Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Madrasi

In one of my evening strolls, I came across an elderly Punjabi lady doing her breathing exercises in the park. We struck up a conversation. Or rather, we began to strike up a conversation. In my side it was carried out in English and on her side, Hindi. After a few sentences, she asked me, "You don't know Hindi?". I replied with the usual, "Umm.. I can understand a little but cannot talk".
She frowned, shook her head disapprovingly and said, "This is bad. Madrasis speak only madrasi. Everyone must learn Hindi. It is the National Language no?". There are only few things that are as annoying as the sentence above. But then I checked myself. Why should I get upset just because she's an idiot?
So I explained to her about this whole new thing called Tamil and about how there's no such language called Madrasi. She nodded blankly - poor thing was denser than I thought!
She reiterated the need for every Indian to learn Hindi, citing her own example - about how she learnt Hindi in school along with Punjabi.
I told her, "Maybe we can follow Singapore's model in language education".
"Yea yea, Singapore is very good", she nodded her assent.
"Yes, even though Malay is the National Language, they learn English and their own mother tongue in school. Malay isn't a 'must learn' you know', I said.
'Oh', she said. She clearly didn't expect that. And changed the topic.

Speaking of Malay, its one of the interesting languages and also easy to understand a little if you know English. For one, it uses the English alphabets. And most of the words are derived from English, Tamil, Hindi etc. For example, consider the following - 'I went by tren to the nearby pasar. It was a long walk from the tren stesen so I took a teksi. On the road I saw many elektrik lights. I saw a farmasi shop and a telekommunikasi shop.'
No, I haven't misspelled. Its how they were spelt in Malay. Any trip to Malaysia is spiced up by trying to decipher the road signs and a finding a small joy when a word is understood. 'Must learn' or not, learning a new language is interesting, no?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

As the Eagle flies

Here I am!
I haven't disappeared, dear Reader. Ever since I shifted my job, from being a Software Engineer working 5 days a week to a mother working 24/7, its been kinda hard to fit in the blogging!
Usually a thought takes shape in my mind and before I can document it, my time is claimed by the little one. But, I have squeezed in the blogging (though it takes me about three days to write one post) because, I've missed it!!

In this post, I'm gonna take you with me to Langkawi. It is a touristy island in Malaysia, filled with beautiful beaches and plenty of rain forests (Note to self: Stop sounding like a tour brochure). Since we wanted to taste the best of both worlds, we booked two nights at a hotel inland amidst wooded areas and two nights in a hotel overlooking the bay.

There is a great beach in Langkawi, called Pantai Cenang. (Pantai = Beach in Malay). It has the most famous and crowded restaurants and night life in the island. That is to say, this is the only area which is alive after 10.00 pm. Of our four nights there, we had to head back here three nights for dinner! Talking of dinner, let me recommend you the Little Mexican at Pantai Cenang. Absolutely deliciously tasty mexican food!

Getting back to the things to do (rather, things we did) in Langkawi, renting a Toyota Vios we drove to Kampung Tok Senik resort. We lost our way and ended up taking a longer, and incidentally scenic, route to the resort. The resort was set in a Malay village style (hence the Kampung in the name). Beautiful wooden houses with wooden furnishings complete wioth creaking floorboards! After a lunch of half-baked potatoes and chicken (they had the gall to call it Madras Chicken Curry!) at the resort's restaurant, Warung Tok Mat, we headed to the Pantai Cenang which is known for the water sports it offers.

First I went Parasailing. This was the first time I was doing it all by myself. If you haven't done it yet, make time to get it done soon! Its one of the 1000 Things To Do Before You Die. The absolutely liberating feeling of being propelled by air, meeting the setting sun eye-to-eye, seeing the gray-blue sea waving at you below your feet instead of through the tiny oval of an airplane window, and getting to wave hullo to the passing airplane - beautiful beautiful feeling! After the parasailing, I also tried the Jet Skiing. It was pretty exhilarating to skim along the water in something other than a boat!

The next day we headed to the famous skybridge of Langkawi (See Billa or Don!) which is reached by a cable car. Beautiful views from up there, all mountains and sea and islands and such. Then we headed to another beach called the Tanjung Rhu from where we could charter a boat for island tour.

Since it was pretty late in the day, not many people were there and so we got a boat all for ourselves. The journey started through a mangrove forest (do you call it forest?). The boatman first stopped at a fish farm, where the fishes are grown(for food) in the sea water in small square encampments. Living in an island, visiting other islands, you can have one too many fishes to see. Fish and ocean life have begun to bore me!

So we moved quickly to the next activity - Eagle feeding. There are many bloggers out there who request the tourist to Langkawi to discourage the boatmen from this activity and I join their list.
Out boatman stopped the boat, dropped some food for the eagles in the water and then raised the motor a few times. About six or seven eagles came from nowhere and started swooping up and down grabbing the food - all for our entertainment! The argument against this activity is that the eagles lose their natural capacity to hunt and their dependency may endanger their lives.
Next he took us to a scary cave (it was dusk remember!) and said it was the Crocodile Cave. He must have seen me slowly freezing in fear for he said reassuringly, "No crocodiles now". Thank god for that!
Next stop was an even scarier cave called the Bat Cave. Here, we had to proceed on foot. The boatman conveniently moored his boat and asked us to go ahead on our own. Inside it was absolute darkness and all we were armed with was the boatman's flashlight. I shone it on the cave's ceiling and it was like I was in my worst nightmare, but awake. (Like Chandler said, I was even being charged for it!)
The ceiling was covered with about two hundred bats - and that's only at the patch of light. I kept shining the light here and there and saw the bats everywhere. I literally dragged Hubs out of the cave as fast as I could. The man actually wanted to linger and take a closer look!!
I ran and he walked to the boat and the boatman now took the sea route to the mainland (rather main island) instead of the backwater route we came by. On the way we saw many yachts moored in the water which the boatman explained to us belong to tourists who sail in to Langkawi from Australia, Europe etc. Apparently, they park here since the water is calmer rather than the main harbor.

We also visited the all famous Eagle Square of Langkawi - nothing but a huge statue of an eagle about to fly. A very typical tourist place. Enough said.

The next day we went to Durian Perangin - one of the accessible waterfalls of Langkawi. Maybe there hasn't been much rain, but this waterfall wasn't very impressive. We had to climb a whole lot of steps to reach the top of the waterfall and we had to stop half-way since climbing while carrying the tot was hard labor!
Next, we planned to go to the tallest mountain in Langkawi - Gunung Raya. We drove for about 15 km and almost reached the peak to be met with this!
So it was a U-Turn and back to the ground!

And that was the end of a much-needed relaxing vacation. Lets wave goodbye to the eagle land!
Oh, are you wondering why I call it Eagle land? Langkawi in Malay means Reddish-Brown Eagle.