mardi 29 septembre 2009
lundi 28 septembre 2009
dimanche 27 septembre 2009
I arrived early this morning at CDG Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris after a 12 hour 20 minute flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaisie. The flight was comfortable and good with pleasant service and variety of food. No wonder MH stands for Malaysian Hospitality.
dimanche 20 septembre 2009
samedi 19 septembre 2009
Received an email from my good friend Rockey Neroth from Fort Cochin to say that his local guardian, whom he had known since 1986, had passed away in Cochin. It was Sammy Hallegua, the warden of the synagogue.
lundi 14 septembre 2009
OnePass Elite Level:
SkyTeam Elite Level:
Year to Date Elite Miles:
Year to Date Elite Points:
Flexible Elite Miles:
There is something to be said about being loyal, even if it is only to an Airline! With four more months of flying to go, I have made it to the Platinum Level of Frequent Flier Status for the year 2010. It does give you an enormous amount of perks, the least of which is the ability to board the aircraft ahead of every one. Which does make a difference when you are flying Economy Class on trans atlantic flights. And also they try to keep the seat next to you free, so that you have a little bit more room. If you are flying within the USA, if seats are available there is always complimentary Upgrade to First Class, which can come in handy! And of course, when something goes wrong with your journey, they attend to your grievances pretty quickly. I cannot say enough about the service I receive at Continental Airlines and every now and then get personal thank you notes!
So, my thanks to Continental Airlines, for
Upgrading me whenever they can, keeping the seat next to me free, excellent serice over the phone when I need some special itinerary, friendliness at the President’s Club at EWR, IAH. Special mention must be made of the Japanese International Concierges especially in IAH and NRT.
Being loyal also makes you familiar with the personnel and I have made some good friends mainly at the CO check in counters at MIA.
The sweet desert of all these is free Business Class Tickets to Asia twice a year!
Those of us who grew up in Australia, and many others who have made this great brown continent their home, an australian sense of humour is essential for an integrated life in Australia. I have always felt that an Australian, whether of Irish Catholique origin or Malaysian Chinese origin, is the person who fully understands Australian sense of humour.
I was sent to Sweden on an exchange programme from australia and I remember telling them that we had a shortage of postmen in Australia and it was wonderful sight to see Kangaroos with mails in their pouch delivering mail all over australia.. They did believe that!
These were posted on an Australian Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a great sense of humour (not to mention a low tolerance threshold for
Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.
Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.
Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.
Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?
Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia?
A: A-Fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe.
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not ... Oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK )
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do...
Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is….Oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.
Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?
Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.
Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can Dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.
Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.
Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first
dimanche 13 septembre 2009
I thought to myself, I am going to work… On this day, 12th September 2009
As the Continental Airlines 767-400 took off from CDG, I had a curious sensation: I am going to work! All of a sudden, the ten hour flight to IAH seemed bearable!
Travel and its significance has changed this year..
India: February. Meeting the remarkable Blind Astrologer of Madras/Cennai
Malaisie: May. Good Food/Conversations
Myanmar: May. A sentimental journey to the Hat Sellers of Chaungtha
Havana: June. Love and Affections
USA: various times to be with American Indians, to be with sister jackie in Miami
The only Tourist visit was a weekend spent in New York City in the company of MunChing, Samiye and Nancy, meeting Ada, Neem.. and seeing English/Spanish version of The West Side Story.
This year I will attain Platinum Frequent Flier Status (have already flown more than 75000 necessary) on Continental Airlines and Inshallah, Gold Status on Air France ( you really have to fly a lot on them to get Gold Status! They don’t award miles actually flown but according to what you pay, fair enough I suppose).
Where does Travel end and Life Begin? The boundaries have long been blurred: Travel, Life and Work. Work has never been that stressful after I made a decision very early in my career that I will direct Work rather than it dictating to me!
Forthcoming Trip: Miami to Kl on 21Sept 2009 and then KL to Paris on 26th Sept 2009.. Once again food for the mind and body in KL..
Life and travels among the American Indians, Paris where the Heart and the Dreams are and Havana for the unending feast of emotions!
Gerard “Jerry” Cohen, Jewish, Montreal-born, was till his recent death Professor of Philosophy, Fellow of All Soul’s College. He was a fervent egalitarianist-the kind we do not come across very often. His view, which he was still developing at the time of his death, that personal behavior, personal example and personal morality were important, in that they gave the society an ethos that could elevate the nature of social life.
Having had a father, who was an egalitarianist, it made me think very early on in my life, that all of us have to do very little to make the society a better place. Who other than the venerable Zhou En Lai, who said: let us all get ahead together. This idea of being one of the many, being part of a force that swells up, is still alien to many Asians, because of their penchant for money and to many Europeans, because of their steadfast belief in Individualism. Multiple examples in both sides of the Divide exist.
To the charge made by his opponents that he was flirting with bourgeoisie liberalism, he would say: No bourgeoisie liberal would argue for real egalitarianism. Nor would they live among the proletarians!
I am amazed at the current polemic about providing Health Care for all in the USA. Such rhetoric and such fire being fueled just because individualism triumphs over egalitarianism. Jerry Cohen would have chuckled: his emphasis on the morality of human association (such as providing Health Care for all on an equal basis) does not have to frighten the ordinary people as workings of the devil, charged to change their lives as they know it, but this morality of human beings ( Che argued that in his book, The New Man and Zhou En Lai lived the concept) can open a possible future for happiness among humans who interact and have contact with the mechanisms of their own societies. We are going through another era of lack of disrespect for other human beings, whether our own kind or other societies. Yesterday, they intercepted a boat load of people from Eritrea intending to get to the shores of the USA ! and they were intercepted off Puerto Limon in Costa Rica. Even us, who have international upbringings and wider worldviews, these geographical crossings point to a failure of our own morality.
We want Bangladeshis to clean our homes, Indonesian maids to look after our children, Mexican maidens to make up beds in hotel rooms, Salvadoreans to wash dishes at cheap eateries.. but we are not willing to do something extra.. not all of us can do something extra, but at least think favourably something extra.. Visiting Bangladesh may be out of question, starting a project to help Bangladeshis may not be within the realm of many, but think of them, not as a congregation of humans ( In the Gulf States, they are equated with animals!), but people working hard to bring up the standard of living which we take so for granted. Why do I mention Bangladesh? (apart from the fact that Bangladeshi taxi drivers in New York City ask me whether I am from their country!)
Of all the countries that rely upon remittances from abroad for a sizable proportion of their income, only in Bangladesh the amount of remittances have not gone down (in fact during August of 2009, the remittances from exiled Banglas was at a record peak), compared to the countries whose citizens have gone to Europe or USA.
So Jerry Cohen, who grew up in a working class neighbourhood of Montreal of Jewish Communist parents, himself elevated to the august halls of academia but never forgetting the basic concept of being a human being…a philosopher who would leave his legacy for years to come, something not all of us can claim to do.
At least we can follow the Jewish Concept of Mitzvah..vaguely translated as Good Deed..and try to be better human beings..
vendredi 11 septembre 2009
WHY MunChing with two Hocank youngsters
MunChing with two Hocank youngsters
Today is 10th September 2009. In exactly 11 days, I will leave
mercredi 9 septembre 2009
If you are interested in my musings about Nutrition and Health, some with a heavy cultural overlay, you can consult www.crossculturalendocrinology.blogspot.com
dimanche 6 septembre 2009
Corruption of Morality to other Human Beings
Last night, around Midnight, was walking along Marais, a Hip neighbourhood of France, after a very satisfying dinner at Breizh Café, a Breton owner with Creperies in Japan and now in France!
Someone approaches and offers a Rose. We are so used to con people, usually women in long dresses and their heads covered, offering this or that, they say , it is just a gift and then try to get a few Euros out of you. I usually politely say no, and move on. So the immediate reaction this time also was that… But a second later, as the lady passed me by, I realized that it was a very nicely dressed Japanese lady who probably wanted to give us the rose some admirer had given her…I felt so terrible, this corruption of morality in which a gesture as gentle as this had to be reciprocated in such harsh terms, in this reality of western world.
All large cities in Europe (and America, but their very few cities are pedestrian friendly) have huge numbers of legal and illegal immigrants, who are eking out a few centavos, selling fake clothes, things made in China of familiar brands, in Paris, Bangladeshis by the millions, are selling fruits and nuts by the road side.. I have immense sadness to see this. With all the progress the rich countries have made in the last 100 years, we still only steal the best from the developing countries but close the doors on the thousands who would benefit by a human glance from the rich.
Look what Cuba does! A poor country by any standards, but it educates THOUSANDS and thousands poor students to become professionals and go back to their own countries and help their countrymen and at the same time make a decent life for themselves. Isn’t it better to be a teacher in Zanzibar than selling flowers at a metro stop? I have immense pride in this action of Cuba which educates 18000 doctors for Latin America and 5000 doctors for Africa at any one time...
In the meantime, I am really sorry for my action of not accepting the rose from that lovely Japanese lady, at Marais last night around midnight...
mercredi 2 septembre 2009
mardi 1 septembre 2009
Gabo and Magical Realism; Alejo Carpentier and Realidad Maravillosa
Currently I am reading an excellent book, Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin, a labour of love of over two decades. And it shows.
Gabo’s autobiography Living to Tell the Tale was a good read as well, which read like one of his books of fiction. Reading this biography, one can make the relationships between what had happened to Gabo in his life and their re appearances in various novels of his.
Many years later, when Garcia Marquez managed to reconstruct these two ways of interpreting and narrating reality, both of these involving a tone of absolute certainty-the worldly, rationalizing sententiousness of his grandfather and the other-worldly, oracular declamations fo his grandmother-leavened by his won inimitable sense of humour, he would be able to develop a world-view and a corresponding narrative technique which would be instantly recognizable to the readers of each new work.
Gabo, a lover of Cuba and a personal friend of Fidel ( in fact once opening an international Medical congress in Havana, Fidel confessed he had not much sleep the night before, because he had just read a virgin copy of Love in the Time of Cholera! Before it was published!) is a literary phenomenon in that coming from the “third world”: Caribbean coast of Colombia, he has influenced the writing of so many other writers who came out of the developing world: when I read Albert Wendt, the NZ educated Samoan writer, the first line of his book, Leaves of the Banyan Tree , had shades of Marquez in it: It had rained all day, and Tauilopepe Mauga had remained in the main fale plaiting sinnet.
Who does not know Macondo? And Cien Anos de Soledad/One hundred years of solitude must be one of the most widely read novels of all time! In fact, Macondo was the name of a Banana plantation near where Gabo grew up in the company of his morally loose but socially strict grandfather and a grandmother who was forever seeing ghosts and constantly praying to all sorts of spirit forms even though they were strict Catholics.
Every one could read about Macondo, but very few could live in a place like Macondo, for which I thank the stars. Our Macondo was and is Baracoa where it was not unusual for us to sit by the wall facing the ocean and recite poetry, under the slight influence of strong Cuban rum. That is how we all remember, the first and last lines of all Gabo’s book.. and either me or the little poet of our village, just known by his surname Castro, even though he would pompously introduce himself as Miguel Angel Castro Machado, the spiritual guardian of Baracoa .. we would break into the lines of Gabo’s books. Any one from our village who had attended university could recite from memory many of the lines: On the day he was going to be shot, Colonel Auereliano Buendia thought fondly of that distant afternoon when his father took him to see ice (written from memory) or the last line: How long shall we go on sailing? The capitan asked. Florentino Ariza has been waiting for that question for 59 years, four months and three days and its night, he answered.. Forever (written from memory). The names of his characters seemed a little odd to us educated in the anglo saxon tongues but when your mother is called Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes and that she lived calmly knowing that her husband had sired various illegal children during the time of marriage and some of whom were to come and live in the house which was the beginning of the novel Cien Anos in the head of the little Gabito growing up in that arid countryside trying to make sense of his place of the world of Generals, A thousand Day war and the Untouchable Indians.
What has Cuba to do with all that? Salman Rushdie being influenced by a Latin American form of writing?
Who was Alejo Carpentier? His home just a couple of doors away from the famous La Bodeguita del Medio (where Hemingway used to hang out and now a very popular tourist destination in la Habana) is now a museum dedicated to his memory.
Alejo Carpentier was a Cuban writer who straddled between European literature and the native culture of Latin-America. He was for a the Cuban cultural ambassador in Paris. Carpentier was trying to place Latin-American culture into a historical context. This was done via a conscious depiction of the colonial past - as in The Kingdom of This World, and Explosion in a Cathedral (title in Spanish El Siglo de las Luces - or The ).
His literary style is a wonderful combination of dazzling images and a rich language, full of the technical jargon of whatever subject he touches on - be it music, architecture, painting, history, or agriculture.
He was also the first to use the techniques of 'magical realism' (and he coined the term, lo real maravilloso) in which the concrete, real world becomes suffused with fantasy elements, myths, dreams, and a fractured sense of time and logic.
Carpentier is generally considered one of the fathers of modern Latin American literature. His complex, baroque style has inspired such writers as Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes.
Alejo Carpentier is considered the father of Magical Realism, made now very famous and popular by Gabo. It is no irony that Gabo spends part of his days in La Habana, he is supposed to be a good cook and Fidel used to stop by his seaside home for a snack.
Even while he is recuperating from his surgeries, one of the few visitors Fidel has entertained has been Gabo and his wife Mercedes. In July 2008, Fidel wrote: ( part of his weekly reflections published by Granma)
I chose to get together with Gabo and his wife, Mercedes Barcha, who are visiting Cuba until the 11th. How I wanted to chat with them, to recall almost 50 years of sincere friendship!
Our news agency, as suggested by Che, had just been born, and it hired, among others, the services of a modest Colombian journalist named Gabriel García Márquez. Neither Prensa Latina nor Gabo had the slightest idea that there would be a Nobel Prize; or maybe this son of a small-town Colombian post-office telegraph operator buried in the banana plantations of a Yankee company had some inkling, with that "Brobdingnagian" imagination of his. He shared his lot with a bunch of siblings, as was the custom, still his father, a Colombian with the privilege of being employed thanks to the telegraph keys, was able to give him an education.
I experienced the opposite. The post office with its telegraph keys and the little public school in Birán were the only facilities in that hamlet that were not owned by my father; all the rest of the goods and services of any economic value belonged to Don Ángel, and for that reason I was able to go to school. I never had the privilege of getting to know Aracataca, the small town where Gabo was born, but I certainly had the privilege of celebrating my 70th birthday in Birán, with him as my guest.
The morning of 1 september 2009 is ending for me in Paris. How lovely to think about Gabo, Carpentier, Fidel, Baracoa, Cuba on this morning when Continental Airlines informed me that I have flown 75 000 miles during the year 2009 to continue my Platinum Elite Frequent Flier Status!
(sententiousness: tending to indulge in pompous morality as was the case with Gabo’s grandfather Colonel Nicolas Marquez Mejia.
Declamation: a rhetorical or emotional speech, made especially in order to protest or condemn as was the case of Gabo’s Grandmother, Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes)