Category Archives: ramblings

A new chapter

Every now and then there comes a time in life, when you have to move forward. This year has been the year of new beginnings for me. I got married a month after this year started and I will be leaving Bangkok a month before this year ends. November will be our last working month in Thailand.

A and I have decided to quit our jobs to start new in Nepal. This is a big leap of faith for us. For me personally, settling down in a foreign country has never been on my list. I always knew I would spend significant amount of my life in Nepal. I love my country, its culture and my parents. Now when time has come for me to start thinking about starting my own family, I cannot think of a better place than Kathmandu. Luckily I got married to a person who thinks the same. It may sound like an emotional and not well thought decision to return back to Kathmandu especially when we have good jobs that provide us with a secure life here but we have been contemplating on this since a long time and we are certain that this is the right moment for us to make the move. Kei na kei ta kaso nagariyela which means what can be the odds, we will certainly find one way or other to make things work!

I know there are going to be a lot of challenges in Nepal. It is not easy to have a good life in a country where unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world. There is going to be a lot of struggle. We might not be ready but we are prepared :). I hope to make use of the skills I’ve learned so far in life and make it useful in someway.

There is a small project that A and I are really excited about. We are looking forward to start this project in Nepal with lots of enthusiasm. As soon as it takes a share worthy shape, I will share it with you guys. In the meantime please wish us good luck :). Also would love to hear your thoughts about going back to your country to start new.

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The art of queueing up

Living as an expat is a culturally rich experience. It makes you aware of a lot of things that you never thought existed. Learning about a new culture opens a gate to yet another horizon that remains to be explored. While traveling for few days to a new country in itself can be a life enriching experience, living in another country offers an ocean of things to learn from. It gives us an opportunity to become curious kids again and perceive new things as we grow up in a foreign land all over again. How we deal and cope with this new culture, change in taste and environment allows us to test our personality in many ways. At times, it can be frustrating to tackle homesickness, loneliness and that feeling of feeling out of place but in the end we come out being stronger and full of knowledge.

There are so many things I have learned after coming to Bangkok that I never gave any thought to before coming here. Today I want to talk about the most basic thing that I have learned(re-learned) after coming to Bangkok and that is “to wait for my turn” or “to queue up” or “to be patient”. It is very simple and straight forward trait. Being patient saves us from many agonies in life and makes life much easier. Its not that I never knew about waiting in a line or queuing up. Right from my early school days, I was taught to stand in a line and wait for my turn. But somewhere in the transition from being a student to a grown up person, I had lost this trait.

My first reminder to it began when I was attending classes for my Master’s Degree. All graduate students would stand in a line to get inside the classroom. To me, it was a funny sight. I sure had stood in lines to get inside the classroom but that was way back in the primary school. But soon I learned that not waiting for my turn was not a cool thing and slowly I got accustomed to this habit of standing in a line wherever I went around in the city of Bangkok. Let me sight few examples of it.

If it is late in the evening and there are many people waiting for a public van to get back to home, in Bangkok you patiently wait in a line until the van comes. If the number of people standing in the line is way more than the number of people that can fit in a van, no problem…there will be a next van or you might have to think of an alternative way to get back home but never ever you will find anyone rushing or pushing each other to get in the van. The same rule applies while waiting for a taxi outside a shopping mall.

Street food is awesome in Bangkok, we all know this. There are several popular vendors in streets of Bangkok that are very famous and is always crowded. So how do you order food here? Its simple, stand in a queue and wait for your turn. In some places there will be a pen and a paper, you write down your order in it and wait for your food to be cooked while you drink beer. You will not hear any shouting or loud inquiries like, “is my food done yet?”. People just quietly wait.

There are numerous places where this rule applies like while buying a train ticket, buying a bus ticket, waiting to get in the train/bus, withdrawing money from ATM, public restrooms and so on. This must be common in many countries.

Siam Paragon is one of the biggest shopping mall in the heart of Bangkok. It sells products from all over the world. One day while we were in Siam Paragon, we saw a queue in front of Louis Vuitton store, many people were waiting to get inside the store. I had never in my life seen people queue up to get inside a luxury store on a normal day. It wasn’t the day of a big sale or a day of new arrivals. It was just a normal weekend. Also not to mention I have seen people queue up to buy fruits/stuffs from a local street market as well.

Whenever I think about government offices in Asia, the first thing that comes to my mind is chaos. I have been to the immigration office and Department of Labour in Thailand and it is the most organised government office I have ever seen. The first thing I noticed is that it was clean and quiet. Here too, people would queue up to get their job done. I saw no middle men, no chaos and the work was done smoothly and in order.

The reason I am talking so elaborately about queuing up is that last wednesday, we went out for dinner. The place we wanted to go was across the street of the place we got down. So, in order to get there we had to cross this overhead bridge. It was an old overhead bridge and narrower than the new ones. The street was a bit crowded than usual, I hurriedly went ahead to climb the stairs only to realise that people were waiting in queue to use the overhead bridge in order to cross the road. I was surprised! And not to mention the queue was around 50 meters long! This city successfully and pleasantly surprised me once again for its ability to queue up 🙂

Do you guys have any stories to share regarding queueing up? Would love to hear them.

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Coming in terms with life

As I wake up, Dad and I discuss about Mom’s discharge and things we need to ask the doctor. The usual routine of her Chemotherapy begins. It is the last day of her five day long Chemo sessions. As the session begins, I feel a little guilty of being tired of this place. Today, the same place that nearly frustrated me does not look so bad. The patient next to Mom’s bed has her mouth swollen. The tumor is in her lips and it is three times bigger than its normal size. The saliva drips out of her mouth all the time; that is the reason for her mouth being covered with towel most of the time. Her husband is by her side, nursing her. He is gentle as he wipes her mouth. I wonder if the husband has loved her as much all his life. Then there is the frail lady at the far end, the doctor has come to visit her. He asks her to walk in a line for him. She is feeble and she can’t walk straight. The doctor tells his son, this can result in fractures in her bones so he asks him to be careful and monitor her closely. As the doctor leaves, the lady talks to the sixty something lady by her bedside and tells her how the medicine has made her weak and she was supposed to be discharged a week ago but she’s still at the hospital. I notice they share a special bond. Their eyes speak; they tell each other “I know what you mean, I understand”. Then there is another couple, on the right of the frail lady. The husband is looking after his wife, helping her to get settled before the doctor visits her bed. He gently unties the scarf on her head; I can see her hair has completely fallen due to Chemotherapy. There are few remains of frizzy hair and it looks a little (forgive me for this) scary without the scarf. The husband tries to put together those remains of her hair and wrap the scarf around her head. It does not work the first time so he does it again. I look at his face as he wraps the scarf around her head for the second time. He has a warm kind smile on his lips and his eyes are filled with love as he gently presses the scarf to gather all the frizzy hair to form a neat knot at the back of head with the scarf. This is not an uncommon scene here at the hospital. As much as we see disease and sickly people we see and experience love, care, togetherness and healing. It is very painful at times to be at this place but I have also found profound peace and love at this same place. The mother son duo opposite to our bed is friendly. They are to be discharged today. They share some of their experiences at the hospital with us. As they take leave, the son touches my Mom’s feet as heleaves and that makes my Mom emotional. After this observation, I make peace with myself for being where I am. I feel proud and privileged to be with Mom at a time when she needs me the most. I try to settle my wandering eyes and open a book.

P.S This is the last post in my cancer diary series, you can find the rest here, here, here and here.

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A look at the sadness that surrounds

The book doesn’t keep my mind off of things going around for long. I’m tired, I had a long day today and I lay down to sleep along with all the thoughts that cloud my mind. I think of the day and I’m tired of being in a hospital. I’m tired of seeing people in pain; I’m tired of this ambience. Just last week we met a father from Pokhara who had come here with a sick child. The child had an aggressive form of blood cancer. He had been in treatment since last year. His father is well determined to save his baby.  There is another patient with the same type of blood cancer. She is also from Nepal. She is in her late 20s and has two children and a young husband. She comes to talk with my Mom sometimes and they both share thoughts on how this disease have changed their lives. Her two children are in Kathmandu and they have no idea what happened to their mother. She shares her story of how she came to know about her disease. She hopes to live but is well aware of her chances of living again. There is another middle aged couple living at the hospital since past few months. The husband in his 50s and has lung cancer. Both of their children are abroad. The wife is tired, worried and has a difficult time tending to her husband and conversing with doctors in hindi. Everywhere I look around, it is the same plot with different stories. Everyone is suffering, no one is spared. I feel like I’m living in a completely new world where nothing is certain and no one is free from pain. The scene is depressing but its the everyday of people who are here. It is cancer and it lives even outside of people suffering from this disease.

This hospital is filled with such heart wrenching stories.

I try to change the topic in my head and think about my life. I don’t know about God’s plan for me in life. I don’t know if there is a God or there are so called plans but I do not have fancy desires and wishes. I picture myself being happy in the kitchen as I make breakfast before I go to work. I like to live independently, own an apartment with a nice kitchen. I want to be working and earning enough to support my not so fancy lifestyle. I want to have a healthy social life. It would be nice to share that apartment with the person I love. I smile as I go into this realm of my imagination and at some point I fall asleep.

P.S Please follow the previous post At the wedding, Returning to an Empty nest, Going back to new normal.

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Going back to the new normal

I am at the Kathmandu airport and I’m waiting to board the flight. After I land at the Delhi airport, I take an hour long taxi ride to the hospital. I feel good for being back to be with Mom. I enter a familiar place, I reach mom’s room and there she is resting in her bed. As I see her from a distance, I notice she is not her happy self anymore. The smile on my cheerful Mom is not the same. As the dye on her hair fades, I can see traces of her gray hair, she has lost weight and her cheerful nature is not visible anymore. I don’t know why but I was expecting to find my healthy mom, the way she had been before she got the disease. It has changed her a lot, both physically and mentally. Yet she is high in spirit, I hug her and she’s very happy to see me.

I settle down for a five day stay at the hospital. I look around. Some of the faces are familiar, the nurse is familiar, some of the patients who are here for chemotherapy, the helpers and the staff, they are all familiar. I settle in and I’m happy and at peace to be with mom. I look around. There are around seven beds in this room. There is a lady in her fifties, she is very thin for her age and built. She looks like she is just 35 Kg, her son is with her. In the next bed, there is another woman, she looks like she is in her 60s, and her attendant is talking to the thin lady. The thin lady asks her if she’s admitted in the hospital for chemotherapy, the attendant tells her that the lady in her 60s finished her chemo sessions but her life is not the same. Every once in a while there are some health problems and she has to get admitted often. They both lock their eyes for a while as if they’re still communicating and get back to their respective activities. There is a new patient admitted just next to my mom’s bed. As she enters the room in a wheel chair, her mouth is covered with a face towel. Her husband is by her side, her husband and the helper struggles to lay her down on the bed. She finally settles in. I take a glance at mom to check on her. The scene makes her sad and she turns on my side and closes her eyes attempting to sleep. Just opposite to my mom’s bed, there is a rather healthy looking Punjabi lady around the same age as my mom’s. She is accompanied by her son. The son is taking good care of her, asking her if she needs anything, and peeling a banana for her. Farthest from our side there is a little girl with her mom. The girl is young around 10 0r 11 years of age and she is restless. Her Mom is admitted. As my Mom tries to sleep, I open a book to re-read the last part of it. The writer talks about the war in Afghanistan and describes the injuries and wounds of his fellow inmates. As I read this interesting journey, I think of the pain they suffer and the pain in this particular hospital room. They are similar yet so different. This pain is uninvited, unwanted and much against the will and knowledge of the bearers. The pain in the war is anticipated, known and the bearer is prepared in some way to take the pain and suffering. The pain in the war is somewhat planned and the consequences are obvious where as the source of pain in the hospital is unknown and the patients ponder upon their fate and destiny as they struggle for their lives. Besides the pain there is one more thing common in the warriors and the patients. They both fight with honor. The warriors fight with honor for their own cause expecting something in return at the end but the patients fight with honor with no expectations for a cause that is yet unknown to them and for a cause that might never be known to them. The pain is similar but the source of pain is different, very different. I travel to remote mountains of Afghanistan along with the writer. I forget for a moment that I’m in a hospital. The dialogues and the conversations in the book intrigue me.
 P.S You can catch the prequel to this post at  At the wedding, Returning to an empty nest.

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Returning to an empty nest

The wedding is over, I say the goodbyes and I return home. Someone drops me home and I know there’s going to be no one at home. It is around 6pm, it is winter and it’s a little dark outside. As I walk in, there is no electricity because of load shedding. I go to the puja room and I sit there for a while. It’s the room where mom medicates everyday and it is calm and soothing in here. I tell myself, everything is going to be fine, I smile and I go upstairs. There is no electricity but there is light in one of the rooms. I sit there and read a book. As I read the book, my mind wanders. Before we left for Delhi, we all were so happy. I was finally back from my 2 years of graduate studies. Mom was happiest to have her kid back in the house. Everyday we cooked different kinds of food and invited guests over. Life looked so normal. Soon it was Dashain and Bua was excited about the elaborate goat meat menu we would be relishing. Mom had started complaining about her recurrent stomach pain that would not go away. We had taken her to a hospital in Kathamandu and we were waiting for some tests to be done which was postponed for a week because of Dashain. We all had no clue of the upcoming storm. I was happy thinking about the good things that were coming my way. My life had been just the way I wanted it to be. I had a good job offer in hand, I was relaxed, I was home and I felt like my life was finally taking off the way I wanted it to. I guess this feeling was what we call the silence before the storm. I knew this experience would take way the “nothing can go wrong” philosophy out of my mind. I will always know our world is not perfect and that anything can happen we just have to learn how to deal with the situation.

I am glad that I’m leaving for Delhi tomorrow to be with my parents. Someone drops me at the airport and I can’t wait to board the flight, take a taxi, go straight to the hospital and hug Mom. She must be eagerly waiting for me. Although she never mentioned over the phone I’m sure she must’ve missed me.

P.S This post is the continuation of At the wedding.

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At the wedding

The music is loud and we are dancing to the same song “Sheila ki jawani” for the third time in a row. The song ends with a roar of laughter and we rest for a while  to sip a drink.  As we take a sip, another  bollywood shaadi number rolls and we’re on the floor. We ask M for a solo and she dances sexy and awesome, she’s got the moves and we’re all awed by her.  As the laughter roars again, my mind travels miles away to Delhi, I think of mom I take a deep breath and head out of the room. I miss Mom and I’m scared for having so much fun and feeling what I am feeling. I panic, I think of the pain and I panic. I feel an urge to talk to Mom, I’m scared. As I punch her number, tears trickle down my cheeks and I’m scared for being so happy because I know life is a cycle of happiness and sadness and I’m scared to feel free and feel light thinking the next feeling might be something I felt when we found out Mom’s got cancer, a severe type and the diagnosis is not so good. I get scared and I panic and tears roll down my cheeks. Mom picks up the phone and says “hello”. I’m relieved. We talk about how her day was and I inquire if everything’s going on fine. She tells me about her daily activities,  asks me to convey my regards to the bride to be. After that she tells me not to worry about her and have a lot of fun at the party and warns me not to drink a lot of wine and beer.  I try not to talk to her for long, fearing she might sense my fear. I say goodbye and promise to call her the next day. I walk back in the room; the ambience is intoxicatingly fun and light. They are still dancing to another silly bollywood number, I join in but the energy is not as high and I’m relaxed to be tensed. My fear subsides but its there and I’m relaxed that the fear is there for as long as it is there, the next feeling is going to be a good one and not a worst one, and I’m a bit relieved to believe so.

I was in Delhi since last few months with Mom to get her the treatment she needed. I came to Kathmandu for few days to attend my best friend’s wedding. Mom and Dad wanted me to attend it and take a break from the humdrum that’s been going on for months.

P.S This is post is out of my diary 2 years back. At that time Mom had been diagnosed with Cancer and I was in Delhi with her for her treatment. It will be a short 5-day series with short posts straight from my personal diary. The posts will be devoid of pictures but hope you guys will read through it regardless.

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