What a year!

This year has been a rollercoaster of sorts, hasn’t it? Never would I have thought that it would have so much packed in one year.

A friend of mine wants a refund on this year 😀 I don’t blame him. It has not been smooth sailing.

We were supposed to travel to India in April which was put on hold for a month without having any clue as to whether we would even get a refund or a credit note for the flight tickets we had paid for six months ahead of our travel date. We got our credit note finally after 3 months of our travel date. Now we don’t know if we will be in a position to use it before the deadline which is next year May. One can only hope.

The decision to move our teaching online which threw a spanner in the works making us work 8 hours per day just creating the necessary materials and videos for our delivery. I almost lost my voice doing those and then delivering the lectures as usual over online platforms. It was a double whammy, but at least the students were happy and we did very well with our third semester where everything was completely online.

I have had the experience of Working From Home (WFH) during my days working as software engineer, so the switch was quite easy for me and I found myself being very productive too. We also delivered three weeks of summer school online which concluded recently and it was also a huge success. Never would I have thought that I will be teaching a 100+ kids on Zoom about the basics of wireless networks 🙂

Mr M who has never worked from home absolutely loves it now. He would be a very happy person if he has to never set foot in his office again 😀 He loves his work, but he loves working from home more than working from office.

We did the whole bake during lockdown thing too, not as much as others seemed to do it. We couldn’t get enough flour to start with during the peak lockdown time. We also didn’t understand the whole toilet roll drama that happened. But at least we now know what people’s priorities are in case of any calamities or disasters.

We kept ourselves busy by going for regular walks around the block, trying my hand at Bingo for a Cancer charity (where I won a round too! yay!!!), have Zoom calls with friends, what not! We have managed to work well with each other in the same room without having the urge to kill each other 😉 and keeping clear of each other during the Zoom sessions (we have witnessed enough Zoom video disasters).

After working non-stop (Mr M had his three month break where he was furloughed), I took a week off and we decided to go on a mini trip in and around Swansea. We decided to do the St Thomas Way tour/pilgrimage. It was a much needed break and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Things elsewhere has not been going good has it?, the wide spread of the virus in India where my parents, siblings, and friends are, the wide spread fires and riots close to where my friends are in the US, the politicisation of the epidemic, the stupidity of the people who party as if there is no tomorrow, the sheer lack of common sense… I should say we are lucky to be in good health doing what we like to do (touch wood) and may it continue. But it is also important to realise that we can never go back to what was “normal” for us all. A new “normal” is going to take time and it is OK to have a new normal. This is one of the changes that we didn’t want but cannot ignore. We might as well wisen up and learn to adapt. We have done so for so many ages, so why not now? It is going to be hard and there will be people who will take advantage of it, but those are the ones who have always put their own prosperity before the general goodness anyway. That has never changed. What we can do is take care of our own in our own small way and hope for the best.

Stay safe and Keep smiling 🙂

A week later…

It’s been a week now since the lock-down was announced. We baked a ginger cake to commemorate this. I am used to working from home (wfh) and since Mr M has been working part time, he too has taken to wfh like fish to water. I will have to see what impact it has on him in another week.

With my work, we were able to replace an exam with a coursework and get the semester done, create some resources for school students for offline activities etc. Lots of work done in a week tbh. I am sure it is going to calm down a bit in another week. Keeping the children engaged and interested after a couple of weeks is going to be challenging. My second niece who is just 9 years old was horrified at the thought that she can do some learning at home. “We have got some respite from learning now, why would anyone want to learn when we can enjoy playing all day long?” she asked me. I am pretty sure, after a few more days of fighting with her sister, even their rivalry will become boring for her 😀 (fingers crossed). As for the elders, my mom is going crazy having to separate those two fighting all day long.

When this is all over, I am sure some of my colleagues who are experiencing remote working for the first time (since most of them finished studies very recently) would find it very boring to get up and get ready for work 😉 Even more boring to face people in person and not via Zoom or Skype! My only fear is I might end up putting on some weight because after a while there is nothing more to do and while watching TV I love snacking. I am making a conscious effort to be very good and use my Wii for my exercises.

Hope everyone is staying safe and keeping their distances. The restrictions are going to be more severe, which is essential. Keep healthy and keep smiling. We can get through this only by holding on to hope and some common sense.

End of an Era

As of today, we finished watching all the episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet. We have always liked a good detective series and Agatha Christie’s is one of the best. It was bitter sweet to see it end. What will we do for our Sunday afternoon viewing now 😦 ?

Poirot, Hastings, Japp, and Ms Lemon made such a good team. They were always good fun. There was a subtle humor in the earlier series. The encounters between Japp and Poirot were so funny sometimes. As the series moved towards the late 90’s, it started becoming slightly darker. Hastings, Japp and Lemon are replaced with Ms Oliver, who is OK, but I preferred Hastings and Lemon by Poirot’s side. We were glad to see Hastings make a comeback for the last one and all of them get together in a couple of episodes before. We missed the humor in the later ones as it became darker and darker. The series was brilliant and the darkness suited the episodes well but I guess I wanted to see Hastings and Japp more 😉

I haven’t read any of the books depicted in the series (except may be a couple) but one day I would love to read all of them and then re-watch the episodes again. This is one series which I can watch again and again and never get tired of it.

I am sad to see it end but glad to have watched it all. Until next time, old chap!

Mischief Managed

After close to two months of solid effort and losing some of his precious hair, Mr M finally completed his Christmas gift jigsaw puzzle, Marauders Map. It was hard work but it was fun to watch it take shape. I wish I could have it framed but it is too big, sadly.

Well done, Mr M. Mischief managed.

First Rugby Live

Yesterday we went to see our first Rugby match at Liberty Stadium in Swansea. The first thing Mr M booked when we moved here in January was the tickets to this Rugby Match where Ospreys were playing Munster. He was so chuffed when we got the tickets.

We weren’t expecting a huge crowd for this game as all the key players are playing at the 6 Nations now but we had a good 5432 in attendance (and no, I did not make that up. That was what was shown on the screen yesterday)

This is my first time in a Football/Rugby stadium and I was quite impressed by it. It was big yet still, we were close enough to see the happenings very clearly. It felt like an indoor stadium given the time of the day. Thanks to the wonderful weather it went very well. With respect to fans, there were only a handful of Munster supporters. We were located in an area which was full of Osprey fans and it was quite amusing to hear the frustrated shouts of Osprey fans. There were a few just behind us and they didn’t shy away from expressing their views on the referee.

When I watched a rugby match on TV, I thought it was bloody and painful. It must hurt the players so much, I thought. I still think that, but it didn’t feel that gory when I watched it live. Maybe because I got lost in the game that I didn’t think of such things at that time. It is quite a fast-paced game too. I didn’t realize that.

It was an evenly matched game, according to Mr M and the Osprey mascot was upset when people started leaving a couple of minutes short of the end. Mr M was very happy that Munster won the game given that it was his first Rugby match live. Here in Wales, we might have a chance of getting a ticket in future for more prolific matches.

Hopefully, we will be able to see more matches live in the future and I will able be use my camera next time.

Croeso

View of Stratford from my balcony

For the past year and a half, this has been the view from my balcony. I could see the Stratford and other such buildings from the comfort of my home. This was taken recently during a very foggy morning. We are exchanging this view and the busy hustle and bustle of London to some relaxing and soothing, even sedate, lifestyle of Swansea (at least that is our hope). We will be moving to Swansea this New Year and start a new phase there. New job, new place, new lifestyle closer to the seaside. I am getting ready to be battered by the winds daily.

This was a sudden and very surprising move for us. We wished for it only by the end of October after some thought and by end of November, we had options available for us. As they say, be very careful of what you wish for 😉 We decided to take the plunge, be adventurous and see how life is in Wales. I hope that it will be as pleasant as it has always been, thanks to everyone who has been very kind to us and I am sure I will let you on in all the stories I encounter during this new journey. I am ready for this new ride, are you 😉 ?

When Mr M became a celebrity – Part 2

Continuing our journey from Coimbatore and Mr M popularity over there, we travelled to Pondicherry / Puducherry (as it is called now). Puducherry was a former French region and you can see the remnants of those areas, streets, people living there. When we entered the city, Mr M commented that he was glad that he wasn’t the only foreigner around there and that he had spotted quite a few on the streets.  We had a huge drama on the day we arrived in Pondicherry, thanks to the hotel we had booked and the driver we had hired for the trip. Let’s just say that we had to book a hotel then and there and also ensure we got a new driver travelling from Coimbatore overnight to ensure we still have a driver for the rest of our journey. I would have driven the car if it had come to that, but I really wanted to enjoy my vacation without the hassle of driving.

After sorting out all the problems thrown at us, we started the next day to book our Auroville Matri Mandir visit for the day after. We had no expectations of Auroville so it was quite surprising to see how huge it was. We didn’t stay there much longer as we had our visit planned to Chidambaram. We stopped by the beach for our lunch and there were two movie shootings going on. I was trying to get Mr M to appear in at least one of them, given his penchant for Indian dances and such 😉 But sadly it wasn’t his day. We were shooed away from the place because we were seen in the background somewhere in the dance scene. It wasn’t a popular movie anyway. 😛

Chidambaram is a very popular Hindu Temple. It has references to the Cosmic Science and you could see the idol of Nataraja in CERN too. My brother wasn’t quite sure if non-Indians were allowed or not (because some of the temples in South India, at least, have strict rules) so I had to check before we made the trip and it looked like we would be OK. As usual, Mr M was the only foreigner in that place and people seemed quite happy to ensure that he got a good darshan. We had a good darshan, went around the temple, took our time seeing the murti’s (idols) etc. When we were at the outer praharam (pathway) we came upon a few school kids (6th grade). So far, people went about their work, hardly bothered by a foreigner amidst them. But these kids were different. One of them (she was the gang leader) said hi to Mr M and he smiled and waved back. That was all the encouragement she needed. She called to her friends (total 6 of them, 4 girls and 2 boys) Seeing that I had a camera with me and was taking photographs of anything and everything, they gathered around us and demanded that I take their photographs too. I told them that I wouldn’t be able to send the photos back to them, but there weren’t bothered. They also wanted Mr M in the group photo and the girls wanted me in their group photos too (#GirlPower 😉 ) And then the volley of questions started. Where is he from? What does he do? Why is he here? Was I his wife? Do I have a baby? What language does he speak? etc etc etc. I was the official interpreter. It was quite funny to interact with them. Then Mr M offered to teach them some Gaelige (Irish). They were so excited. He taught them Good day (Dia Duit), Good bye (Slan) and another one which I have forgotten. Of those three things, they only remembered Slan. It was getting late for us and we had to get back to Pondy which is a 2-hour drive. We said our goodbyes and they responded with Slan until we turned around the corner. The whole temple heard their goodbyes in Gaelige. Mr M was very happy that he was able to bring Gaelige to Chidambaram even if it was just one word. We apparently made those kids day because they will have a story to tell their acquaintances about this Irish guy who taught them to say goodbye and we were glad that we met these lovely kids out there and share some good time with them and brought home memories (and photographs).

I told Mr M that any more interests in photographs/selfies with him will incur 20 Rs cost for the people. It would be a good business decision to do so 😉 In Auroville the next day after our trip to Matri Mandir and lunch etc, we decided to try cycling around the place. Auroville is home to lots of Europeans who moved there and are living there for years and years. It is a global city and has its own citizenship. He wasn’t an odd man out there. So I left him to find his way and I cycled a little ahead and waited for him. When he didn’t arrive I had to go back to check on him and found him being part of a selfie by another visitor 🙄 I knew I should have stuck to him and got my money.

The funny part is that when I try to take a selfie with him (and I suck at taking Selfies, so I have to try and take more to learn) he grumbles and mumbles. But throw in a stranger and he is alright with selfies. When asked, he said that if a photograph with him makes them happy, who is he to deny it. Grrrr!

Not just the places we visited, the restaurants we go to, there are two or three waiters are ready to serve him and then they stand close to him to attend to him. It is quite funny and freaky too. He was a little bit uncomfortable with that in a couple of places. But that goes with being a celebrity, doesn’t it? With popularity comes some awkward moments too.

Overall, he was glad to have those moments of popularity and that he could make someone’s day too. Travel is not just about visiting places, it is about these kinds of moments too and we had many such good moments during this trip.