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Last Friday I was in B’lore, whataday – breakfast at Windsor Manor…

an afternoon to remember…

Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe

Midnight, landed in Chennai, no taxis, walked a kilometer for a rik. How Pushpak!

Last month I was stuck in Brussels for three days after the Valve World expo. I had three days to myself and the original plan was to do a World According to Garp meets Sound of Music trip, from where Marcus died to where Maria…um, cried? tried? Any way, to cut a long story short, Austria didn’t happen…

 

Day 1

Wake up call at 5:30. Checked out of Apple Park Maastricht by 6:30. Got dropped at Brussels Airport by 7:30. I had a large suitcase, a laptop bag and a huge sleep backlog.

 

Flashback: Brussels Airport, five days before. I arrived from Chennai to discover that my suitcase hadn’t. Filed a complaint and hit the road. Didn’t enjoy the ride to Maastricht at all – the car smelled of ciggies and I had given up smoking the previous night. FM was playing all my fav songs from the ‘80s – remixed with something slimy. And outside the car, autumn vistas in 64 million colours – big deal…dead leaves.

 

Things kind of improved from there. The expo went off well. Then, our last night in Maastricht – that will be the night before Day 1 (image of God tinkering with a light device flash in my mind) and we did the touristy things – main square, dinner at a brasserie, the bridge on the river Maas.

 

(To do: Reread A Bridge Too Far. All the towns from the book – Maastricht, Liege, Eindhoven, Nijmegan – are on the motorway boards. Trivia: Maastricht was the first Dutch town liberated by Allies)

 

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OK, back to Brussles and day 1. I started my adventure armed with a city map and instructions in pantomime. And, this would be a recurring motif, I lost my way, horribly. Finally after walking about for 5 kms, with my shoe gnawing on my small toe, I discovered that the Grand Place, and the tourism office, was just next to my hotel. From there, another hike, to board the hop-on hop-off bus from near Brussels Station – church, palace, museum, ok, ok.

 

The highlight of the day was the visit to the The Belgian Center for Comic Strip Art. I smurfed through the collection and hit the Tintin gallery – ten panels, 3 statues, one rocket model.

 

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While walking back to the hotel, finally in the right direction after two false starts, I began to miss Chennai.

 

Day 2

The Cathedral and Atomium in the morning – gothic and futuristic, stained glass and brushed steel, infinite and infinitesimal.

 

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Flew past Belgian Aircraft Museum – website much better than real thing. Antwerp after noon. Cathedral, Christ, Cross, Capello and cut, carat, colour, clarity.

 

By the time I got back to Brussels, my friend Venky was waiting for the Brussles tour – drive-by shooting version. We did the Grand Place, Town Hall, Manneken Pis, t’Seerclaes, Cathedral and Galeries Royales St. Hubert in one hour and settled down in Rue des Bouchers for some French cuisine (we had amplette, and the waiterbhai wasn’t amused when we asked for peanuts to go with the wine).

 

Day 3

Woke up late. I figured my hotel room would have more to offer in terms of entertainment than Brussels on day 3. I figured right. Dinosaur Gallery, Museum of Ancient Art. By evening, halfway between ancient and extinct, i trudged back to my room, St. Michael on top of the tower guiding my way.

 

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Last Diwali, en route to Cochin, BAR in the car (that’s Babu Annie Rohan). Somewhere near Mettur, we saw a panchayat board – POTTANERI. ‘Potta, looks like just the right place for you!’, I told my son. Boo haa haa. Next village – ERUMADU. Wow! this really is getting better, I asked my wife, ‘Maad, your hometown? And was that your cousin on the roadside’. I was feeling very heppy and high till I saw the next signboard – KUNJANDIYUR. Pondatti gave me a look, and I decided to concentrate on the road.

I stumbled upon some pics I had uploaded last April after a conference in Manali.

Now here is what you (yes, you) have to do. Post a story of less than 100 words build around the photos given below (please add pic reference) . All photos should be used, the photos can be used in any order, and the story must contain the phrase, “Klu klu, muttathoru mynah”.

No entries will be deleted and the worst wins an original Almost Famous DVD.

A few years ago, after an expo in Maastricht, I spend two days in Amsterdam…cold wind howling through the city and I – lonely and miserable – dragging myself through the crowded streets looking for a familiar face. Then, boom, I did a double take, did I really see a gang of girls in micro-minis…and almost nothing else…serving booze?

That was Teasers, an Amsterdam landmark, a pub modelled after the Hooters. Their house speciality is the Teasers Tequila – the drink is served in a shot glass, OK, and the salt…on the waitress, double OK (Don’t take my word for it, check out the YouTube video. Careful – NSFV).

Vaal kashnam – Once a friend of mine, who was with KLM then, visited Teasers with his wife and their eight-month old kid. Over to his wife…“My husband I could control, but the kid, he just went bonkers…” BHH.

We left Chennai at 3 pm, my family and Johny’s, four adults and three kids crammed into a car. From Chennai till we turned right for Pondy, the ride was uneventful – just another day on ECR. From then on the landscape was beautiful, Tamil Nadu like I never seen before, and if it had not been for my Mallu pride, I would have stopped the car and shot pics all along the way…

By about 5:30 we were in Pondy. We filled our car with cheap petrol; did not give in to the temptation of cheap booze – but still managed to swipe a big motta with my left mirror. It was Aadi Velli, some Amman festival was on, and just as we picked up speed, swarms of makkal in yellow mundu diverted us off the highway into Humpistan.

Every few metres, there was a hump, most of them L and XL. I guess they didn’t have enough bitumen to surface the roads, so they concentrated on the humps (At least they’ve got their priorities right). We crawled single-file through villages right out of The Hindu Archives, ran into two old friends…but escaped without injury. Finally, after about an hour, we got back to the highway and started serious clipping. The road was good, Johny was pushing the limits of the car and suddenly we flew.

Culverts. All along the stretch culverts were being rebuilt and the guys who build approach roads weren’t informed. Once we successfully traversed this stretch we thought we had seen everything…We stopped for coffee at Chidambaram, whizzed through Sirkazhi, got lost in Karaikal, reached Nagapatnam – and found that all Innovas we were tailing had disappeared.

The road to Velankanni was scary. It was not surfaced, unlit (it was a new moon night) and in between there were sections missing (Remember Speed? Imagine Sandra and Keanu doing it over and over again).

We left Velankanni after lunch the following day, by an alternate route, through a landscape that resembles South Parur (‘Mystery of the Missing Innovas’ – solved). Rode through Nagapatnam enjoying the fragrance of its world-famous onakka meen and reached Tranquebar.

The Tamil name is pure poetry – Tarangampadi – where the waves sing to you. (If you are planning to visit Tranquebar, keep your eyes peeled for a small Hotel Tamilnadu board – we almost didn’t see it). Tranquebar is basically one road – half a kilometre from the entrance arch to the Bay of Bengal. But that road perhaps has the highest history per square metre in South India – a Danish Fort constructed in 1620, the site where the first Lutheran missionaries landed in 1706, the old Governor’s bungalow (now a Neemrana Hotel) and three churches, of which the so called new church is 289 years old.

We reached Pondy by night. French cuisine at Le Club, pushti poth at New Guest House.

Coming soon – ‘Pondy-Chennai’

During our trip we stopped at some beautiful churches…

I will not hit you with Pondy-Tranquebar photos for some time.
Hope you enjoyed the trip…

Annie, Ro and I along with Johny and family went to Velankanni last weekend, and on the way back visited churches in Tranquebar and Pondicherry, and Matrimandir in Auroville. 700 km in two days. Too tired to write. But then, a pic is worth…

Maharaja’s. We went to Ooty with our Pre-Degree batchmates. I remember that we halted at the Trichur Zoo and that we bought More cigarettes in Coimbatore.

In Kovai Biju was our guide. There was this restaurant that he knew and he took us there for dinner. When the food was served Biju decided that we had come to the wrong place – the plates weren’t warm – and we scrammed from there.

Sangham at the Botanical Gardens

TV, Jose, Aby, Biju, Babu & Mookkan, during his Complete Man period


TV, Jose, Babu & Shibu

It was in Ooty that I first got a taste of kothamalli, and the intense dislike I developed for that continues to the day…

After lunch we went boating. While everybody else managed to row all around the lake, Sangham drifted in circles a few metres from the shore arguing about the right technique…

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The view from our hotel. A Composit image.

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