Category Archives: Blog

Kannur-ing

I saw so many beautiful sights, I have no energy to find the perfect image for this post.

But it needs to be recorded that this Indian summer I saw many beautiful sights and experienced so many firsts; right here in Kannur. Mountains and beaches and trees and sand and sun and rocks and cliffs and fishes and what the Kunafa!

Who knew Kannur had so much to offer?

Mappila Bay, Kannur

Here is a picture of some people fishing at the Mappila Bay in Kannur. There were a ton of lone fishermen there, standing precariously on the giant rocks, teeming with red colored crabs.

One of them spoke in Hindi, directing some others on what to do. Maybe he had a small business setup going on over there on the rocky pier, and he was giving instructions to his staff. Maybe the staff had to meet a quota.

All of the men (there were no women there holding a line) were going through the same set of motions. 1) Grab a piece of fish tail/fish head/shrimp from the plastic bag sitting at their feet on the rocks, 2) hook the fishy bait at one end of the blue plastic fishing line, which emerged from a spool which was about 5 inches in diameter 3) hurl the bait end of the line into the bay as far as they can 4) slowly reel the line back in after five minutes – with or without fish 5) repeat steps 3 through 5.

I asked someone how long it generally takes to get a bite. He said with a smile that it depends on how long it takes for the fish to bite. I asked him how long he’d been waiting. He said half hour.

Meanwhile, one of the other guys caught a fish. He was older. He said the name of the fish was “Champeri”. Am I remembering the name wrong and getting it mixed up with the town I passed through on the way to Palakkayam Thattu? I could be. But for now, let’s call it Champeri.

Champeri rested flat at the bottom of a white cloth bag. Champeri looked about a foot long. He said he could sell Champeri for Rs 600 and that it’s fresh catch.

I left being thankful he used a cloth bag, but couldn’t help wonder if the cloth bag was reusable and how long it would take to wash the smell of dead fish off the white cotton threads.

Palakkayam Thattu

Palakkayam Thattu was beyond my expectations. I was expecting a Motta Kunnu (bare rocky hill). There was nothing bare about what I saw.

From the top as far as the eye could see, there were miles upon miles of rolling hills dotting what appeared to be flat ground at sea level, broken by houses, roads and churches. There were a lot of churches.

The windy curvy roads looked so small that I felt I could almost pick up the white Mahindra jeeps that kept noodling down the far away broken roads; one after the other; they kept coming; never ending.

The mountains of the Western Ghats that laced the skyline seemed to be tumbling over each other, but a few peaks stood out. The oddly shaped Paithalmala was unmistakably stark. Almost as stark and abrupt as the sentences that make up this post! Words don’t seem to be working for me today. So I’m not gonna try and get overly poetic.

Let me leave you with – I’d love to climb Paithalmala soon!

“Uxmal over chicken pizza”

I know what you’re gonna say. “Look! Chichen Itza!”. Well PLOT TWIST! This is Uxmal!

Before my trip, my friend Erika, who I met on Craigslist 12 years ago (long story for another day), sent me a cryptic message.

“Uxmal over Chicken Pizza any day”

I didn’t quite get what she meant at the time. I didn’t really prod either, because I was just trying to get through the vast amount of information she was sending me about all things Mexico.

Erika’s family is from Mexico. So. Yes. She had a lot of information to share, including the right way to say “Valladolit”.

SO.

“Uxmal over Chicken Pizza”

I honestly thought it was maybe Mexico’s version of the NYC Chicken over Rice 🍛

I really didn’t think much of it until I went to Uxmal.

And then I went to Chichen Itza the next day. 3 hours of pushing through crowds of tourists, and saying “no gracias” to  street vendors, I sat down exhausted at the base of El Castilo. I looked up at the mighty pyramid and found myself mumbling to myself “Uxmal over Chichen Itza. Someone get me out of here”

Chichen Itza

#uxmal #chichenitza #yucatan #mexico #mexicanroadtrip

2021

This is the last pic taken of me in 2021. I hadn’t washed the salty sand from the day off my body yet, but the dinner was good and I loved learning about the Argentinian solo (I think?) traveller sitting at the dinner table next to me who trains polo horses for a living.

Not gonna write about how <insert adjective> 2021 was. It was no worse, or no better than the years prior. But as always, I’m thankful for my privilege.

But talking about 2021? I spent a total of 5 months out of a carry on suitcase, travelling and meeting people from various walks of life, while transplanting myself from Manhattan and building a haven for myself in South Jersey, and juggling a multitude of professional and personal projects. I’m thankful for new friendships; some for a reason, some for a season and some for a lifetime.

Every year will bring its own weight in terms of challenges. This year though – I built a ton of muscle! Maybe not a ton, but definitely a few pounds.

Bring it on 2022. Show me what you got. Because I’m gonna approach it with the same level of enthusiasm as I’m approaching that plate full of food in front of me.

Yes, life will always be tough. And I’m not expecting 2022 to be “better”. But I am excited about whatever it has in store for me.

The Leather Travel Kit

The case was made of leather and looked worn. It looked sturdy though. The zipper lay unzipped, yet I couldn’t see what was inside.

As I crept closer, the thought didn’t escape me that it belonged to a dead person. I should probably not peek into it.

Would I want someone looking through my travel kit? Absolutely not.

Morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I knew I wanted to see what was inside the dusty kit. Morbid. I realize the use of the word is not in good taste.

Memories of my brother prying open an uncle’s travel kit as a toddler, and knicking his baby index finger on a razor, ran through my head as I stuck out my index finger, and gingerly tugged the case open.

It contained everything I’d expected it to contain, with the exception of the strip of batteries (why?), but seeing the nail clippers got to me for some reason.

I thought about my travel kit that had taken a constant spot on top of my washer whenever I’m home between travels – it is as personal as it gets for me. It is the one thing that I can instantly roll up and take with me on my travels. And it is the one thing that makes me instantly feel at home regardless of where my home for the night is.

I wonder if he knew; if he knew as he clipped his nails, and put the clippers back in the kit, that there would be no next time. If he knew, would he have left it there? So that a random stranger can write a post about how vulnerable it must have felt to leave a half finished piece of your life, for someone to take a peek at.

Nature vs Human – What Would You Pick?

Living in Kansas City, tornado warnings were an everyday occurrence. Moving from a country where there were no tornadoes, to the heart of tornado land, I quickly learned a thing or two about tornadoes.

As freshmen in college, we’d rush to the 1st floor of Chestnut dorms, or “1st floor” as we called it, every time we heard the tornado sirens in the distance. The sound of the sirens was always a distant hum that was barely audible. If we missed it, we’d be sure to hear the RAs (Resident Assistants) who’d come banging at our doors, asking us to get moving.

1st floor always smelled a bit funky. 1st floor was also the freshmen guys’ floor. I don’t think there is any correlation between those two pieces of information. But somehow those are the only two things that come to mind when I think of the 1st floor.

Even though 1st floor was technically the 1st floor of Chestnut, it often felt like a basement. Chestnut was built on the side of a hill, and the entrance to the building was on the second floor. So in order to get to the 1st floor, you had to descend a few stairs. There was no external exit from the 1st floor, which kinda gave the male populated, funky smelling 1st floor a bit of a dungeon vibe.

Giggling, we’d huddle on the floor, in the 1st floor hallway, making jokes about how that ‘nado is never gonna hit the ground anyway.

If it was a particularly bad storm, we’d all be rushed into the “underground”. The “underground” was a brightly light, frigidly air conditioned section of the university that was built entirely INSIDE of another hill. I realize there were a lot of hills on campus.

The “underground” was also said to have been mined by former university students from the mid 1800s, in exchange for free education. It is also possible that I am making up this bit of information. Not much from my freshmen orientation from 16 years ago remain in my mind; but limestone mining by former students is a picture that is ingrained quite deeply.

I say all this because I moved away from Kansas City over 10 years ago. And in those 10 years, I haven’t experienced a single Tornado warning. Until today.

When that alert came to my phone, the first thought that came to my mind was slight fear. Because in 10 years I’d forgotten what it meant to be under tornado watch, let alone a tornado warning.

What do I do? Where do I go? How is it that I feel so unprepared, in spite of my extensive Kansas (City) experience?

Typed out, I realize it sounded like I was panicking. Don’t let me mislead you. Even though I had these thoughts rushing through my head, the most I did was draw the curtains, and lay on the couch with a blanket over me, starting to write this blog post, while also doing a quick Google search about what to do when you don’t have a basement.

I also texted a couple of friends just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on some mass panic movement that was going on that I was unaware of.

Like I mentioned, I’d started to write this blog while plopped on my couch, while the storm was brewing outside. Once I got to the part that required a screenshot of the alert, I went back to my text message thread so that I could take a neat little screenshot that can be inserted into this post.

As I started cropping it up, the history of the thread gave me pause.

It was sobering to see the stark difference between the kinds of alerts I’ve been receiving over the past year. If I could take a picture of how my life has changed over the past year, having swapped out the fast pace and fully booked social calendar of the city life, to a life of last minute impulsive travel and long long car rides to little known hiking trails, this would be it.

June 2nd, 2020 read "Citywide curfew... No traffic allowed in Manhattan south of 96th st..."
July 29, 2021 read "TORNADO WARNING"

Can you tell my threats are now nature, whereas previously it was human?

On the left, view from my old apartment. On the right, my new life. Which would you pick?

I am at peace.

Is this real life?

“So… have you always been a hermit?”

“I never thought of myself that way… but… I suppose so…” she replied

Time stands still at that dock, overlooking the languidly moving currents of the creek, laced by a thin film of dirt and grit.

“I wonder what you’re like when the sky breaks and it starts to storm….” she mused.

What I learned from driving 862 miles in 1 day in a Tesla

I checked out from my hotel and started out from downtown Nashville at exactly 6.30am. As per Google maps, the entire drive was meant to be 13 hours straight shot, but given that Zoomy (my car, aka the diva), needs charging along the way, I ballparked an extra 3-4 hours to my trip.

I was shooting to get into NJ by around 11.30pm to 12.30am Eastern Time. Even though I was mentally prepared for the long drive, I was also prepared to stop along the way and continue my trip on Sunday if I started feeling too tired. I kinda wanted Sunday to be my couch day at home, so I was hoping to make it in 1 day.

But then again, I was also prepared to drive into a fascinating new city (Philly? Richmond? DC?) where I could hole down for a week. Essentially, when I set out, even though I knew I was going to Jersey, I was also open to new adventures if they were thrown my way. This is another perk of traveling solo. You get to follow your heart!

When I set off at 6.30, this is what the Tesla route planner told me my day was going to be like.

You have to bear in mind that Tesla is reporting all times in Central Time in the above picture. This means that even though it reports an arrival time of 9.30pm, that’s actually 10.30pm Eastern Time. Nashville is in Central Time and New Jersey is in Eastern Time and Tesla’s clocks report time in whatever the current timezone is set to. It doesn’t even call out that we will be crossing timezones.

The drive was fairly smooth, even though I hit a thunderstorm just as I pulled into the Mt Jackson supercharger around 6pm. I was warned of this thunderstorm by my friends in NYC, since it was making its way from the East Coast.

Once parked in front of the supercharger, with the rain pouring down, I Googled whether it was safe to charge in a thunderstorm. The answer is yes.

This particular supercharger was thankfully at a gas station/convenience store. While letting my car charge, I ran into the convenience store when the rain broke momentarily. By the time I got my coffee and was ready to go back to my car again, it had started pouring.

The Tesla superchargers were installed quite a walk away from the store, so I waited for a break in the rain to make a dash back to my car. While waiting, an airline pilot struck up a conversation with me. We talked for about 10 minutes about California and New York and life in Virginia versus the big cities, before each of us decided that we should probably dash out.

I often wonder about the brief acquaintances we make throughout life. I’ve met some really cool people and shared some genuine moments with some amazing people across the world. For a brief time, our lives interwine and we share a moment. And then we go our separate ways never to see each other again.

One of them is the front desk host at the second hotel I stayed at in Nashville. She was amazing, and went above and beyond her job description. She would greet me everyday by my first name and always had a cheery smile on her face.

I wonder how long it would be before she forgets my name, and I forget hers. And how long it will be before we both forget about each others existence. Does it matter? Probably not. We are not meant to retain everyone that comes into our lives.

Heading out from Mt Jackson, and driving out into the thunderstorm, I got to see some amazing lightening formations in the sky late into the evening. My friends tell me I take a lot of pictures, but half the time, the things that I retain the most in my mind’s eye are things I don’t capture on camera.

These memories linger and show up years later in my writings. Maybe someday I’ll write about the lightening that split the sky on that drive from Nashville to the Jersey Shore.

But anyway, you’re not here to read about lightening or about interactions with random strangers. If you’ve made it this far, you’re here to find out about the key takeaways from my massive one day drive in a Tesla.

45 mins of charging per 3 hours of driving

My diva needs a 45 minute feeding break for every 3 hours of driving. What this means is that for a 13 hour drive (which is how long it takes to drive from Nashville to the Jersey Shore), add in an extra 3 hours for charging.

Tesla Supercharger, Whytheville, VA

This isn’t so bad really, because it sort of forces you to stop and stretch your legs, eat while not driving, take a nap etc.

Restroom breaks and food breaks can’t be combined with charging stops

Another huge callout is that unlike our gas guzzling peers’ fueling stops, the Tesla charging stops don’t always guarantee a restroom or a place to purchase food. For example, one of the charging stops was at an outdoor mall (Knoxville, TN) and another one was in a Hyatt parking lot (Whytheville, VA).

This means that unless you packed food, you will need additional food stops, and guaranteed separate restroom breaks. These stops ended up adding an extra hour to my entire trip.

Autosteer is reliable but be on alert

I love the Autosteer. I’m fairly certain this drive would have been exhausting had I not had the Autosteer. I thought it did pretty well in general, but I did have a couple of truck drivers honk at me while I was using it. I haven’t figured out why. Perhaps the car was hugging the lane too close to their truck? Perhaps they were worried because maybe I seemed distracted? I’m not sure.

Either way, I try to be as alert as I can when using it. But I also trust the Autosteer more than a human in being alert for 17 hours straight.

This is one example of why it pays to be alert when using the Autosteer. If the car in front of you starts braking slowly, the Autosteer wouldn’t pick it up until it gets too close to it, and then it slams on the brake. This is a scary experience and has caught me off guard a couple of times, especially when there were cars behind me.

In general the Autosteer does a good job of making sure you’re paying attention by having you apply pressure on the steering but on highways where the speed is expected to be constant, it doesn’t check in on you often enough.

Autosteer stops working if Tesla decides you’re distracted

If Autosteer asks you to apply pressure on the steering, and you don’t, even after it starts making warning noises, Tesla penalizes you by disabling Autosteer for the rest of the drive.

When this happens, one hack is to pull over, put the car into Park, and then back into Drive again. Autosteer will be available again for the rest of the drive. But please be alert.

In the end, I pulled into the parking spot in front of my home in Jersey at exactly 12.30am. I did very good on time. And the drive hadn’t felt excessively long.

In closing, I want to leave you with this song that I recorded while the Autosteer was doing its job.

What does “busy” actually mean?

I don’t like to say “I’m too busy for that”. If I can’t find the time to do something, I try to say “that’s not a priority at this moment”.

What are you busy WITH if it’s not the highest prioritized items in your life? Isn’t life about finding time for what’s most important anyway?

Having said that, this week has been one of those weeks where finding time on my calendar has been tough. But you find time for things that are most important anyway.

If not, accept it for what it is and free yourself of the guilt of not having got to it. Just admit that it’s just not a priority in your life at the moment. If not, you’d have done it. And the thing is, there is nothing wrong with that as long as you’re happy.