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Are you a globaliser?

13 Feb

My friend Jai recently forwarded me an email containing an article that I feel I have to share.
It’s a long-ish story, but it’s worth the read.
According to the publishing date, it’s an oldie. To me, it’s a newbie. And it’s definitely a goodie.


My family and other globalisers

Apr 2, 2005
Published in the Times of India

Are you a globaliser?In 1992, I wrote a book titled Towards Globalisation. I did not realise at the time that this was going to be the history of my family.

Last week, we celebrated the wedding of my daughter, Pallavi. A brilliant student, she had won scholarships to Oxford University and the London School of Economics. In London, she met Julio, a young man from Spain. The two decided to take up jobs in Beijing, China. Last week, they came over from Beijing to Delhi to get married. The wedding guests included 70 friends from North America, Europe and China.

That may sound totally global, but arguably my elder son Shekhar has gone further. He too won a scholarship to Oxford University, and then taught for a year at a school in Colombo. Next he went to Toronto, Canada, for higher studies. There he met a German girl, Franziska.

They both got jobs with the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, USA. This meant that they constantly travelled on IMF business to disparate countries. Shekhar advised and went on missions to Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Kyrgyzstan and Laos. Franziska went to Rwanda, Tajikistan, and Russia. They interrupted these perambulations to get married in late 2003.

My younger son, Rustam, is only 15. Presumably he will study in Australia, marry a Nigerian girl, and settle in Peru.

Readers might think that my family was born and bred in a jet plane. The truth is more prosaic. Our ancestral home is Kargudi, a humble, obscure village in Tanjore district, Tamil Nadu. My earliest memories of it are as a house with no toilets, running water, or pukka road.

When we visited, we disembarked from the train at Tanjore, and then travelled 45 minutes by bullock cart to reach the ancestral home. My father was one of six children, all of whom produced many children (I myself had three siblings). So, two generations later, the size of the Kargudi extended family (including spouses) is over 200. Of these, only three still live in the village. The rest have moved across India and across the whole world, from China to Arabia to Europe to America.

This one Kargudi house has already produced 50 American citizens. So, dismiss the mutterings of those who claim that globalisation means westernisation. It looks more like Aiyarisation, viewed from Kargudi.

What does this imply for our sense of identity? I cannot speak for the whole Kargudi clan, which ranges from rigid Tamil Brahmins to beef-eating, pizza-guzzling, hip-hop dancers. But for me, the Aiyarisation of the world does not mean Aiyar domination. Nor does it mean Aiyar submergence in a global sea. It means acquiring multiple identities, and moving closer to the ideal of a brotherhood of all humanity. I remain quite at home sitting on the floor of the Kargudi house on a mat of reeds, eating from a banana leaf with my hands. I feel just as much at home eating noodles in China, steak in Spain, teriyaki in Japan and cous-cous in Morocco. I am a Kargudi villager, a Tamilian, a Delhi-wallah, an Indian, a Washington Redskins fan, and a citizen of the world, all at the same time and with no sense of tension or contradiction.

When I see the Brihadeeswara Temple in Tanjore, my heart swells and I say to myself “This is mine.” I feel exactly the same way when I see the Church of Bom Jesus in Goa, or the Jewish synagogue in Cochin, or the Siddi Sayed mosque in Ahmedabad: these too are mine. I have strolled so often through the Parks at Oxford University and along the canal in Washington, DC, that they feel part of me. As my family multiplies and intermarries, I hope one day to look at the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona and Rhine river in Germany and think, “These too are mine.”

We Aiyars have a taken a step toward the vision of John Lennon. Imagine there’s no country, It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too.

My father’s generation was the first to leave the village, and loosen its regional shackles. My father became a chartered accountant in Lahore, an uncle became a hotel manager in Karachi, and we had an aunt in Rangoon.

My generation loosened the shackles of religion. My elder brother married a Sikh, my younger brother married a Christian, and I married a Parsi. The next generation has gone a step further, marrying across the globe. Globalisation for me is not just the movement of goods and capital, or even of Aiyars. It is a step towards Lennon’s vision of no country.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope one day you’ll join us. And the world will be one.

Original link: My family and other globalisers (Times of India)

Biking and Wining in Niagara

7 Sep

To celebrate the end of summer, I decided to take a little trip out to the Niagara region to do some taste testing. In the past year, I’ve acquired a love and taste for wines – and what better way to toast the (almost) end of summer than with a wine tour on bikes?

Seven of my friends and I chose to take the Private Vineyard Lunch and Cycle Wine Tour from Niagara World Wine Tours. We were provided with bikes and cycle guides to lead us on a leisurely ride to four wineries.

As predicted (by me, before this tour even started), I purchased something from each winery.

Vignoble Rancourt Winery – a French winery with delicious grapes we got to sample as a morning treat.
Purchased: Reisling, VQA: $16.80
Tasting notes: Slightly off dry. Delicate floral (white flowers) notes on the nose with fresh citrus, flashy lemon and touch of tangerine. Nicely balanced between bright acidity of the lemon with a little touch of sweetness, orange/ tangerine. Nice cleansing finish on mineral components.
Personal notes: It was a crisp delicious wine with just a hint of fruit – I usually don’t like white wines, but I had to buy this one!

Pillitteri Winery – an Italian family owned & operated winery with Sicilian roots. By far, the biggest winery we visited that day; it was definitely one of the more well-known ones in the Niagara region
Purchased: 2006 Vidal Icewine: $25.10
Tasting notes: A taste of this golden coloured Icewine fills the palate with an explosion of lush fruits of mango, passion-fruit, pineapple and lychees. Fantastic with exotic fruit salad, crème caramel, Roquefort cheese, blue cheese, or simply on its own.
Personal notes: I’m generally a fan of sweet things and after one sip of this, I fell in love with Icewine (if you can believe it, I’ve never tasted one before Pillitteri!) The sweetness of the lychee sold me.

Pondview Winery – a very new winery which opened in June 2010.
Purchased: 2009 Cabernet Franc Icewine: $35.00
Tasting notes: The characteristic red berries become super abundant on the nose and palate. Strawberries and raspberries combine with a sumptuous candied apple flavour. Crisp acidity is on hand to meet the rich sweetness of this decadent wine.
Personal notes: You can definitely taste the strawberries and candied apple flavour – I just had to get a red icewine to go with the white icewine from Pillitteri.

Caroline Cellars – family owned and operated winery with a farmhouse countryside feel.
Purchased: Rosé: $11.50
Tasting notes: This wine is a blend of wines from 2006 and 2007, but the exact blend is a winemaker’s secret. Strawberry and apricot jam on the nose give way to a palate bursting with sweet fruity notes. A great wine with turkey or pork dishes.
Personal notes: Goes down smooth and the fruity notes help too!

Things we learned that day:

  1. Dessert wine is meant to be tasted at the back of your mouth. This is done by pressing the tip of your tongue against the back of your front teeth. It’s less sweet and more tasty this way.
  2. How to detect wine faults (e.g. cork taint) by smelling and looking at the clarity of [white] wine.
  3. You never forget how to ride a bike – but getting on a bicycle after years of not having one as a form of transportation/fun makes you feel like you never knew how to ride a bike in the first place!
  4. Riding for a full day – even with breaks for wine and lunch – takes a toll on your derrière. Be ready to be sore the next day. Opt for half-day cycle-wine tours if you want to avoid the discomfort.
  5. Cars parked on the road shoulder for fruit stand shopping = hazards. Instability on a bike may or may not cause you to bail and throw your bike down to avoid going into a ditch. Not that this happened to me or anything… :)
  6. Watching friends ride while being tipsy on wine is hilarious and highly entertaining. It also leads to bets on who’s going to fall first.
  7. No matter how old we are, my friends and I will always have child-like tendencies; e.g. wanting to race each other on bikes, snickering at a wine bottle labelled “Too Easy”.

Dancing Matt

21 Apr

Dance. And the whole world will dance with you.

Enter Matt.

The World is…

16 Apr

Truth about the world

Adventures in LA – Horseback Riding

30 Mar

Location: Zuma Canyon, Malibu – Los Angeles, California
Zuma Canyon

It’s a habit of mine to find horseback riding opportunities wherever I am – whether I’m in Cuba, Egypt, or Los Angeles. And if you’re traveling with me, I will try my best to convince you to join me. I always encourage people to try new things, especially things I love! :)

Malibu Riders provided us with some trusty steeds for our 3-mile ride through Zuma Canyon.

They have horses for all levels of riders from novice to advanced. I was assigned to a quick little bay mare named Honna (at least that’s how it was pronounced). My friend’s never been on a horse before so our guide gave him a really experienced gray mare, Nay-Nay.
Too bad she was the one horse who wanted to kick every other horse that tried to pass her that day (apparently she doesn’t usually do this). It’s a little scary trying to get your horse away from the one that kicks when you’re on a narrow mountain trail with a wall to your left and a cliff to your right. At least it made for an interesting ride.

Other than that, the ride went smoothly. Our guide made sure that the riders were doing okay during the entire ride and we got to do a little trot and canter at the end of it when everyone felt comfortable enough to try a faster pace. Oh, and the friend that’s never been on a horse before? He enjoyed it a lot! (I’d prefer he love it, but I won’t put words in his mouth)

Riding in Zuma CanyonMalibu View

Okay so I’m not a riding instructor or anything close to being qualified as one, but here are some things you might want to keep in mind before you decide to horseback ride and during the ride:

  • Don’t wear open-toed shoes.
  • Don’t wear shorts. You can get saddle burn, and it ain’t pretty.
  • Relax. Breathe. Try not to let fear or nerves get to you. Horses can feel if you’re tense through the saddle and may take advantage of this.
  • Make sure your stirrups (the things you put your feet in) are even in length or you’ll feel lopsided and off-balance.
  • Your horse WILL try to eat. Just pull your reins a bit and nudge your horse on by squeezing/kicking your legs.
  • If your horse tries to kick another horse, nudge him on. When they’re moving, they can’t kick out as effectively.
  • If another horse is going to kick yours, move your horse ASAP. You don’t want to be in the way of a kick because those suckers hurt!
  • Don’t worry about steering too much. Trail horses are trained to follow each other – nose to tail – but never let go of your reins; you need them for control.
  • You can always hold onto the pommel (front of the saddle) if you need something extra to grab.
  • If you don’t want to go faster than a walk, make sure to let your guide know so s/he sets a comfortable pace for everyone.
  • Relax, relax, and relax. Have fun!

Malibu Riders operates in Malibu (Zuma Canyon), and Agoura Hills (Paramount Ranch and Malibu Creek) in Los Angeles, CA. They also offer 2-person picnic rides and riding lessons.

Malibu Riders Promo Video:

Past Photos – Teotihuacan

24 Mar

Location: Teotihuacan Pyramids, Mexico (just a little outside of Mexico City)
Taken in July 2009

All my photos are taken with a regular digital camera. No fancy schmancy equipment was used (which is pretty obvious)

Pyramid of the Sun
Platform - Avenue of the Dead

Chicken & Rice – New York

23 Mar

When I went to New York, my good friend took me to a chicken & rice cart. He told me that it was THE BEST chicken & rice cart in New York. I took it as an exaggeration – but I was wrong. It’s well-known. VERY well-known. You could even call it famous. If you Google “chicken & rice new york”, a map to the cart will show up on the results page.

The cart owner’s name is Islam Elsayed and his cart is located at 53rd St. and 6th Ave., New York. (In front of the Hilton)

Ok, the Google map below is a bit off with it’s red ‘A’ label, as you can see when you click the pic to enlarge, but I’ve circled the correct intersection.

Click here for the google map.
Map to NY's famous Chicken & Rice cart

The Toronto Star posted an article on Friday, March 19, 2010 about the “‘Halal cart guy’ a New York original”. It’s a good read, so check it out if you wanna know more about the Halal Cart Guy/Chicken & Rice Guy.

I was told to avoid the late-night after-party lineups since they’re about 10x longer than daytime ones, so I went during a Saturday to get my chicken & rice fix. There was still a line-up, and in my opinion, it was long. Imagine how the night line-ups are! Notice my “I hate line-ups” face.
Chicken & Rice line-up
To be honest, the line-up was worth it. I’ve had a lot of chicken in my life. And a lot more rice (insert Asian stereotype phrase here). And this combo was delicious! It must have been the special white sauce (not the kind dirty-birds think of) that does it, and also the hot sauce which gives it a kick.

It’s so good that I’d be willing to line-up again (this time, with my “the line-up is worth it” face). It was even worth it to sit outside in the February cold to eat it.

Andrea's chicken & rice requirements

(Hmm, I just noticed that my “I hate line-ups” face and my “hungry, dying-to-eat” face are very similar. I gotta work on diversifying my faces!)

So if you like chicken and rice, and you’re in the Big Apple, go get some! You won’t be disappointed.

Adventures in LA – Canyoneering

22 Mar

Location: Altadena area – Los Angeles, California

When you think Los Angeles, you think Hollywood. You think big city. You think sun, surf, sand, and superstars (of course!). Now add canyoneering to that list.

Canyoneering (or Canyoning) is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling/rappelling, and/or swimming.

Hiking up the CanyonSince we don’t have canyons close to Toronto, I figured I’d have to experience canyoneering on a trip – so why not in LA?

I signed my friends and I up for a Canyoneering adventure through Alpine Training Services via (where there are plenty of activities and adventures to browse if you’re in California, Nevada, or Florida).

Our day started at 9am with a briefing and a drive to Rubio Canyon in Altadena where we packed up the necessary/provided gear (helmets, kids!) for the hike up the hills and the eventual descent by rope. At around 10am we started hiking some trails – flat ones to start off with, but the inclines started to get steeper (this is when one discovers how out-of-shape they are….).

After a mini training session where we rappelled down dirt inclines (for practice), we reached our first challenge – a 100-foot waterfall. Here’s where I got to test my new super cool shoes in water.

‘Super cool’ is my own personal opinion. I’ve received such comments as “omg those are so ugly” and “eew. wtf are those?”. I describe them as unconventional. Well, to each their own I guess!
Here, I present my Vibram FiveFingers SPRINT shoes which I purchased specifically for this canyoneering adventure. [Thanks to Off-track Backpacking's post for bringing these toe-shoes to my attention!]

Vibram FiveFingers

Okay, so they look a little weird, but I choose function over fashion when partaking in activities that require good footing. I think our guide, Gavin, doubted my FiveFingers as he told me to bring along my spare set of runners (that I didn’t end up needing).

These toe-shoes are flexible and surprisingly comfortable. They form to your foot and you can definitely get a good feel of the surfaces you’re treading on (whether it be ground or wall). They were great on land and also in water (although the SPRINTs probably don’t keep you as warm as the FLOW model). My only regret is deciding to break them in on this trip – I should have followed the instructions/heeded the warnings on the box and done the breaking-in process beforehand. For hiking and canyoneering, I give them a thumbs-up.

So it took a while for everyone to make their way down the first waterfall but this wasn’t surprising since we were new at this – and a 100-foot drop is pretty intimidating. Our pace was slow and steady.

At the top of the 100-ft waterfallOn the way downDown a smaller waterfall

Your life is hanging by a thread – or rather, several threads which make a thick rope. It helps that our guides are very experienced – this fact calmed my nerves. They made sure our harnesses and ropes were secure before sending us on our way.

Walking backwards the entire time – thinking “right foot, left foot. right foot, left foot” .
Focused on being balanced. Putting equal weight on both legs. Maintaining a good angle from the wall.
Gushing water from above.
Mossy parts were to be avoided – because your foot could slip.
My foot slipped. I swung from side-to-side for a bit.
All I could do was try to find good footing and get back in position.
Compose myself. And keep going.
Until I felt flat ground beneath my feet.
(And then let out a huge sigh of relief).

After the first waterfall, the ones that followed were much easier – they were smaller and we were getting the hang of it.

An 8-hour day of Canyoneering is challenging, exciting, and tiring. We thought we would be able to rest for a couple hours after this adventure and do some evening activities – we were right and wrong.
Right, because we did end up going out. Wrong, because we were so exhausted from the days’ adventure that we didn’t enjoy ourselves as much as we should have.

The 100-foot drop - view from the topGroup shot at the base of the 100-ft waterfall

Canyoneering takes a lot out of you, but if you’re looking to hike, take in some great views, and do something out-of-the-ordinary, it’s definitely a fun activity you’ll want to consider.

Our guides, Gavin, Travis, and Laura, have an obvious love for it and they were great at explaining the procedures for rappelling while making sure we were safe and aware of everything around us (those loose falling rocks can definitely hurt). You can check out their photos of our adventure here.