Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Of fire alarms and Google

From here on the husband will be referred to as TH to save me some typing since he is making more than a cameo appearance in this one.

We were in deep slumber when a series of shrill beeps woke us up. We sat up in bed, looked at the clock -3am (That’s when your body needs the most rest or so I have read somewhere – yes, I that was the first thought I had on seeing the clock).
We decided to investigate, that is me sitting in the bed, sleepy eyed, mumbling this and that and poor TH walking around the apartment. The first suspect was my laptop which had been giving strange error messages of late. Maybe it decided to give in finally, we thought – but no, the beeps (increasing in frequency and shrillness by the second) were not from there. TH said it could be the fire alarm and I was too sleepy to put my brain to any exercise and come up with any alternative theories. Though I remember saying something about voltage surges causing it , I am supposed to be an electrical engineer after all.

Once outside the bedroom, TH found the source of the beeps to be a small plastic box mounted above the bathroom door in the hallway .We had seen this box every day for the last 6 months but never gave a second thought to it. To our defence, smoke detectors and alarms are not common objects inside a house in India. The only fire alarms I am familiar with are the ones on office (heard during the routine tests) and they didn’t beep. But we checked all the appliances just to be sure and sniffed around for smoke. And then we started hearing similar beeps from other units around us and we were convinced there was fire in the building but nobody was running out. Poor brain, this level of confusion at 3 am:-D My brain had started functioning by then and I realized that if it indeed was a fire alarm, the fire brigade should have been outside the building by then – we live a few hundred meters from the fire station after all.

Anyway TH pressed some button on the box and the beeping stopped. That is when we decided to call for help aka Google (Dear Google – what would I do without you). I typed in “beeps from fire alarm” and came across a number of discussions on the same. Normally the beeps occur when the battery is weak and needs to be replaced. I even found the operation manual of our alarm online to confirm. But what I found interesting was that more than one person had reported the beeps starting around 3am – a conspiracy or what to catch us off guard when our body is at its weak!!
So TH removed the battery. The chance of a real fire happening when our alarm was down and out against the very depressing thought of losing more sleep in case it started to beep again – we took the risk and went to sleep again.

But we were too excited to sleep. So we ended up talking very serious stuff – for example, how we need to have an emergency response kit with us to take in the event of us running out of the apartment in case of an emergency. If there really was a fire at that moment, TH said he would take the passports and a laptop and his wallet. I said I would take the tablet (to play angry birds which can distract me enough to avoid any panic attacks in emergency situations) and my jewellery (I can sell it in case we run out of money right?) and drifted off to sleep. On second thoughts , my wallet and the car keys as well.

And then we sat bolt upright – 4 or 5 beeps. Or did we just imagine it?

Update : came across this in a site-"Smoke detectors go off between 2am-6am because the ambient temperature drops considerably then. This causes the battery voltage to drop below the smoke detector’s low voltage warning level and bingo, off she goes!!!"

And I am not alone in my conspiracy theories :-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So fickle

I look out of my office windows and see clear blue skies, but the weather forecast for today says “thunderstorms developing during the afternoon” . And I have a 3.5 hours drive ahead of me. My colleague is so concerned that he has checked the weather some 3 times already and tells me not to get deceived by the oh-so-pretty skies. The weather outside is hot and humid and that apparently is highly conductive to the development of a thunderstorm. And by 4pm , I might see heavy downpour after all or it might just stay the way it is. And Sydney had heavy rain yesterday evening.

Come on dear weather gods , please make up your minds ,fast.  I tell you, I hate(am scared , to be honest) to drive in the rain 

Update : The rain gods took pity on me. Not a drop on Wednesday :-)

Further update : But it rained the next wednesday and then the next :-(

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vacation - what else could I name it?

For the first 17 years of my life, the word vacation had only one meaning – the onam ,Christmas and summer vacations from school.

Then came the 4 years in college where vacation meant the rather long and lazy breaks between semesters where I would forget all that I learned during the previous semester and start afresh.

The next 5 years in Delhi , the 2 X two week long breaks every year came in. 2 weeks sounded awfully long to your manager but terribly short to your parents and all I could remember were the excitement before it and the “shall I just resign and go back?” brooding during the return flight .

And there was 2010 when I got married and was forced to be in a long-distance-marriage for a year. Then vacations were the trips to Pondicherry and jaipur and kumarakom and many others we planned over phone and never got to execute, because we had too much stuff to take care of.

It was after coming here that I actually started taking vacations, not that we would take days off from work to travel but we make sure that we make maximum use of the weekends and holidays. Of course, the ultimate vacation would remain the whirlwind trips to India. Yet to take one , but already there seems to be a hundred items on the to-do list.
You see people around you taking vacations – my colleague went on a 5 week vacation, people go camping, the lady at the motel I stay on-site went on a 3 week trip to Thailand etc. And being in a new country means that you have lots to explore. And Australians in general seem to love being outdoors. It all rubs off on you I guess.So much that I spend quite a lot of time searching for places/events to go. And the anti-socials that we are (I don’t really make friends that easily, at least not the let-us-spend-weekend-together kind of friendship; neither does the husband), we need to pass time after all :-D

Monday, October 10, 2011

This and That

Don’t have any subject worth a whole post, so jotting down a few random stuff

 Had the first encounter with the Australian medical system. Thanks to my wisdom tooth which decided to do a cameo for two days, spoiling my birthday plans.
 Oct 3 was a holiday here. Didn’t make any plans coz of the toothache but come Friday evening I was perfectly alright and spending 3 days inside didn’t sound like a very good idea. Even though it was predicted to be a rainy weekend , we made some last minute plans for Kiama & Jervis Bay. All motels were booked out and we finally managed a place 1 hour away from Jervis Bay. It was in the middle of nowhere , difficult to spot even though it is situated right on the highway but turned out to be a rather lucky find. They had private access to a beach which was quite nice.The room was all wooden panelled giving it a vinatge feel.
 Not having a car and having to rent one for trips has its advantages. You feel like being in a cheaper version of Top Gear :-) Not that we possess enough knowledge about cars to come up with the verdicts that we deliver.
 Junior Masterchef – Are these kids for real? They are just 10 or 12 ,but act and speak with so much maturity. Its unnerving at times. As to the cooking, each episode gives me a serious “Am I really cooking in my kitchen?” feeling.
 I am still uncomfortable with the fact that everyone –from the salesperson in the store to the bus driver to everyone I see in the office- greets me with a “How are you?” or “How is it going?”. A “good morning” or a simple “hi” would be easier to handle than a question which requires me to give an answer and then ask about the well being of the other person and then wait for his answer. Hmm. Maybe I am lacking in the social etiquette department :-)
 Another Aussie thing- Maccas for McDonalds. Isn’t McD cool enough? :-P
Though I quite like “Brekkie” for Breakfast
 Saw an ad for a car insurance that gives 15% discount for those drivers who don't claim. Makes sense rt?

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I enjoy reading food blogs, more for the restaurant reviews than for recipes. There are quite a few Sydney food blogs around and I follow grabyourfork , awifescharmedlife,chocolatesuze regularly. Though I tried writing a few restaurant reviews for when back in Delhi, I know I don’t really have it in me to be a food blogger. Read and salivate I can .Write, I better stay away. Same with travelogues. Even I find it hard to read through my travel stories :-X

So this post which I started with the intention of being either a review or a travelogue will instead be just a random recollection of facts from our second trip to Hunter Valley. After a drive around the Upper Hunter Wine Valley, we decided on Pokolbin in Lower Hunter this time. It is rather ambitiously named as the “Wine country”. A look at the map showed vineyards all around. Pointless though, since I was driving and husband doesn’t drink (I used to think that ‘mallu Christian men who don’t drink’ were an extinct species until he came along to refute my theory). And the organizer of the trip aka me, who was very meticulous when it came to the train timings, car pickups, driving distances and lunch and dinner options (obviously), overlooked the fact that wine/cheese factory tours happened only at certain times. So we had to satisfy ourselves with visiting just the tasting rooms. And the sculpture garden at Misletoe wines – but the kangaroo sculpture which looked huge in the brochure turned out to be rather tiny and most of the sculptures are in a pretty bad shape anyway. And then there was the Hunter valley garden, which is huge but since we reached just 30 minutes before closing time, we skipped that too. We would have skipped it anyway considering the 24 dollar entry fee –I am not a huge fan of plants and flowers and feel that all gardens are more or less the same.

The kangaroo sculpure at Misletoe Wines

The day before we left, I had gone through the websites of all restaurants listed in the Pokolbin tourist brochure checking out their menus online (and prices-Pokolbin is not easy on the wallet when it comes to fine dining). We finally decided on the Verandah for lunch. The view is really nice, a dinner with that view would be an unforgettable experience .We went for their Australian Tapas Tower which was very good value for money and gave the chance to taste quite a few of their dishes. It was followed by the dessert tasting plate, which was not that impressive. We also had a taste of kangaroo meat for the first time – I found it similar to lamb, but softer.

The Tapas Tower

The Dessert Tasting Plate@ Verandah

The highlight of the trip was the dinner :-D

I was in no mood for anything after the Tapas which was heavy enough but we went for dinner at Maneeya Thai restaurant, which was just opposite to where we were staying. I don’t even remember what I ordered .And husband,who loves everything spicy, ordered Jungle Curry , ignoring the ‘very hot” warning on the menu. “It’s really hot” warning from the waitress was dismissed with “make it extra hot” .And boy, hot it was. Hot enough to make your eyes water and your lips go red. More Hot than spicy, because of all the chilli flakes that we could see floating in the curry. We seriously suspect that the waitress dumped a few spoons of chilli just to prove her point.

A very hot ending to an otherwise nice trip:-D

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And then... she drove.....

My first driving lesson was at the age of 17. With a couple of months to go for the start of college, my dad thought it was a nice (a feeling that was short lived) idea to let me behind the wheels. My first driving instructor was a rough old chap (a friend of my grandfather and driving guru of my father) and he made me “take the H” on the very first day. Thanks to the parallel set of brakes he had, I passed it with flying colours and came back very confident. A few lessons later, I started driving the family car on quiet roads. All was well till I went and rammed the car onto the compound wall at my uncle’s place. The car suffered minor scratches but my confidence went on a long vacation. Then came college and since I was too lazy to practice my driving when I was home for holidays, chapter 1 of my driving came to a rather abrupt and uneventful ending.

9 years later, chapter 2 took place in Chennai. This time I had to go for classes at 6am and the rains never helped (rains in Chennai in August? – nature was definitely not on my side). Rain was the perfect excuse to miss my classes – or rather the so called classes where 4 of us were bundled into a rickety old car and each of us was allowed to drive for 20 minutes and watch the other 3 drive for the rest of the time. But I got my license to show for it;-P

After moving to Sydney and starting my job, driving became a necessity. I have to travel to a site that lies on a highway, 20km from the nearest town. I have to either take a cab or get a lift , both of which are extremely irritating prospects – cab because of the money involved(I feel guilty even if it is the company’s money) and lifts because of the daily ritual of asking “can you drop me on your way back if it is not a problem for you ? And it would be great if you can pick me up tomorrow morning as well”. And so began chapter 3.

Back in India, I found driving to be somewhat like playing a complicated videogame - like getting things thrown at you from random directions at random intervals? And although I can sit for hours playing videogames, driving didn’t hold the same thrill for me. In my family, driving is considered to be “a skill that can only be mastered by a few” and guess that kind of put a lot of pressure on me and took the enjoyment out of it. But here, everyone drives and it is a part of life and is taken for granted and it changed the way I looked at it. The fact that there are rules and that everyone (ok, almost everyone) follows them helps. And oh, yes, automatic transmission – that just makes life easier ;-)

And for the first time ever, I really enjoy driving – that’s all the 15 hours of driving with an instructor on the side and around 300km ,with an equally instructive husband on the side ,along deserted country roads where most of the time we were the only ones in sight(but to my credit I managed to create a long procession of cars behind me because I couldn't bring myself to go beyond 90kmph though the speed limit was 100kmph .I am sure that when they finally got a lane to overtake and saw me behind the wheels,they went "A woman? That too an Asian? God help us" So much for stereotyping ) but yes ,I am getting there. As my instructor tells me , I just need some more guts :-D

Technically I am on a temporary visa for some time and I can drive with my Indian license – yes, when my husband told me that for the first time I asked him “are you insane?” and refused to believe him but true it is. So looks like this chapter could go on happily for a while. And I absolutely love the opening lines of this one - a day of driving around in the Upper Hunter Wine growing area in NSW dotted with olive farms ,vineyards ,horse studs and farms and picturesque views on either sides.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vegemite? Seriously??

That would top my “list of questions you would like to ask the Aussies”. I did ask the question to an Aussie and he laughed and said “I have it for breakfast everyday”.Yes , ofcourse.

I had read quite a few moving-to-Australia blogs before coming here (mostly US/UK citizens who had moved here, couldn’t find even one by an Indian and I had decided that I will start one telling the story of how we tumbled down under, but 3 months later I don’t even have a blog post to show for it ) and all of them mentioned vegemite and no one seemed to like it. I thought I would be an exception ;-) the theory of acquired tastes you know. I bought a jar , the very first weekend after coming here , took one lick and the jar has stayed at the back of the cupboard ever since. Come on , seriously ?? Why not peanut butter or nutella or just plain butter?

Another thing all these bloggers found perplexing was the 4WD shopping trolleys (which you can conveniently take home and just leave at the roadside; they will come and pick it up). I find it equally taxing; I would rather carry a 10kg rice bag than push and heave a 4 WD trolley that moves as if it has a mind of its own.

With three months sneak preview of married life and 9 months of long distance marriage and a rather bumpy ride down the migration lane to mark our first year of married life , I had gone through the whole thing with a “Sydney , you better be good “ attitude ;-) The truckloads of paper work that we had to go through to prove that our relationship was “genuine and continuing” -relationship statements and chat history and what else – and the rather long visa process are enough to put any “non genuine” ones out of the race , I believe. hehe.

And yes Sydney has been a nice experience. Australia is my first experience of a developed country and maybe my views are biased. But Sydney is beautiful, even by Kerala standards, and the views from the cliffs on the coast are breathtaking. I am still getting used to the fact that vehicles stop for you at zebra crossings while you can walk as if you own the road (no, not really) and not get honked at. The public transportation system is excellent. I love that you can see people from all different countries around you and hear all those languages and try all those cuisines. And I have started to like the Aussie accent (I even watch Master Chef Australia at the pretext of “getting to know the Aussie accent”). I went to a country town here as part of work and my colleague did a typical Aussie “How ya doing mate” for my benefit. Of course, he had to “translate” it for me :-D

And yes, I saw kangaroos :-D

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Well ...

Enough water has flown under the bridge that calling 2011 a “new” year seems a little odd. Anyway we, I and my husband that is, had decided to postpone our new year till we are finally together and settled down ;-)
What fun is there in celebrating the New Year when you life is going to be the same old one?

Realized long distance relationships are not that easy to deal with. The bright side of it is that I am back to my a-book-per-week reading routine thanks to an online library facility available at office and enough free time in hand. I had once started making a list of books I read, but gave it up soon enough. But my online library does it for me these days

Read Eat Pray Love byElizabeth Gilbert (Eat part was very nice, Pray was boring and Love was not that bad)

Secrets and lies by Jaishree Misra (Found it engaging enough to try another book of hers – Ancient Promises , just started it yesterday)

Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair (was a tad too slow paced)

Memories of my Melancholy Whores and Of Love And Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (his writing is in a different realm all together, charming neverthe less)

Amen! The Autobiography of a Nun by Sister Jesme (I can’t comment on the authenticity of whatever is stated there, she was the principal of the college right next to my school between and the fact that she has the courage to stand up against such a huge establishment as the church is commendable)

Desert Royal by Jean Sasson (Having read the other two books of the trilogy, I had to read this one)

I am very curious to read The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Realized that compared to the bling and noise and drama of a North Indian wedding, South Indian weddings are pretty sober affairs. Not so big , not so fat in comparison , but still too big and too fat than what is called for.
Still remember how my Swiss colleague gasped in surprise (or was it horror) on hearing about the number of guests at my wedding. Used to 50-100 guests lists , he found it amusing that my Dad found it necessary to invite even our fish monger and house painter for my wedding. He would have fainted if he had come to a Punjabi wedding I am sure.

Realized that time moves ever so slowly when you want it to fly ;-)
Every day I wake up and think – “ 16 more hours before I can sleep again “.
It all boils down to killing time I believe ;-)