Sir Lancelot conquers the Enchanted Palace!
When you know what you're doing, life is uninteresting. But when you are bumbling along from one thing to another, wondering what other embarassment is in store for you right around the corner, then you don't have time to think of "boring"! :) Sometimes I felt like Sir Lancelot riding into a land full of demons, ogres, wicked sorcerers and enchanted palaces.
My personal enchanted palace was the "Vending Machine". First time I encountered it at school, I looked at it curiously. I gingerly stepped up trying to figure out what I should do.
Okay, drop coins first. I fumbled in my bag and found a bunch of coins.
Which one is a toony? ($2) Hmm...let's see...go through it one by one...ah, got it!
Okay, now drop it in and pick your drink. Now, why isn't it coming out? Hmm..
I tried hitting a couple of buttons but it didn't work. I gazed at the vending machine with awe. The sesame had chosen not to open this time. Maybe some other time.
It wasn't until one day that I saw a girl kicking the machine as hard as she could before she took out her drink, I realized that the machine was errr...a bit temperamental..:) I had to kick it to free my treasure from this enchanted palace! Aha! First victory for Lancelot!
Pole Star Subha!
My father's 'Enchanted Maze' was the highway system. First time we stepped out on the highway, it felt like we were going in a never ending loop!
Help! The Maze had swallowed us.
We weren't used to highways and exits and ramps and perpendicular, intersecting roads. So we went on a lovely merry-go round reading signs after we'd passed them, seeing exits after the fact, not knowing how to loop back to the highway etc... Finally, after a very interesting day, we figured out the highway system. Or I should say my father did because I was a bit late on the uptake.
Each time we missed the route and went the wrong way, my dad would ask,
"Okay, Subha. Which way do we go? Right or left?"
My dad would promptly turn left and that'd be the right way! So, in a way, I was kind of like the pole star leading the way unerringly, albeit in the wrong direction. If not for me, my family would still be debating whether to turn right or left. But hey, people could rely on me to take the right direction, right?
I don't hear you say "Yes, Subha. You're the best!". Humph. You are as bad as my dad. Humph.
Sanitized Containment Rooms a.k.a "Malls"
We went to Metrotown mall and it seemed so deserted and bereft of people! Coming from the crowds of Paris corner and Ranganathan street, I felt that it looked like a sanitised hospital! Even the floors smelled of disinfectant and cleaning liquid. All stores were symmetrical and same with white walls and polished floors. Not at all distinctive unlike the "Nadar kadai" down the road in Madurai with the name board hanging at a quirky angle or "Murali Maligai Stores" with sacks full of rice and grains stocked up at the front and the unmistakable smell of red chillies tingling your nose or the Chettiar store with the smell of new, beautiful Mangalagiri cotton sarees holding the promise of a beautiful experience. I had been with my mother and grandfather to Nalli's, Kumaran's, Vairamaligai etc...in T.Nagar and they always knew my mom! I got Goldspot or coffee or tea as I chose and the owner would fawn over me and suggest things for me to buy. But this was so impersonal! Sanitinized Containment Rooms.. yeah, that'd be more appropriate than "Malls". I didn't like it!
And then, there was the first encounter with the escalator. All of us looked at it like it was some alien out to grab us and trode gingerly on it. And 5 minutes before the escalator even hit the landing, we'd mentally prepare ourselves for the landing:
Ok..one..two...one leg forward...go with the flow...don't jump...yaaaay!
Besides, once we had a Seinfeld-ian episode. Metrotown mall has huge, different levels of parking. We parked in some level and got into the mall. We wandered around happily for a while and got out at some other entrance. Then we realized we had parked somewhere else and that a mall can actually have more than one entrance. Aha.
Lesson# 1: Remember your parking level and spot number.
That'd have saved us half-an-hour of wandering around the parking lot like grumpy nomads.
We visited Penticton one summer. It is an amazing holiday resort on the shores of Lake Okanagan. They even have their own version of the Nessie called the Ogopogo. How's that for romantic, huh? :) There are beautiful orchards all around the Okanagan area. They even have harvest festivals. Wine from the orchards there is supposed to be the most delicious.
We went to Victoria, capital of BC on a ferry across the Pacific. One thing to be said about British Columbia: it definitely is the most beautiful place on earth! What with mountains and rolling valleys and virgin forests everywhere you look, it is a sight for sore eyes. Butchart Gardens in Victoria has the most beautiful flower show. During the summer, you can see miles and miles of roses of all colors (red, orange, yellow, white) stretching as far as your eyes can see! I hadn't seen such fields of roses anywhere except in movies. It was breathtaking! There's also a wax museum nearby. The Pacific around the Vancouver Island area boasts of a lot of whale schools in its waters and you have rides that take you whale watching! An experience worth its money!
The US border was a couple of hours off Vancouver. We crossed over many times to shop in Bellingham, Portland, Seattle etc... But a stark difference at the border: Canadian authorities were always more polite and friendly than US authorities! :)
And we met a lot of interesting folks! There was a desi guy in Vancouver who held a M.E. in Mechanical Engineering and was driving cabs for a living. You'd be surprised how many well-qualified Indians end up doing menial jobs abroad! It is a pity, really. And then there was this really dynamic lady who ran the "Rim Jhim" radio station in Vancouver. We had interesting visitors too. One guy from CBI, India came to stay at our place. He looked like actor Raghuvaran..:) We heard rumours that the guy behind the Kanishka bombing in 1982 resided in Vancouver. We even met him once! He had come to my dad's bank to do some business and he seemed like such a normal, sane person. He was arrested later but I have no idea what happened to him now. We heard stories where wannabe-immigrants tore up their passports, flushed it down the airplane toilet before disembarkation and claimed refugee status. Canada is a very immigrant-friendly country and grants asylum to refugees easily.
Oh, there are so many stories, so many stories! Which one do I tell you?
The Idiot Box beckons!
We were fascinated by the TV. Partly, because we were making do for the first few months with an old, antique TV that looked like it had been purchased in the 40s. My father’s predecessor had left it and it continued on for sometime till we got a new one. By “we” I mean the collective consciousness of my brother and I. My parents very rarely watched TV.
“Xena – Warrior Princess” was our topmost entertainer! “Hercules” followed and then came “Zinbad the Sailor”. We went crazy over these mythological figures even though the screenplay was so twisted and far from the actual myth! J But it was fun. My brother was a cartoon-maniac. He used to watch I-know-not-what shows some of which included “Banana man”! J Besides, we ended up watching Seinfeld (my once-nemesis). I think it used to air every Tuesday at 7 PM and I diligently used to clear up my homework before that so I could watch it!
Main Street was our Indian street. Vancouver has a very thriving Punjabi population. And on Main Street, you'd find lots of Punjabi stores, restaurants, shops etc... We went grocery shopping there. We used to go to a Sri Lankan store for Indian groceries. Main Street was quintessentially Indian - with its smells, trash, dirt. But it was also home to many of us expatriates - where we to go to get a whiff of home! The only memorable event I had in Main Street was that I bought a length of very good quality, baby pink velvet there! Later on, in Bangalore, a designer turned it into a beautiful sharara. I still have it! :)
The Diary will flip its next page very soon...