April 30, 2013

Seoul Motor Show 2013

In China, the auto show rotates between Shanghai and Beijing every other year. The biennial policy is also in place in South Korea, where the motor show oscillates between Seoul and Busan. Last year I dropped by Busan for the showcase event, but this year I did not have to venture as far. The Seoul version of the event is held in the neighbouring city of Ilsan, in the same convention grounds that the Sensation concert took place in.

Once I entered the hall and looked around, I was at a loss for words. As tradition dictates, I dropped by the BMW booth and relaxed for a while. Being an admirer of beauty in all its forms, I could not help but recollect one of my favourite poems composed by William Wordsworth as I lounged in the VIP area - The Daffodils:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

April 29, 2013


Each January the Ahmedabad sky is filled with a host of kites during Uttarayan. For a few special days most everyone in the capital city of Gujarat becomes a kite enthusiast, whether personally navigating their own winged wonder or merely standing upon one of the thousands of rooftops in the city and gazing up at the mesmerizing spectacle taking place in the sky above. Uttarayan is a festival celebrating the end of winter. The auspicious date on the Hindu calendar is also known as Makar Sankranti.

With the onset of harvest season, there is always hope for a brighter future. Although Gujarat is a dry state, spirits are high during this time. A group of youth have congregated on top of the roof of a school, and I make my way up a dark staircase and join them at the top. A few kites are rotated among the more eager youngsters, while the rest just enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sight of a thousand kites dancing in the heavens.

Flying kites was originally a hobby exclusively enjoyed by the Nawabs that ruled the region, but it soon spread to the common man. Just like the individuals on the ground who are guiding them with steady hands, the kites come in all shapes, sizes, and colours.  Families start building their kites months in advance. Unlike the girls of Gangnam, each handcrafted kite has a personality all its own.

A gentle breeze lifts the kites into the clear blue sky. The slightest adjustment from the kite flyer causes his aerial steed to change course. Part of the fun of kite flying is the competitive aspect. The kite strings are coated with fragments of glass, designed to slice through opposing kites without mercy. Friendly duels take place among kites sharing the same airspace. As one kite string slices through that of a foe, the victor soars on while the vanquished flutters back down to earth.


Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country. ~ Anais Nin 

April 24, 2013

Arnab and the Plastic Factory

In most parts of the world men shave their chins. In South Korea the girls do. The guys are permanently trapped in a state of prepubescence, so the most they can hope for is some peach fuzz. The girls are not looking to get rid of any stubble, but the chin itself. Those with prominent jawlines or rectangular shaped heads get them chiseled down into more elegant forms. Chin shaving is just one of the many surgical procedures that are prevalent in the most superficial society on the planet. Modifications that endow the girl with a more three dimensional appearance are also common, such as nose jobs and breast augmentations.

Due to the high demand for cosmetic surgery, clinics can be found with almost the same frequency as coffee shops and convenience stores. Gangnam proudly promotes itself as the capital of medical tourism, with affordable prices luring in many Chinese and Japanese women. Subway stations are plastered with surgery advertisements. When I first moved to Seoul I stayed at a hotel with an in-house surgery clinic on the second floor. A van with tinted windows ferried customers directly from airport to the hotel, where they could get altered and rest in their hotel room without ever having to step outside during their recovery period.

While a little nip and tuck might increase the perceived societal worth of K-girls, nothing short of a full body transplant would help the large majority of the male populace. Usually they accompany the beauties, paying for all their purchases with their meagre yet hard earned salaries or from the allowance they get from their parents. The guys seem more like comic relief than leading men, varying in range from stone-faced businessmen to slack-jawed halfwits dressed in tight garments harkening back to the court jesters of yore. Shockingly and painfully, the girls are still enamoured with these unremarkable men while completely avoiding the breathtaking spectacle that is the Indo-Canadian Temptation.


"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." ~ Galileo Galilei

April 18, 2013


The average Korean man lives with his parents until he has saved enough money for marriage, plays a lot of video games, spends a few years doing mandatory military service, avoids sitting beside me on subways, partakes in heavy drinking sessions with his buddies or colleagues, and occasionally dispenses solid relationship advice:

If you want just that she beat you
then you should keep annoying her
but if you want more than that
then you should treat her gently

April 17, 2013

A Mean Looking Booger

Regardless of language, religion, age, income, or intellectual capability, men from all over the world always have at least one topic of shared interest. One fine spring day, a Korean man and I were discussing a specific subset of this fascinating subject. 
Korean man: I think if she makeup perfectly and dress up then she will be more beautiful.  
Me: Yes, if she dresses up and covers her pimples she will be quite nice. I see a booger in her left nose hole though. 
Korean man: What is booger? "Arnab is a mean looking booger" - is it right? 
Me: No, that is bugger. Booger is a dried piece of snot. It is the thing you find when you pick your nose. 
Korean man: Ahh, I see.

April 07, 2013

End of the Long March

As my time in China came to an end, one of my final trips was to Yan'an. The small city in Shannxi province is a major stop on the red tourism circuit, as fans of Mao flock here to see the caves in which the Chairman once lived. The legendary Long March came to an end near Yan'an and a revolution was born. It was here that Mao and his comrades set up camp, and engineered their plans for domination of the Middle Kingdom.

From 1936 to 1948, the town functioned as the headquarters of the Communist Party of China. During World War II, the Japanese flattened the city through aerial bombing. The citizens stayed in cave dwellings during wartime. The Yangjialing house caves where Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai once lived and the accompanying auditorium and office buildings are the main stop for those on the Communist pilgrimage trail.

Yan'an is situated on a dusty plain surround by hills on all sides. The colossal Yan'an Revolutionary Memorial Museum, explains the tale of Mao, the rise of the Communist Party, and the corresponding increase in prosperity and power of a nation that had taken a back seat in world affairs until the past century. The museum had the the requisite Mao statue in the courtyard and gift store filled with Mao-morabilia. Apart from the propaganda pieces, a cliffside temple in the middle of the city is quite a sight to behold. Pagoda Hill also has some nice monuments and viewpoints on top. It is a relaxing spot to soak up the atmosphere after spending a long day basking in revolutionary glory.

We had a night train to catch to Beijing, but it seemed all the taxis were going in the opposite direction of the station after supper time. As the clock ticked ever closer to our departure time, my friend began to get jumpy. Finally we caught cab, but at the exact same moment two Chinese girls also caught it. My chivalrous nature took over, and I stepped aside and let them take the cab. The taxi driver refused to take them wherever they wanted to go and drove away. "What are you doing!? We have a train to catch!" my agitated travel buddy exclaimed. Seeing him gesticulate wildly, the girls asked if we needed any help. One of the two was ravishingly beautiful, and the other spoke a little English.

I showed the beauty my train ticket, and the other girl deduced that we wanted to go to the station. She suggested we cross the street and try there. I almost got run over by an oncoming truck, but the beauty pulled me to safety just in the nick of time. Some minutes later we found a taxi, and the ladies directed the driver to take us to the station posthaste. I bid them a melancholic farewell. Once in the cab, I wistfully remarked that I should have torn up the ticket and stayed in Yan'an - the "Cradle of Chinese Revolution". "My god, I have never seen anyone fall in love so fast." my friend said, shaking his head.


"We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view." - Mao Zedong 

April 05, 2013

Battlefield Korea

Some of my friends across the world have inquired about the current scenario in the war zone that is the Korean Peninsula. So far life goes on as usual, although the Canadian Embassy did issue a special bulletin about the tense situation:
The Government of Canada's travel advice for the Republic of Korea remains "Exercise normal security precautions". However, we advise Canadians to continue to monitor developments closely as tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little warning. 
Tensions have increased on the Korean peninsula as a result of North Korea's ongoing nuclear weapons development program. In April and December 2012, North Korea attempted to launch two missiles into orbit, and on February 12, 2013, performed a nuclear weapon test. Additional tests cannot be ruled out. On March 11, 2013, North Korea issued a statement declaring that the Korean Armistice Agreement is invalid. While past threats made by the North to nullify this agreement have gone unfulfilled, further provocative action could occur. Canadians in the Republic of Korea should be vigilant, monitor developments and follow the advice of local authorities.
South Koreans are astonishingly nonchalant about the possibility of being annihilated by the North. Most folks continue to spend their days absorbed by their smartphones, labouring for long hours at the office, reconstructing their facial features, or playing video games. This situation has been playing out for sixty years, so it has become background noise for the citizens of the South. Worrying about the daily trivialities of life already takes up all their waking hours, leaving little room for thought about the larger issues that affect us all.

April 01, 2013

Smartphone Envy

Me: It's Korean and very small.
American guy: Wait a minute… are we still talking about your phone?  

In the conformist Republic of Korea, citizens judge each other based on their appearance and possessions. Having the latest smartphone model is one such status marker. Many halfwits with low paying jobs or beauties with no discernable occupations can be seen walking around with the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S flagship model in hand. My underpowered phone is not even available for sale in Korea and looked upon with scorn by the masses.