Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bhavna

He looked at her boarding pass, raised his head to scrutinize her face, and asked, "Bhutan?". He seemed a little surprised by her choice.
She replied, "Ji haan! Yes, sir.
"Bhutan kaise?" Why Bhutan?
"Aise hi...ghumne..."  Umm...just...to see a new place.

It was his job to ask. As an immigration officer, he was supposed to ensure that she had all her paperwork and was not smuggling something out of the country or being smuggled out herself. He didn't ask, "Why Bhutan?" because he saw that she knew Bhutan was just the place she would go to if her life fell apart. When he looked at her face, it was to compare it with the image in her passport, not to look for the real Bhavna. The Bhavna who was finally fulfilling a dream she had had for 11 years, but never realized because she always had an excuse to ignore herself. "I have to be here for so and so", or "I can't go now, because so and so needs me". Bhavna was here, waiting for a flight that would take her over the highest mountain in the world, to the happiest place in the world.

Whoever said that annoying email forwards couldn't change your life? She first heard about the concept of gross national happiness from one such annoying forward about a tiny landlocked Himalayan mountain country. She had always been skeptical of everything, even as a 15 year old child. So she googled this strange idea and learned about this place where people didn't even have access to television until 1999! Having grown up on TV herself, she was immediately curious about what made them so happy. She was curious about how they managed to sell hydroelectric power to the 7th largest country in the world, when they themselves were such a small country! She was curious about the beautiful monasteries they had built, some almost 1400 years old, and some hugging the edges of dangerous cliffs. She saw pictures of stunning hikes she just knew she had to attempt someday! And when she saw a picture of the Tiger's Nest, she instantly knew she had to hike up to it to light a butter lamp someday. The idea of going to Bhutan had ingrained itself in her mind and kept coming back often, only to be dismissed by Bhavna - until today!

"Aapka naam bahut pyara hai." You have a beautiful name.
It was a nice name! It meant "lover". But the guy in the blue shirt did not know that she had stopped being everything that name stood for. She had loved and lost, and had now completely shut herself off from the rest of the world. The bullet proof glass he sat behind was fragile in comparison to the walls she had built around herself.  Bhavna ran from her friends and didn't let new relationships form in her life. She ran away from anyone she felt even remotely close to, for fear that any relationship had the potential to fail. She ran from the fear that the people in her life had to power to destroy themselves and hurt her in the process. She ran from the fear that circumstances had a way of annihilating everything good, no matter how much of yourself you gave up to save something. She ran from the knowledge that sometimes even giving up all of your life couldn't deter destiny from taking her ruinous path.

But she was trying to change that. And so she smiled, and responded, "Shukriya, mere pardada lekhak the....isi naam se likhthe the". My great grandfather was a writer and this was his pseudonym. She wasn't forming a relationship with this man she would never see again by telling him the story of her name. By letting him know a tiny part of her story, she was making an attempt at slowing opening herself up to the people around her. She was learning to smile again. She was learning to let people around her know she was capable of feeling happiness, even it it meant accepting the fact she could feel pain, loneliness, defenselessness, longing, grief, desolation and utter desperation and defeat.

"Visa to arrival pe hi hoga?". Are you planning on getting a visa on arrival?
"Ji haan". Yes, sir.

He handed her passport and boarding pass back to her after he had marked this date in it. She walked away, with a small surge of excitement for the journey that lay ahead, and a little more hope for herself. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

MIA

"I do"
"I do too"

The ironic thing about traditions, is that while each generation rejects the old, it is the shared experiences that help us connect with people, with communities, to form lasting bonds. These bonds are forged stronger and are more meaningful than those we form due to mere proximity. They too met as result of shared misery, but it was their desire to find their place in the world that bound them. Their desires to be someone, to find happiness, to deserve happiness, to share it with the people around them and to someday, leave behind their imprint in the world.

Their story starts at the Miami International Airport. They flew to Miami from Mumbai, India. She via Paris and Atlanta. He flew to Miami directly from Amsterdam. They first met in the airline's tiny room behind the ticketing office, where lost luggage lived. They bumped heads digging through hordes of lost bags. As fate would have it, his flight arrived late and the airline sent his bags to Atlanta, where they got lost with hers. The airline systems said their bags were sent to Miami, and so they went, every Sunday, to look for them.

The first time they met, they smiled shyly at each other and complained about how irresponsible the airline had been. "I had my prescription medicines in the bag! It's going to take me a month to get another appointment with the doctor! They're so irresponsible!" "I had my father's watch in the bag. He's worn it right from grade ten till the day he retired".

The second time they met, they smiled at each other with recognition and complained a little more about the airline's insensitive staff.

The third time they met, they smiled at each other knowingly, and then got coffee together.

And it went on like this for a while. They never found their bags, but, as cliched as it sounds, they found each other.

Sumit's father grew up in the India before 1991, where things like fancy watches were not easy to come by. But even when they were easy to come by, even when he had traveled the world and had all the money in the world to afford anything he needed, his father still wore the same watch. It was a present he had received when he scored really high grades in school. His father was a self made man, in every sense of the word. He didn't come from money, but had put himself through school and the most elite educational institutes in the country. He started his own design and manufacturing business with a friend in the days of the license raj and struggled like a factory worker to build it into something good. The watch reminded Sumit of his father, the values he embodied, the principles he led his life by, his relationships with people around him, his work ethic and everything that made him so impressive. All of Sumit's friends respected his father and looked to him for advice. His father was emotionally balanced and cared deeply for the people around him. Sumit had cursed himself over and over again for packing the watch in the bags the airline had lost! After all, Sumit had spent his life competing with the man. Sumit knew he had been given a headstart in life by virtue of his father's hardwork. Sumit never had to worry about money for books or the high cost of tuition at Stanford. He was accepted there because of his academic caliber, but he could never shake the uneasiness associated with being privileged. He believed that the only way he could deserve the opportunities and luxuries afforded to him, was, at the very least, being more successful than his father. But that was not the end of his ambition. Someday he wanted to be the CEO of the firm he worked at. And it was this strange desire to be ridden of guilt, guilt that he alone was responsible for, that had brought him to Brickell, Miami's financial capital.

Chanchal had wanted to leave India and go see the world, ever since she was a child. She always wanted to run away from everything and that might have brought her here. She was also very perceptive. She had read somewhere that people who experienced abuse at a young age tended to develop a keen sense of perception. So she always knew the truth without being told. She feared confronting it, because for her, it meant confirming the worst. And this keen sense of discernment made her leave. But she understood this. What she was totally oblivious to, was her profound sense of self doubt. She was confident when it came to matters of procedure. She knew what was right, what was wrong. However, when it came to personal responsibility, she naturally tended to take onus for everything that went wrong, whether she had the power to influence it or not. And so, she left India. First, to escape the abuse. Because running away even if it had been fifteen years after it stopped, was the only way she could truly stop feeling responsible. It was the only way she could right the wrong. She traveled and moved around the United States, and finally settled in Miami. The city's sense of chaos resonated with her. The city's persistent high rise development that forced new roads to close and maps impossible to follow, excited her. She understood the city's drive to define itself just as she was working hard to define herself and find her place in the world. The city was hot, just like her temper. The high rises wanted to be the tallest among the country, even if they were going up against a hundred and eighty mile per hour hurricane winds; just like she wanted to move up and be the best at what she did, despite the storms constantly brewing around her. And just like Miami's high rises stood on some of the poorest soils in the world, she knew her past wouldn't hold her back from having a magnificent future.

And thus their paths crossed because of their shared misery. But then they kept them crossing. They shared more than plain misery. They understood each other's need to deserve, their need to know that they were worth being saved and deserving of the good things that happened to them. They admired each other's ambition and their limitless passion for what they did. Someday, they would learn to be kind to themselves too. But that didn't stop them from falling in love. Neither did it stop them from accepting each other as life partners. Today, in the way of their ancestors, they embraced a life together by making the traditional seven rounds around the holy fire that would bear witness to their union.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

AC 691

She was halfway through, but there was no sign of tomato or mozzarella. She paused, sipped her cappuccino and smiled at the thought that her panini had chosen to rearrange itself just like her entire life had, 5 months ago. Asmi had these thoughts often these days. When hurt, the human soul tries desperately, to look for a reason, a deeper meaning or connection to anything that replicates the sense of chaos it experiences. These days, she found this connection in the most random expressions of the human spirit. She found it in the graffiti she saw in a foreign city, where people wrote things like "Freedom" and "Just let me continue dreaming" on the walls of a parking deck. Asmi didn't dream, and all she wanted was to stop thinking or feeling, but she understood what the artist felt as he defaced public property in a manner so bold. He just wanted the world to leave him alone. He wanted them to let him go though his grief and take as long as it took him to feel it, process it and hopefully file it away in an irretrievable corner of his mind. Asmi knew it was grief, because no happy person would choose to express their happiness so painstakingly, in ink, on brick.

You might have called him a hoodlum. But Asmi thought he was an artist, because he was able to connect to her soul more powerfully than some of the most exquisite art she had seen. And she had memories of hiking for an entire day to stand in front of and admire 2500 year old stone carvings in remote and ancient caves. She had paid hundreds of dollars for seats in performing arts theaters around the world, gone to school in a heritage structure and stood on holy ground and bathed in holy waters. All these experiences had awed her, humbled her and inspired her. But the hoodlum's art touched her. It was the purest and most raw expression of one's inner self she had seen, and inanely priceless to her.

As Asmi got close to the end, she finally found the tomato and mozzarella she was looking for. She thought again, if that meant that her life would eventually fix itself. And then she realized how silly that thought was! Life can never be predicted, certainly not by symbols in sandwiches. She realized that the reason these symbols have meaning is because they are how we express our desires. She realized that she had the desire to be more than what she was and was slowly aggregating the willpower to be it. Today, Asmi was on her way to the Shangri-La halfway around the world. She was headed to a place so remote, that only six planes went there and only ten people in the world were qualified to land a plane there. She wasn't going to run away from something as she first thought when she bought the four plane tickets that would get her there, and the other four that would bring her back. She was going there to find the strong person she knew she had been and could be again. She was going there to feel everything that life's crazy turns had prevented her from feeling. She was going there to dream a little, feel a little freedom and be all that her name signified. Asmi. Happy, strong-willed, and in the present. As she thought these strange thoughts, they started boarding Zones 4 and 5 on AC 691. She finished her cappuccino, fished out her passport from her bag, extracted her boarding pass from the book she had been reading, and headed to Gate 8.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

#7

Her name was Rupa and she was on a road trip. She had done this road trip 4 times before, or 6 if you count the one-way drives. That meant she had spent over 84 hours on almost the same combination of interstates and state roads. There were other road trips she had done as many times, but this time, something was different. The roads, even after their untiring spates of construction were the same. But she had changed. This time she had her personal DJ on the trip, and as soon as he figured out how to connect his phone to the rental's bluetooth system, they could stop listening to Bruno Mars on the radio! He wasn't the one who made her different by the way. He was on the trip with her, but this story isn't about him. We just need him to play some music so Rupa can sing her heart out. She knew she didn't sound too good, but didn't care. Singing made her happy. When she sang, she could feel the poet's feelings - the pain, hope, happiness or plan simple randomness that was contained within the song.

As Bruno Mars droned on in the background, she reflected on all her road trips along these roads. The first one was to start a new job after finishing grad school. They told her grad school would be tough, and she thought she could handle everything. But then it broke her down. She thought she had hit rock bottom when she had cried and admitted to another human being that she was finding things difficult. She thought it was her parent's divorce that made things difficult for her, knowing that the night she left for grad school was the last night they lived together in the same house. But then she tried to analyze her feelings some and figured it was the guilt of leaving her mother behind, alone. She was never close to the woman, and let's not get into the why of the matter. She cried through her first semester, thought she lost everything, because this was her only shot at making something of herself and screwing up grad school meant she would never get a real job. She didn't know what she would go back to, where her home was, where her anchor lay. She went home for her winter break, realized how much she didn't want to be home, stuck in her old monotonous job and found the resolve to get through grad school - with or without tears. She did well after that and landed this job, which would be most people's dream job. It might have been hers as well, but she didn't think about these things. Graduating with academic honours wasn't an achievement for her, she knew she was good and expected it. And hence getting that job didn't mean much either. Don't get me wrong, she was grateful for the opportunities it afforded her, but she didn't dwell on how lucky she was.

Her DJ finally connected his phone and she instantly knew the song and started singing along, without half a care in the world about what he or anybody else thought about her voice or about how out of tune she was with the music. Rupa didn't care. The music made her feel, and it had been a while since she had felt something other than pain, guilt, regret, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, claustrophobia or utter desolation. The song was peppy, and she was in a happy mood.

As she drove on, she thought about the other times when she had made this trip - twice to run away from a storm, and once to run into a storm! She didn't know that she was running into a storm, but as she drove on, she found herself hopelessly caught in one - and she was the only one on that interstate chasing her personal storm. But she didn't want to think about that either. She was busy being amused about the first storm! She still found it funny how she drove 643 miles because they ordered a mandatory evacuation, which for most people meant a 2-5 mile road trip! But the trip was worth it. The first time she ran away, she went to live with Ash. Or at least, that was what his friends called him. She showed up with 5 hours lead time, and he was still extremely welcoming. He offered his bedroom to her, saying, "You're a woman and you should feel safe, welcome and comfortable" and took the couch for a week. "Feel free to lock yourself in as long as you like, I have everything I need by my couch". Ash didn't know she was trying to run away from something other than a storm. To be fair, Rupa didn't know either. But she felt safe, comfortable and at home. She didn't lock herself in, but she knew he wouldn't venture in. She slept in late, and Ash had already left for work when she came out of her room.  He left her instructions on the options for breakfast and she made herself something nice. His kitchen, like the rest of the house was very clean and well organized and she enjoyed cooking. She was young then, not much of a chef, but in Ash's kitchen, she felt like a professional. He came home for lunch to meet her, made her something nice, and then went right back to work! Rupa was married to her job, but she was a slacker compared to Ash.

As she lounged around the apartment, Rupa realized the next day was Ash's birthday. As she silently hoped everyone back home would be alright, she couldn't help but chuckle at the thought that Andrew had picked an appropriate day to make landfall. Looking back, it's funny she felt like that, because Andrew's devastation was symbolic of the devastation that was about to be unleashed in her life. That day though, she was oblivious, warm, cozy and comfortable. She picked up a cake from somewhere famous and then spent the next 5 hours making Ash's favourite dessert. She didn't do that for most people, but Ash comforted her. He was older, wiser and one of her dearest friends. It's funny how she felt so close to him, because she had barely known him for a few months before she graduated and moved away. But she felt an strong connection to him, probably because she sensed in him the internal struggle that was beginning to brew in her heart around the time she met him. Ash was someone she didn't have to share these feelings with, just knowing he was a part of her life allowed her to feel like she wasn't the only one grappling with internal conflicts.

Rupa respected Ash, a sentiment she rarely felt for most men in her life. And it wasn't just because he was older than her. Ash was fearless and quit a comfortable life to literally go save the earth! She had read about people who gave up everything to save someone or something. Rupa knew why people like Ash did these things. They did it because that was the only way they knew how to deal with their internal struggles - by running away from the monotony of their lives. Saving someone didn't make them feel like heroes. It was how they healed their pain of being left alone to deal with unfair circumstances. It was how they avoided feeling victimized by the events in their past. It was how they exerted control over their fate by controlling it's departure from the normal. Today's road trip was Rupa's attempt at running away from the realities of her life. She thought about running further away as well, quitting her job and going to a remote country with no internet. She knew such a place too. But Rupa knew she would never come back if she went. And so she sang instead.

She sang and went on road trips. Today she turned up the volume, brushed aside the thought of all the meteorological and metaphorical storms in her life and sang her heart out. She knew she'd have a sore throat at the end of her twelve hour drive, but right now, singing felt right. It was all the anchor she needed!

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Damn you, Rich!

"Well, I am not much of a dancer..."
"That's ok. If you don't know what to do, just twirl me around!"
And so he did, and they danced...

The band played Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the U.S.A' and she told him she wasn't even born in the USA. He told her that he was a Canadian born in Europe. She wanted to ask where in Europe and how he ended up here. But she didn't. Because that would have meant telling him her story as well and she didn't want to.

She didn't think he was untrustworthy, but she just wasn't sure what her story was anymore. She didn't know if it mattered what her story had been. She just wanted to forget, stop thinking and enjoy the music. Dancing made her feel alive. She needed a drink to loosen up sometimes and the right pair of shoes. After three ligament injuries to her knee, two back injuries, one of which was sustained dancing in the rain, she wanted to make sure her shoes were right. She wore boots that night and loved the sound they made on the dance floor. She felt the music and it made her come alive again. She always felt the music. She was a little dramatic and cliched in that sense. Maybe even a little old fashioned. But at 30, she was old!

He asked her her name. Without missing a beat, she replied, "Su". She just knew she was Su tonight. Not Sunaina. She saw Sunaina in the mirror, but Rich told her that she should go by "Su". He called himself Rich, because he thought Richard was too long a name! She told him they all called her Naina, but he told her she looked like "Su". So when this stranger asked her her name, she said "Su", because she was tired of being Sunaina. Sunaina had gone through a lot of pain and she was here to forget. The anonymity that "Su" afforded her gave her comfort, because she was here to run away from her feelings and didn't want to be found tonight. She wanted to ask his name, but then that would mean getting to know him. She didn't want to get to know anyone or feel close to them. She wanted to feel the music and she wanted to feel her body move. She always said her body was made to move. She could never sit still. It might have had something to do with how restless her mind had always been, but she didn't think too much about it. She over-thought a lot of things, but this wasn't one of them.

Su enjoyed herself dancing with the stranger, who by the way, was a real gentleman. She had no way of knowing, but he left his friend alone and danced with her, because she asked him to. So he must either be a terrible friend, or somewhat of a gentleman. Rich told her that guys found it tough to approach girls and wished sometimes that girls would approach them and make it easier. Rich said a lot of things like that and she wasn't sure she trusted him. But that night, she had had two drinks, which in Naina's world was one month's supply. It was in her old world. In her new world, she easily went through a wine bottle a week, all by herself. Wine was the only alcohol she allowed herself to drink alone, and it might have been because she secretly thought wine was a food group. It was when she was enjoying her Merlot and telling Rich about the guy she wanted to ask out at a bar, but didn't, that Rich told her that she should ask guys out and show them some mercy. So after two drinks and an insatiable desire to dance, she decided she would find herself a partner. She got asked to dance sometimes, but that night she went with a friend who was a boy and nobody would ask out a woman who came in with another man. I say boy because he was supposed to be her wingman but was too shy to introduce her to anyone. Maybe that's why Rich got in her head and as she walked back to the dance floor after a little break, she stopped by their table and asked, "Which of you knows how to dance?"

And so, Su danced. And she danced to Born in the U.S.A as well. She had no clue why the band would pick that song, but they did a really good rendition and Su felt herself move. And felt him twirl her. They always liked to twirl her. She looked pretty when twirled. Her dress would flare out, and her hair would fly and she would look free and happy and unburdened.

He asked her if she was about to get married to the guy she came in with. She laughed and said, "Him? Oh no! He's my brother!". She's not sure why she said brother and not, friend-who's-a-crappy-wingman. It might have been because it was a mouthful and all she wanted was to dance. To tap her feet to the music. To know her body moved perfectly to the beat of the music. She was a perfectionist, even when drunk. And so she danced with the Canadian. And then she felt bad for having him leave his friend alone, and after a while, told him to go back. And he was still very chivalrous and gracious towards her "brother", who he thanked for letting him dance with Su. But Su wasn't done dancing that night and she danced with some not so memorable men, a woman who also twirled her and executed a perfect fall! She loved that, because her hair fell back and shined and looked just perfect!

Damn you, Rich! I had a good time. Thanks for getting your bullshit in my head this one time. Only this one time though, ok?

Monday, January 01, 2018

What's your quote going to be?

It's been about 9 years. After K left for her MBA, I got caught up with the whole 12th standard board exams, engineering college entrance exams, finding a job, taking the GRE, finishing a masters and then finding a job again, and then working a million hours a day to keep afloat, and completely forgot about blogging!

I grew up in the last 9 years, had an adult relationship, saw it fall apart after 7 years (surprise!) and lost and found myself a million times!

I am currently back to the "lost" phase, where I am again trying to find who I am going to be next. In the last 9 years, I managed to become an avid hiker, amateur dancer, competitive rower, structural engineer who builds skyscrapers and is helping define the third tallest skyline in all of the United States! I also fell in love (I though it was lust, then it became love, then a deep sense of dedication to a long-term relationship even when I saw it fall apart over a three year period). I gained weight, then lost it, gained it again, built muscles, lost them, gained weight, lost weight again, gained it, and am currently on the losing weight phase of my life.

I saw more of the world than K allowed me to! Did I tell you about hiking Sinhagad (every Punekar has been there, done that!)? And what about Torna, Tikona and K2S? Well, after that, I also hiked up the Half Dome (google it!), hiked in the Rocky Mountains and camped in pouring rain on sloping ground (:D) freezing to death because all my clothes and backpack were completely drenched, did the Angels Landing hike, hiked into the Virgin River (google the Narrows hike!), walked among the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, camped with millions of mosquitoes in the Florida keys, ate conch fritters and drank key lime mimosas, swam in a few fresh water springs, drove in, hiked in and camped in the Smoky Mountains and went back because it was so pretty! Somewhere in all of this, I also went swimming in the Mula Mutha (only a Punekar can attest to how disgusting that is!), rowed in it, won a silver at the State Rowing Championships, then never rowed again thanks to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Ulnar Never Neuritis. Did I mention I also met Typhoid and Dengue along the way?

I went and got a Masters in Structural Engineering and worked on two NFL stadiums even though I barely understood football (and still don't!). 

I had a lot of fun in all of this, and never thought about blogging because I never felt like I had a free minute to write about life, cos it was happening too fast! And now I am back to blogging. Not to share K's wisdom (although we all know that will happen whether I like it or not); not to tell you about the last 9 years - although they were great; but because I want to write again. Writing helped me define who I was and wanted to be 9 years ago. I know I never came back and told you (my readership of, what was it, 10 people?) how it went, but then most of you knew anyway. 

I want to say, get ready for the ride, it's going to be fun. And I would like for it be fun. But we'll find out how it goes. But just so you know, Pearl did grow up. She's 26 and has a real job now. And that's actually all you needed to know to be caught up. 

Before I sign off, I'll leave you with something K wrote me when I started pursuing my Master's in 2014, because we all know you're really here for K's wisdom :P 

From the Capilano Suspension Bridge to the temples of Angkor
Each has a story of it's own, each a wonder to behold!
My backpack and I, have made a few journeys,
We've miles to go, this is just the beginning!

"Getting lost is to find yourself"
"There are no foreign lands"
"Life is an adventure"

....what's your quote going to be?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Proof of the Pudding is in the Pudding itself

That’s another gem from K. I could write a collection of her words of wisdom, but maybe we could use that post to redeem the self respect she’s going to lose once this post is made.

K is trying (desperately) to complete an MBA at AIM, Manila. She’s been there since August and now she has come to India for a short vacation. When she went to Manila, Bond took her to Thailand, and went to drop her off at Manila and get her settled down in Manila. So with Bond around, she didn’t have to worry about travel formalities. But this time, she was traveling alone. So Bond was afraid she might get lost and depressed in all the big airports of the world. So he sent her an e-mail explaining to her in detail how to go about immigration and customs. Also, he sent her a scanned copy of a blank arrival card, front as well as back. Then he also sent her a completed sample copy of the arrival card, the sample being her details. Also, he wrote out instructions at certain steps about where the card must be submitted and who will stamp what and where. He also asked her to thoroughly check out the sample form, print and keep a copy with her to use as a reference while filling the actual arrival form, which K did as soon as she received Bond’s e-mail. After sending the e-mail, Bond probably realized that K might print out copies of the arrival card herself and submit those, so he sent her another e-mail explaining to her that she will be given the arrival card on the flight, and in case she is not given one, then she need not worry, or be prepared with her own copies, she can collect one after landing, just before the immigration counter.

He also wrote, “After collecting your baggage from the belt, move towards the customs and look for the Green Channel. You may have to put your baggage through the X-Ray there and if you are lucky, the customs guy may tell you to move on without the X-Ray. In any case you do not need to worry whether the baggage goes through the X-Ray or you move out just like that. Then follow the exit sign and I will be there waiting for you.” Maybe, recession has hit Bond too, and therefore he has a lot of futile time to spend in writing out these instructions for K. I just hope it passes away soon.

And besides Bond, even a classmate of K has been striving to idiot proof her existence. On a casual chat, he started giving her pointers regarding immigration and customs in Manila and how to go about paying the tax at the airport and how much the cab ride to the airport should cost, and how much money she must carry, etc.

Btw, an Update: I now know the reason K why K wanted to give her laptop away to a courier delivery guy. It was just a cheap trick to get a new laptop. In any case, without giving the laptop away, she got a new laptop, and since then, the old laptop has been safe.

Also, we have a spare scanner. It’s as good as new. Ever since we bought it, it has been forgotten in our loft. So it’s an un-used scanner. It will be found to be extremely useful for people who need to prove their honesty by means of scanning certain documents and e-mailing them to prove their stories. The cost is negotiable. Also, since a cousin will be traveling to Delhi, Rampur, Delhi, some place, then the USA, anyone living in any of the afore mentioned places will get a special discount on delivery charges.