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Ever have a time in your life where so much is happening, it seems almost unreal? As I wrote my immigration form a few hours ago to re-enter India from Singapore, I declared my travels in the last 6 days – Singapore obviously, but also India for a day, before that the UK and Canada.
And why so much travel? The real reason combines the personal and the professional.
On the personal front…
Lots of different things however the real big news is… drum roll here… my partner and I finally took the plunge to sign a piece of paper in Winnipeg with a wee wedding at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We knew from the moment we met over five years ago that we wanted to spend our lives together, however took our time to get to this stage of bringing our respective families together in celebration.
It still feels strange when folks teasingly call me “Mrs Smith” – a last name I am not adopting but respect completely. I apparently even accidentally hung up on a consulting associate who merrily greeted me that way! (in fairness, the call didn’t connect properly)
Within a week of being wedded in Winnipeg, I was on more planes and found myself in Singapore for some work related meetings. Which is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak as on the professional front as much has happened over the last few months:
- I was delighted to be back in Jakarta working on a project from September 2016 to December then back briefly in March and April 2017. Naturally this meant a few stops in Singapore in my crisscrossing back and forth between India and Indonesia…
- January and May were pre-occupied with India projects that enabled trips to Kolkata and Kochi – it had been years since I was in Kerela so that was a particular treat!
- February brought me to Delhi to co-facilitate a remarkable conference
- More is unfolding in the technology space with the India company association… plus some new developments brewing that seem particularly exciting!
Beyond the personal and professional, everyday life in India inspired a few amused cribs about:
- Ready or not, July 1st introduces India’s Goods & Services Tax with some absurd moments and migration migraines from Service Tax to GST
- After a couple of years of effort, I finally successfully withdrew my last Indian Provident Fund. If ever anyone has tried to do this – foreigner or Indian – you will understand this is NOT necessarily a simple process!
- After even more effort, a weird system error was finally corrected so that the Indian government was finally convinced I actually had paid my taxes in 2009. Really… honestly… I did… it only took 8 years for them to admit it!!
- We also learned to survive the aftermath of November 2016’s demonetization in which cash was temporarily dethroned
So from newly wedded bliss, professional developments, to the everyday follies in India, life continues to be an amazing adventure!
There you have… a bit of insight into what’s really going on…
A bonus to all my trips back and forth between Mumbai and Jakarta from September 2016 to April 2017 was being able to stop in Singapore. I’m back here in Singapore today, post travels to the UK and Canada… completely jet lagged but happy to be back in Asia.
My plan this morning to stroll along the beach was curtailed by rain… so I’m content instead with reminders from past walks… including a November 2016 breakfast wander…
November’s stop was specifically timed to coincide with Whisky Live Singapore. Obviously it was no accident, and my whisky explorations can be found on Whisky Lady, however it was such a treat to spend the weekend in Singapore, staying with my friend on the East Coast.
Why such a treat? Aside from it being my home away from home… that particular day happened to be one of those rare mornings when both my friend and I had a bit of time to go together for a stroll along the coast.
We began with breakfast – kaya toast, runny eggs and kopi with spicy noodles – both familiar ‘comfort foods’ of Singapore…
Enjoyed watching kids decorate their kites…
And generally witnessed the world go by.
While we live next to the water in Mumbai too, there is a different kind of rhythm and feel to the coast of each city. This particular part of Singapore remains one of my absolute favourites and hopefully tomorrow morning the weather will cooperate and I can enjoy a nice long wander…
I spent most of December 2016 in Jakarta… long days, late nights but thoroughly worth the time investment. At that point, I thought my job was done and didn’t expect to return until a new project began.
However thanks to some creative re-allocation of who does what, I’m delighted to be back -even if it is just a quick trip!
I’m looking forward to returning to my favourite serviced apartment tonight, catching up with friends mid-week…
Then hopping on another plane to Singapore to check-in on company related matters, re-stock on interesting whiskies, hopefully catch-up with even more friends… mayhap a business meeting too if can swing it!
In short, I’m delighted to be back in the air, doing what I enjoy and hope this trip leads to even more such opportunities…
There I was with an old friend and his partner, my partner and his old friends – who just so happened to know each other.
It is a small world like that.
My partner was in Kolkata to perform in a play.
I was in Kolkata to meet with my client and conduct focus group discussions with their team.
It wasn’t an accident we were in Kolkata at the same time. One commitment sparked another and thankfully nothing got in the way.
So that Sunday evening, we came out after the play to meet our friends, enjoying the slight nip in the air…
I could not have been happier.
For me, Bengali is one of those languages that I do not speak but I was immersed in enough consider it a familiar friend. It is the sound of one of my many past homes… the home where I lived in the 90s as a student in Chittaranjan Park, Delhi.
And Bengali food is something that once upon a time was what would constitute a regular home cooked meal.
The setting? A piece of history.
While the Tollygunge club was officially founded in 1895, the Club House was built even earlier and is now over 220 years old. What was once home to Tipu Sultan’s son and a member of the East India Company now is where our friends come out to enjoy their day or night.
Rather than be a stuffy relic, ‘Tolly’ is where families and friends go to entertain and be entertained, relax and re-invigorate…
It is a nice reminder that things do change… yet also retain elements of days gone by.
It was also a time to reflect…
Looking at a friend I’ve known for more than 20 years, it was clear that I’m not the same person I was back in early 1995 when we first met.
However I would not be the person I am today without all the ups and downs, rights and lefts that occurred in between.
So though Bengal is no longer a core element of my everyday today in a way that it was living in a Bengali home in a Bengali colony, hearing Bengali, eating Bong khanna, listening to Bengali music… these experiences are all intrinsically part of me, not just my past but indelibly part of who I will always be.
And for that I am thankful. It was indeed a ‘Tolly’ good evening!
Everyday Asia has been quiet for an understandable reason – I’ve been pre-occupied with a project in Indonesia for a couple of months. When not in Indonesia, I have either been in Singapore or Mumbai or somewhere in between.
There has been lots of activities and not much “down time.”
Even weekends have been packed with things like Whisky Live in Singapore or cramming four social events into a single evening home in Mumbai.
Until the long weekend. In Jakarta.
Naturally I had delusions of being able to go on adventures outside of Jakarta… maybe Yogyakarta and Borobudur or other places…
Naturally I also did not book anything in advance… So by the time I tried to fix on a plan, most places that looked reasonable were full.
I’m coming back!!! To say that I missed being in Jakarta is putting it rather mildly…
After a nearly two year hiatus, I finally have another project back in Indonesia. (insert image of mad happy dancing)
Can’t wait to be re-united with the guys and dig into the work!
No wasting time apartment hunting – chose a serviced apartment walking (hopefully not stumbling!) distance from the project office in Kuningan. Almost booked at my last Jakarta ‘stay-cation‘ spot, however bagged a slightly better deal nearby.
I also can’t wait to see a couple crazy friends… earlier trips resulted in an ad voice over (“Can you drop the Indian accent!“), overnight drive just for 1am dinner at a hill station, joined family time in Bandung and a slightly random road trip in Java.
And the food – OMG!! There will be feasting fit into all the focused work…
In June I was in my home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is always good to be back and there were so many special reconnects.
One evening in particular reminded me how blessed we were to grow up in a place bursting with musical talent.
I looked around the room at familiar friends… folks I grew up… folks with many shared experiences… folks whose lives have gone through many twists and turns… folks whose hearts have been broken, mended…. folks who faced trials and many triumphs… folks who still turn to share with each other life through music…. relationships that span several decades.
After all, we were there to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday. Six fabulous decades of merriment, mischief and more. (more…)
Don’t laugh but I love taking taxis in Singapore. There are always such friendly interesting exchanges. In the space of a 10 – 15 minute ride you get a glimpse into each others lives.
One morning on a recent trip to Singapore, my friend suggested ALMOST had time to take the bus. Yes it would have saved money however it was cutting it a bit tight with timing and more importantly, I would miss one of the stories.
That day I had a woman driver, divorcee of three children just a year older than I. We began our chat talking about the weather – she shared how it had been raining more than usual yet today was sunny. I noted that I’d heard about the unusual rains however had just came from Mumbai the previous night so joked that I decided to bring a little sunshine for my Singapore friends.
That lead to questions about how I’m living in India. Then various other topics. When it was established I have a significant other and that’s a big part of my living in India, next natural question was “Do you have kids?” To which I responded no… She embraced my choice, sharing it certainly hasn’t been easy raising three kids on her own.
Yet we both agreed no regrets on either side.
Any other locations where you look forward to a cab ride into someone’s life?
PS I was just in Singapore for a week long marriage marathon for a friend’s daughter. Lots of tales to tell there but in the interim thought would share this post drafted during an earlier trip.
Related Singapore posts:
A terrible horrible thing happened in Orlando this summer. That 50 people lost their lives and many others were injured in a shooting at a gay nightclub is beyond a tragedy. However the outrage and condemnation of the attack was a small sliver of shinning light in a very dark moment.
As I walked through the heart of Toronto’s financial district in June, everywhere were signs of support for pride month. The aftermath of Orlando brought an enhanced push to the usual preparations for pride. (more…)
Not sure if you’ve noticed but I’ve been a bit pre-occupied the last while.
Lots happening behind the curtain with the upshot that in just a few hours I will be on a plane from Mumbai to London… enjoy the weekend there catching up with my partner, seeing him perform, hopefully meet a few friends!
Then hop on another plane to Toronto. Hope and pray everything goes smoothly with my Indian visa submission.
Hop on another plane to Winnipeg to spend some much needed time with family and friends.
Then hop on yet another plane back to Toronto where my sincere wish is that a lovely new visa will be ready and waiting for me. Pretty please!
And then, yes you got it… hop on another plane back to London then home to Mumbai.
Won’t bore you with the details but this is a big change for me. Til now I’ve been terribly spoilt in the visa department. With a flourish of a pen all that changed. So now… my fate is in the hands of some random stranger. Just as it is for many people. Wish me well!!