To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Thursday, February 24, 2005
So, I am well and settled in Hong Kong!

I had intended to write much earlier than this, but lack of time to write and lack of convenient access to the net has resulted in this postponed post. Now that I have got down to it, I hope to be more regular...especially now that I have more to write in terms of experiences.

So much has happened since I came here, so many thoughts have flitted and circled in my head, so many things have attracted and interested me, so many emotions have overwhelmed me, particularly in the first few days of landing in a distant land...that I am now confused as to where to start and where to end.

Maybe I shall just ramble on...

The evening I landed here, I don't know what I had expected to feel - but certainly not a huge piece of dead weight on my chest. It was like a tiny little piece that lodged there just when I said my byes to my family, and something that grew and grew during the short journey and something that I could feel sitting very heavy the moment I landed outside the airport and even after i reached my apartment.

I have made two good friends here, my colleagues actually, due to whom I feel I have come out faster from my homesick state. I still miss home, but I am not immune to the sights and sounds around me ...and I must say, they are interesting, especially for a first time, amateur traveller like me.

The very second week of my stay, we celebrated the Chinese New Year. This meant two pluses - one, I got a one week holiday and two, I got to see Hong Kong in all its Chinese flavour. The city was so alive, so blooming with lights and flowers, so vibrant with the air of festivities...would have been difficult not to catch the excitement.

Many events had been arranged for the Chinese New Year - the parade, fireworks, lazer show - we attended all of them and I was happy to have bought a Digital camera a month too soon. I did feel at times, though, that the eagerness of capturing a moment for the future lost me the pleasure of the moment. But, nonetheless, I was happy with my new instrument!

It was sad when the long weekend came to an end...since then, things have more or less fallen into a comfortable routine.

The first thought I had about the people here was 'I see only a sea of chinkis'. The second thought was, 'I can't understand a word of their language'; it wasn't even vaguely familiar. By now I am used to the sound of it, and come to think of it, it has more sounds than words. A typical dialogue will contain as many ohhs and aahs as anything else. I have picked up a few words like "haiyya haiyya" meaning "yes"! I am told that the way a word is pronounced can make a dramatic change to the meaning of a word, so it would be risky to try out any Chinese with the chinkis. Reminds me of a joke that a colleague here was relating. Seems a Chinese guy mentioned a Hindi word to him and he was shocked - it sounded like an abuse - but it turned out to be quite an innocent word. I was curious to know what this word was and being a gentlemanly kind of person, he obviously refused to divulge. We then asked him to tell us atleast the English equivalent, and he said "Holiday" (Now you know what I mean by the extra "aahs"!).

The food is quite another thing altogether. I myself am not particularly experimental by nature. And this was one area I had so much heard stories about even before coming here - right from dog biscuit to snake soup - that I didn't feel anymore encouraged to be experimental. I didn't get to see any proofs of dog biscuit or snake soup, but I was convinced that the reality wasn't anything worth tasting either. The Indians here are somehow paranoid about the food and this feeling in a way got transferred to me. Now before buying something as harmless as bread, I check the ingredients. Before buying eggs, I happened to ask my friend, eggs yes, but of what bird? Was surprised to hear those words coming out of my mouth. As it happened, they even have duck eggs! Another quality of their food is its marked blandness as compared to our food. The irony or the comedy is, as Chinese food in India is Indianised, sadly, the Indian food out here, is Chinified - that is to say, bland. I make up for this blandness by adding a little extra spice to the preparations at home (my forays into cooking warrant a separate blog altogether) .

To narrate an incident that happened last week, two of us decided to have lunch at a Buddhist restaurant (I was told they could be counted on for "pure veg" food). It was the first time I went to a real Chinese restaurant, so everything was quaint. The chop sticks were placed. A jar of tea was brought. I noticed the lady sitting towards me washing her bowls and chop sticks with the tea. I was surprised, to say the least. My friend told me it was a custom to wash chopsticks and other dishes with the tea before starting, she didn’t know the why and wherefore! The next hurdle was the menu; everything was scribbled in pure Chinese (not that I could have made the difference). The same lady sitting towards us thankfully understood English as well as our predicament, and translated our order. The food was a cousin to our Indian fried rice, and more or less palatable. What astonished me about the same lady was that when we asked her to translate our need for spoons and forks instead of chop sticks, she actually went and brought them herself. I was actually embarrassed by her courtesy; infact I cannot call it merely "courtesy", it was something else indeed! This one gesture by an unknown lady increased my warmth for her people...

I had been told that those who love shopping (I am without doubt one of those) would find much to interest themselves here. And they weren't wrong. At every baby step of the way, stands a plaza or a mall or a shui mui wui (or x y z) shop selling everything from onions to laptops. The onions are fine, but for a technically challenged person like me, the laptops and techno-savvy people around me was something disconcerting. I like taking a stroll in the nearby mall after lunch, and usually accompany this Indian colleague (not one of the two friends I mentioned before). He would stop at every mobile phone shop along the way and veer towards this shop called "Fortress" which is the place to find the latest and greatest in technology, and while he would admire a computer accessory here or a camera there or a handy cam somewhere else, I would try to put on a look of genuine interest (I can't pretend I felt any) while longingly gazing at a boutique outside. The tough part came when I myself had to buy a digital camera and being one who likes to get only the best, I asked for expert comments from everyone. I didn't see it coming though. I was told I should look for a '5 pixel' and not a '3 pixel'; I should check how much 'free memory' they were ready to give me; some spoke of memory sticks and CF cards'; some said it should be 'rechargeable battery' and not 'regular battery', some vouched for Sony, some for Canon...while all the time I was sadly at sea. Finally, after a lot of deliberation, confusion, and frustration - I bought the one that fit the bill.

Have been rambling for far too long now...but there are many more stories, many more thoughts...hope to keep updating the blog!