June 29, 2009

Speaking at Peking

I was invited to give a speech at Peking University, following a long line of accomplished orators such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Consistently positioned at the top of China's university rankings, Peking University draws the brightest minds in the nation. There were four speakers including myself, each responsible for discussing a different geographical region of India. I gave an overview of my time living, working, and traveling in South India. I focused on my time in Bangalore and Hyderabad, briefly touching on trips to Kerala and Pondicherry.

The audience was made up mostly of Chinese students who gave me their complete attention. They were captivated by my delivery and awed by my gravitas. After my speech concluded and the applause died down, I was asked several intriguing questions by the audience members:

  1. What is the religious composition of India?
  2. Are there really cows on the street? (The girl asking this warned me beforehand that it would be a "cute" question.)
  3. Why does India have significantly more developed IT and bio tech sectors than China?


"We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study." - Gandhi

June 28, 2009

How Cute

Many foreigners come to China to cash in on the highly lucrative English teaching industry, charging exorbitant hourly rates to teach a language that they themselves may or may not be fluent in. I had no such aspirations and offered my services free of charge, providing my coworkers with tips on the correct usage of words and their meanings. Somehow my female colleagues at Force Research ended up with the misconception that the word "cute" meant intelligent. As a result, whenever I did something clever (which was not a rare occurrence) they would tell me how cute I was.


"You so cute." - Chinese girl

June 23, 2009

Angels and Demons

My Irish flatmate, his American colleague, and I form a formidable trio in Beijing. We are different enough from each other to keep things interesting, but similar enough to remain friends. A Filipina assessed our individual characteristics and came up with the following verbal portrait of our distinct natures:
  1. The Irishman, a scoundrel of the highest order, is beyond redemption. She dubbed him a 'devil'.
  2. The American 'bad boy' still has goodness in his heart and can one day return to the path of righteousness.
  3. My noble nature is so pure and untarnished that there is a likelihood I could snap at any moment and fall into an abyss of sin (see point #1).
"Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." - Abraham Lincoln

June 22, 2009

ARNABungee: Notice to Jumping

Long Qing Xia is a scenic area located 90km away from Beijing. The Long Qing gorge hosted my first ever bungee jump. Before I leaped into the unknown, I pored over the warning notice that was posted near the entrance.

Jumping down from the jumping platform is a real challenge to people of the world nowadays. It is also the bravers' enjoyment. Anyone who will join in this activity must pay attention to the following:

1. People who suffer hypertension, heart disease and mental disease are forbidden. The pregnant women and the people who drink are also not allowed to join in the activity.

2. If children under 18 want to join in it, they must have the guardians sign.

3. The jumpers must do everything under the conduct of the workers. Don't have fun or play in the public space of entertainment. Don't damage any facilities.

4. While doing jumping, one mustn't take your valuables or anything easy to drop with you.

5. Admission by ticket only. One has a ticket. The ticket that is sold can't be returned or exchange with others.

6. If anyone hesitates about jumping on the jumping platform beyond three minutes, he or she is considered to waive the right to jump.

June 21, 2009

Lost Wallet

I awoke on a sunny Saturday afternoon and got ready to do some sightseeing in Beijing. I locked the door to my room and put the keys in my pocket. Something was awry. Several denominations of Chinese currency (RMB) were in my pocket. My trusty phone was there also. So was my transit pass. Assorted pieces of lint were also present. But my wallet was missing!

I looked around my room, which was as spic and span as a country man. My wallet was AWOL. I expanded my search to all corners of my apartment, going over it with a fine toothed comb. I looked between the sofa cushions. I emptied the trash can. I checked the fridge. Nowhere to be found was my wayward wallet.

I wallowed in self pity for a few moments, munching on some meat-flavoured bean product that I bought from the local convenience store with some of my remaining change. Then I sprung into action, notifying my financial institutions of my misfortune. They canceled my credit cards immediately. I contacted the venues I recollected being at the night before, but they had not seen my misplaced wallet either. It was gone forever.


“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.” - Marcus Aurelius

June 18, 2009

People's Liberation

About to head off from Bangalore to Mahabalipuram for a beach weekend, a Korean and I made our way to the Majestic bus station. A bus heading to our destination arrived punctually at our scheduled departure time of 9:30 pm. We got on, only to be informed that this was actually the 8:30 pm bus. We got off and waited. In due time I headed off to the washroom. The dutiful Koreanette remained at the bus stop to watch over my travel gear.

I entered the public bathroom and found all the water closets occupied. Several uncomfortable minutes passed and the situation remained the same. I discovered that all the stalls were locked from the inside except for one. I could still hear noises coming from inside this one though. The stench was most foul. A poor soul seemed to be trapped inside, seeking deliverance at the hands of a fellow potty patron. I unlocked the door, and out popped a beleaguered looking fellow who quickly ran outside. I do not know how long he had been dwelling in the commode.


"A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom." - Bob Dylan

June 11, 2009

Peking Dick

Beijing may be famous for its Peking duck, but some other specialties also stick out. At a roadside stall in Wangfujing I was offered a skewer of lamb penis that was being sold by a cocky food seller. He gave me the shaft. Not wanting to be a dick, I purchased and devoured the organ. My roommate did not want to be a member to the act, so he refrained from gobbling the knob. He felt like a wiener as he watched me chew on the sheep schlong.

My flatmate also vowed never to accompany me to the first specialty palace of phallus in the world. The Guolizhuang genital restaurant serves the love skin of various animals, boasting a virile customer base and strong growth prospects. Privately owned and operated, it is not a stop on any of the standard package tours.

June 09, 2009

Swine Dining

The swine flu epidemic has swept across the globe, putting fear in the hearts of men. While most of the world has pig on their mind I have it in my stomach. At Hadilao Hot Pot, I had pig brains accompanied with helpings of duck blood and fungus. A hot pot is a bowl of simmering broth in which different food items can be dropped. It is placed in the center of the dining table so that everyone can participate in the process of cooking and eating. The communal meal is particularly popular during the harsh Beijing winter. For the inexperienced hot potter, it is sometimes difficult to determine when the meat has been fully cooked and is ready to eat. The brain was left in the bowl for an extra long amount of time before being consumed as a safety precaution.  

“It is the quiet pigs that eat the meal.” - Irish Proverb

June 08, 2009

Subway Saviour

As is the custom in overpopulated nations, mass transit users get on board vehicles before other passengers have a chance to disembark. Usually the members of the opposing groups collide, push, shove, slip, squeak, and slither until each side is where they want to be. One day on the Beijing subway, a peasant girl was left behind in this transition. The rest of her family had made their way onto the train successfully, but the little girl was still on the platform.

As the warning bell sounded and the subway doors started to close from each side, the parents suddenly realized that she had been left behind. The mother started screaming, while the father attempted to retrieve the daughter. The doors were sliding shut quickly and the father could not reach his daughter from inside the train. When there seemed to be little hope for salvation, my heroic instinct kicked in. Just as the authorities had blocked my website, I blocked the door. While I prevented one side from closing, the mother held the other door at bay. This gave the father just enough time to leap onto the platform, scoop up the bewildered child, and hop back on board moments before the doors closed and the train started moving.

With the crisis averted I returned to gazing at my reflection in the subway windows. Meanwhile, the mother had lost her temper. Her hysterical rage was directed at the father, who had forgotten to make sure the daughter was with them when they were aboard the train. The father looked around sheepishly as his wife screamed and screeched. The little girl wailed for a good five minutes, wiped her eyes, and promptly stomped on her father's foot. Noticing the new scuff mark on his shoe, the father delivered a soft but swift kick to his daughter's rear. She immediately started crying again, which led to further scolding of the father by the mother.

Soon my stop arrived. As the shrieking and crying continued in the background, I enjoyed a nice game of Chinese bowling as I got off the train. This is a traditional game where the people who are trying to get on the train and the people who have no intention of getting off the train but are still blocking the doorway act as human pins, while whoever is trying to get out is the ball.


"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."
- Rebecca Harding Davis

June 02, 2009


If you are reading this message that means that I no longer have access to the Blogger platform that is used to host ARNABlog. 

ARNABlog has been SENsored by the authorities from the moment I arrived, and perhaps even earlier. The gatekeepers of the Internet allowed most other blogs to merrily exist in the new engine of the world economy, but ARNABlog could only be accessed from within the People's Republic sporadically. Presently, the Great Firewall of China has ARNABlocked not only my site but also all others that are hosted on Blogger. Although I could not view my literary output online, I could still publish my inner thoughts. At the moment, even that is not possible until the ARNABan is lifted.