it), sand, surf and some hilarious company ensured I had a break that I thoroughly enjoyed. This post will be a somewhat serious write-up about the place and how to get there (mostly because I found very little useful information about the place and route before we started out). 
Kurumgad Island is about a half-hour boatride away from the coast of Karwar. The island’s distinct shape is what inspired its name, which means “tortoise shape”. The boatride to the island is interesting. Kurumgad comes into view only once the white sandy beach line of the more popular Devbagh recedes into the distance.

The resort there, “The Great Outdoors”, is very basic yet functional and definitely not for the luxury traveler. The entire island, about 2.5kms in perimeter, belongs to the resort. 

The resort offers clean but very simple bamboo cottages and “tented accommodation”. The tents are pitched on concrete platforms with tin roofs. The island has no electricity so lights and fans are run on a generator that is switched off during the day until the evening. They depend solely on water from a natural spring on the island, which runs low during the summer. A notice in our bathroom requested us to please limit ourselves to one bath a day. A request we decided was worth ignoring, considering the amount of perspiration the blistering heat evoked. Nonetheless, the water never ran out. 

The island could be straight out of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventure series. A rocky coastline all around, except for the white sandy cove which is suitable for swimming and other water sports. The water in this naturally formed cove was very gentle, so even the most nervous of non-swimmers was quite happily neck-deep in the salty water. (Smitten promptly donned a bright yellow lifejacket and spent several happy hours bobbing around in the water, amusing the rest of us with her unintentional and apparently uncontrollable skittle-like movements.)

The resort offers a few “watersports” – banana boatrides, snorkeling and a ride in a rubber dinghy towed by a speedboat. It also organizes boatrides to spot dolphins, which are fairly abundant in the area, lolling around lazily in the bright blue water, quite unconcerned by gawking humans.
The rest of the island is rugged, thick with trees, shrubs and bushes. Birds, snakes and tortoises are quite easy to spot in the crazy canopy of aerial roots that dot the island. 

There was also a mention of otters frequenting “Mystery Creek”, which was apparently formed millions of years ago during an earthquake. The otters eluded us.

There are remains of a fort, a garishly painted temple, a canon and an abandoned lighthouse. There isn’t much to do once you are done exploring the area and taking a dip in the sea. We spent the rest of our time taking pictures, contemplating the beautiful sunsets and sunrises and napping or reading in the several hammocks that overlook the sea.

The food was simple but tasty Mangalorean fare. While fish and chicken were part of the regular buffet and barbeque, prawns and crabs are cooked up on request (keep in mind that anything you ask for has to be brought over from the mainland, so it could take a while). Only beer (Kingfisher) is served. Carry your own booze if you fancy anything else. The vegetarians didn’t complain about the veggie fare either and I’ll just take their word for it.
 The resort staff was pleasant, helpful and courteous. One of them, the Kurumgad Hoff, would sit patiently on the beach for as long as we wanted to stay there, keeping an eye out for any sort of danger – rising tide, us swimming too close to the rocks and so on – before escorting us back to the resort, which is a ten-minute walk away from this area.

 As we sat quietly watching the sun sink into the Arabian Sea on our last evening there, I mulled whether or not to write about this unexpectedly pleasant getaway. While a part of me wanted to keep it selfishly to myself – the less tourists that get there, the more chance of it remaining as unspoiled and peaceful as it is now – I finally decided that I would do the place an injustice by keeping mum. If a place, just a ten-hour drive from the chaotic city of Bangalore, can restore such a feeling of peace and general bonhomie, it deserves to be talked about.  
 (Driving instructions from Bangalore to Karwar (about 520kms): Head out of Bangalore via Yeshwantpur onto NH4 (the Pune highway). This goes past Tumkur, Sira, Davanagere, Chitradurga, Haveri and then Hubli. At the Hubli stretch of the highway (do not take the turnoff into the town), take a left after the toll gate toward Karwar (NH17). Karwar is about 120kms from here. Follow NH 17 and at the T-junction, take a left. This is the Yellapur ghat section. At the next T-junction, take a right toward Karwar. From thereon, it is pretty much one straight road until you reach the Karwar Port and naval base. The Great Outdoors’ office is about 200m from the port main gate, and the jetty for the boat to the island is about 3kms after that. The island has a private parking lot at the jetty where you can safely leave your vehicle. This route, although slightly longer than other routes, is a good road. Carry ample food and water as there are hardly any decent pitstops on the highway after Chitradurga. NH17 is even more deserted, with just the one functional petrol bunk.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Doorable Blah Vocabulary

I have more or less established by now (assuming you’ve been reading my blog for a while) that my family is just a little bit cuckoo. And by family, I mean my immediate family – not including the likes of an aunt by marriage, who dreamt one night that her husband had swallowed their wind chime. She awoke in the middle of the night and attempted to push her hand down his throat to rescue her beloved wind chime, while he, rudely awoken from a deep slumber, gurgled for help. There’s a fine line between stark raving mad and quirky and we, the Blahs, have yet to cross it.

If a Blah were convinced of a prized possession being down a man’s gullet, he/she would tell him he had sheer “gumption” sending “bumf” down his throat. Now, while the dictionary shows “gumption” to mean “the quality of being sensible and brave enough to do the right thing in a difficult situation”, the Blah dictionary holds that it is the “quality of being cheeky, brazen and having the sheer gall to do the wrong thing in any situation.”

My mother’s vocabulary would be down to 50% if the word gumption were taken away from her. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Gumption, and the Word was Gumption. A phone call from my mother is filled with anecdotes about the sheer gumption of the drunken woman labourer who ran amuck in the nude, the gumption of my boisterous dog who gave her a black eye and the gumption of the person who left a single slipper on the road and disappeared.

“Bumf” in a normal (archaic) dictionary refers to unwanted or uninteresting printed matter such as governmental forms, legal documents, The Times of India, junk mail, promotional pamphlets, Bangalore Mirror's Sexpert column etc. The Blahs have adapted the word to explain away any otherwise inexplicable junk. Bumf is a very handy term. It saves you the time and energy of having to supply long explanations about say, the contents of a drawer. “What’s in the drawer? Oh, just some bumf.” Nobody ever attempts to question any more. You never question bumf. You just accept it. “Some bumf” is good enough. It effectively qualifies everything from a speckle of food on someone’s chin to the putrid carcass the dog dragged in to the strange greeny-grey mold on an abandoned vegetable in the refrigerator.

Bumf is not to be confused with another Blah word “bum fluff”. Bum fluff refers to a scraggly pre-pubescent-type mustache. This word belongs to my maternal uncle, who maintains that such weak attempts at a mustache resemble the “hair on a bum”. I have never worked up the courage to ask anything further.

And if you happen to touch some bumf (or bum fluff for that matter), make sure you wash your hands with the “bum soap”. That’s right. The bum soap – the bar of soap placed on/near the wash basin meant for washing of hands. I’m not sure just how it came to be referred to as “bum soap”. I suspect my father coined the term and we children, thoroughly amused, adopted it. My mum faced the embarrassing consequences of such learning when my brother Scion once hollered from one end of the supermarket, “Hey, Ma! Do we need bum soap?” He remained oblivious to the stunned expressions of fellow shoppers while my mother tried unsuccessfully to bury herself in a sack of wheat flour while muttering something about God smiting firstborns. When he, convinced his mother was hard of hearing, shouted again about the lack of enough bum soap in the house, my mother responded with “Grr Wolf! I heard you the first time.”

“Grr Wolf!” for the Blahs is an expression of extreme exasperation. Attaching a growling animal to the otherwise meek and mild “Grr” sort of drives home the point apparently. No vulgar expletives for us Blahs. Grr Wolf usually works for just about any sort of aggravating situation. The need for stronger or cruder cuss words or commonplace vulgar expressions does not arise. However, for a particularly sticky situation, we do resort to the much harder hitting expletive “Shit ‘n molasses”.

Now, I am not sure how exactly this expression came about. But I suppose having shit in your molasses or shit and molasses are both bad things. “Shit ‘n molasses” is a Blah Code Red.

A “shit ‘n molasses” moment would be the opposite of a Blah “door you” moment. “Door you” is an expression of affection. Now, we aren’t exactly the most emotionally expressive family. Everyone keeps a stiff upper lip during any sort of upheaval, which would leave normal families blubbering a bit like the ones in Indian television soaps. However, as a kid, this was the one expression of affection we resorted to. When I was four, I would exchange “Good nights” and “Door Yous” with my folks last thing at night and then spend the next few minutes staring at the door, wondering what that plank of wood had to do with anything. It took me a few years to realise it was just a Blah way of saying “I adore you”.

The expression works for us. In fact, they all do – all these somewhat unique expressions. I door them all and no one can tell me any differently.