Road trip

I sold my last motorcycle back in 2015 & since then have not experienced a motorcycle road trip. A few weeks ago, I bought a new(ish) motorcycle from a departing Expat. Its the Stallions Centaur CT400 with a 400cc single cylinder 4 valve engine. I have ridden it many times since then, but only local short commutes. It goes without saying, the feeling of wanderlust has been building up inside me since.

Today morning, I went about my usual schedule and even started my office work. After taking stock of my work, I realized I had nothing too urgent to finish today. I decided to take the day off and head out to the highway on the motorcycle.

I settled on Ko Lan, an island around 160km away. To get there, you need to ride till Bali Hai Pier at Pattaya and then take a ferry to the island. I hastily collected a few things, put on Pink Floyd’s Pulse and headed out on the highway. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the fastest highway to Pattaya doesn’t allow motorcycles on it. Fortunately, the other highway which does allow Motorcycles was also more suitable for Motorcycle rides. Highway 3 is a winding 4-6 lane road which hugs the coast and passes near many beaches.

Motorcycle Road Trip
Highway 3

After escaping the mad traffic of Bangkok, I was finally able to open up the throttle on the highway. The motorcycle performs very well on the highway, cruising easily between 100-120kmph without too many vibrations (For a single cylinder engine). There’s ample reserve power for going faster for overtaking, too. I was able to reach Pattaya in 2.5 hours.

Deserted Bali Hai Pier

I was quickly disappointed to find the pier deserted and learnt that boats to Ko Lan were stopped because of the pandemic. Dejected, I decided to explore Pattaya instead and headed to Pattaya Beach. Thankfully, Chonburi province allows dine-in and I was able to have lunch at the beach.

After getting my feet wet in the water and relaxing for sometime, I headed back to Bangkok. I wanted to stay and watch the sunset but the constant attempts by she-pimps to persuade me to get a “massage” got on my nerves. My phone ran out of battery on the way back, and I lost my way twice on the outskirts of Bangkok but eventually reached home.

After going on a motorcycle road trip after so many years, I feel exhilarated. Needless to say, there will be many more road trips in the months to come.

The North Indian phobia of “Outside Food”

Having stayed in North India for most of my life, I have noticed a peculiar phobia of North Indians. It is towards “outside food” or as they call it “Bahar ka khana”. I have also stayed in West, Central and East India & noticed this only in North India. Basically, most North Indians are extremely averse to eating restaurant food. Going out to eat or ordering food from outside is seen as a failure of the wife or mother in the family.

A Restaurant, PC:cap3000.com

The first time I remember noticing this was when we had just moved to Chandigarh. We were invited to the home of one of my father’s colleagues for tea. When it was time to go, we excused ourselves by saying we have to go out for dinner to some restaurant. A look of disappointment dawned on their faces, immediately followed by a look of pity. They all looked at my mother and asked her why we “have to” eat out. We just told them that we always ate out on Sundays. They never respected my mother again, a useless wife/mother who won’t even cook for her family on weekends.

Over the years, I started noticing this phobia towards “outside food” more and more. When I would go out to eat with my friends, their parents would look down on me as if I am corrupting them. They would even ask me if “I didn’t get any food at home”. I also noticed that most of my friends never went out to eat with their families, even on special occasions.

I would notice this peculiarity even more when I went to Kolkata during my summer holidays. Everyone ate out all the time. Even my poorest relatives living in small towns went out to eat regularly. During major festivals, people there eat out all day and night. In North India, it just means that the wife/mother has to work extra hard to cook special food at home during festivals.

After my graduation, when I was working in Kolkata, me and my colleagues would order lunch everyday. No one brought food from home. When I moved back to Gurgaon, I noticed that almost everyone bought food from home. Mothers/wives are expected to wake up early every morning to cook lunch tiffins for their kids/husbands before they left for school/work, come rain or shine. When I ordered food, colleagues would be tempted to eat it, but would also be afraid to take their food back home uneaten. Sometimes they ate the “outside food” with me and then also had to finish their lunch.

During the lockdown, ordering food from outside though not illegal, was frowned upon. People always stared at me with disgust while I carried food from the society gate. Can his wife not cook?

In Bangkok, everyone goes out to eat during lunch, except some Indians (mostly North Indians). They all cook their own food in the morning and bring to work with them. During lunch, they go sit in the parking lot and eat that food as our office doesn’t have a designated place to have lunch.

I am not quite sure where all this stems from. Most people I have asked think restaurant food is unhygienic (sure, if you eat roadside food). Most just consider eating at home the normal thing to do and eating out an anomaly. Maybe some of it comes from the looming patriarchy in North Indian culture where a woman’s primary role is to cook and clean. Also, why spend money eating out?

On a positive note, in spite (or because of) all this, North Indians are some of the warmest people I have met who always invite you to sit with them and have a (home cooked, of course) meal. I do appreciate home cooked meals, but I also want a fancy meal at restaurants every now and then.

A note on Work-life balance

Some people take work too seriously. I regularly see people (especially in South East Asia) living, breathing, eating and sleeping work. It’s so bad that there’s no semblance of work-life balance at all.

Here’s a typical day for some of these people:

  • Check work email and teams (Online 24×7) messages when you wake up for a few minutes in the middle of sleep during the night.
  • Wake up in the morning, check teams messages first thing, reply to emails
  • Get ready and go to work, glue yourself to the computer
  • Go out for lunch. Check teams messages and emails all the time, discuss work related things with colleagues
  • Go back to work, glue yourself to the computer
  • Go out for dinner. Check teams messages and emails all the time, discuss work related things with colleagues
  • Leave work at 8, check teams chats and emails during the commute home
  • Take calls from home till 11
  • Go to bed, check teams chats and emails on the phone when in bed
  • Work from home on the weekends
  • Miss your colleagues during holidays, so come to office any way on your holidays
  • Wash, rinse and repeat

I fail to understand how (or why) some people give their entire life to work with no regards to their health, personal/family time or hobbies. I have been through such (short) phases a few times in my life, too and have come out suffering mentally every time. This makes me wonder even more how some people do this day after day, year after year.

Now, I don’t care too much if such people don’t have care for work-life balance, don’t have hobbies or don’t have friends outside work. I don’t care that for them their entire life revolves around work. But I do start caring when this behaviour becomes the norm at an organization and people expect the same from you.

For me, I am paid a salary and in return, I work. It doesn’t mean that I am not motivated at all, I always try to give the best I can, but I prefer to draw clear boundaries between work and leisure.

I don’t have Teams or work Email configured on my personal phone. If there’s something urgent, they will call me. Unlike the above people, I also do my best to give 100% during the 8 hours I am actually working, I don’t stand around with my colleagues and gossip. Also, I don’t want to see work colleagues at all outside work hours or on weekends. I have a separate social circle for those times.

I am acutely aware that my way of working is not the norm anymore; thankfully I am in a position where I can get away with it.

As a great man said once “Work is work, life is life”. Ironically, he was a workaholic, himself, who later burnt out.

How I almost got dragged into a Ponzi scheme

This post is about the time when I almost joined a Ponzi scheme. It all started with a colleague “K” who I had worked with, in 2 different companies and had known for many years. I considered him a friend (still do). Now, K always talked about a childhood friend of his, “Z” whom he clearly admired. Z bought a new car, Z bought a PS3, Z is vacationing in Europe etc. Eventually, we all knew Z by proxy.

The Bait

Now, our friend K was not a very sociable person by nature. We hardly met or called each other outside work or visited each other at our homes. So, it was weird when one day K called me out of the blue, on a Saturday and asked me to meet for coffee. When I asked him what’s up, he said he wanted to introduce me to his friend Z and just have coffee together. I didn’t have any exciting plans then, so I agreed.

I met them at a swanky café at a reputable (disreputable, as I later found out) market in South Delhi. K was waiting outside with Z. Z immediately frowned and made a disappointing face when he saw me arrive on my motorcycle. K must have noticed this because he immediately said awkwardly something on the lines of “He also has a car, but is passionate about biking”. Introductions were made and we went inside the café.

The Trap

Z starts by plopping his BMW keys on the table asking me what my dreams are. I tell him that I like travelling. Z asks me how I would feel if some day I could just pack my bags on a whim, go to the airport without any plans and just chose a country from the flight list to fly to. I told Z that an Indian passport doesn’t work that way and Indians can’t just travel to many places without a visa. I must have embarrassed K again because he awkwardly turned it into a joke and we all laughed.

Z continues by telling me he made smart investments in a business a few years ago and now has enough money to do whatever he wants in life. He also tells me that on K’s insistence, and on identifying certain qualities in me (over half a cup of coffee, no less), he is ready to make me a partner in his business. All I had to do, in return, was to make a small investment to get started and then sit back and watch the money pouring in.

Ponzi scheme
Ponzi Scheme, PC: Abaforlawstudents

Immediately, alarm bells start to go off in my head. By this point, I also start to notice that every other table at this cafe is also occupied by people engaged in a similar conversation as us. I understand that I am being baited for some kind of Ponzi scheme and make up my mind that I need to get out, quick. Z asks me for a measly investment of ₹100000 and informs me that the window of opportunity will not be open for long.

I tell him I will go to the ATM and withdraw the cash. He asks me not to sweat it and fishes a POS machine out of his bag and asks for my card. He also tells me they have partnerships with many banks and they can get me a loan in a few hours. I tell him some bullshit about my card being blocked on POS machines and insist on going to the ATM.

The Escape

Z must have sensed I am about to bail because he frowns and says maybe K was wrong about my potential. I immediately high tail it out of the cafe and the market, start my bike and am out of that area in 10 seconds flat without even paying for the parking. I feel my phone ring in my pocket, but reach inside my pocket and switch it off. The entire ride home, I am racked with guilt on ditching my friend K and leaving him in such an awkward situation.

By the time I reach home, though, I realise it’s not my fault. It was K’s fault for using his friendship with me for such purposes and tricking me into such a position. By the time I switch my phone ON and get many missed call alerts from K, I am livid with K for doing this and plan to confront him at work on Monday.

The Aftermath

Over the weekend, I calmed down and realised what must have happened. Z must have convinced K into this Ponzi scheme. K was just trying to recoup the “investment” he put in. I also realised that doing all this must have been even more awkward and difficult for K than it was for me. I began to feel pity for him and wondered how Z could involve someone like K (unsociable, awkward), his childhood friend into such a thing.

When I researched more about QNET and MLM in general, I realised that almost everyone involved (except the people on top) are just trying to recoup their losses. And for money, they will get over their awkwardness, phobias and use their friendships to rope others in.

Monday at work was a bit awkward, K and I exchanged pleasantries but didn’t talk to each other like we used to. It took many days for the awkwardness to subside and many weeks for things to go back to normal. We never spoke about it ever again.

Later, I heard from others that K had approached them, too, but didn’t find anyone who had gotten in. I wonder if K was able to recoup his losses. Maybe some day I will ask him and we will laugh about it.

My Best Purchases-HP 3545 AIO

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is the HP 3545 Printer/Scanner which is one of the best purchases (and the most useful) I ever made.

HP 3545
HP 3545 AIO, PC: HP

I ordered this from Amazon around December 2015 after my last inkjet died. It cost me only ₹5200 which is definitely a bargain for something this useful.

The device comes with WiFi connectivity. Not just WiFi direct between phones and the device, but it can join an actual 802.11 WiFi network & stay connected to the internet. The task of joining the printer to the WiFi network is a bit laborious using the tiny display and limited controls, but is a one time job. Once it is connected to WiFi, it is very easy to access from any device (Windows, Fagdroid or Apple) on the same network. The best part is, this is the first printer I have used that requires no drivers or apps on any device; everything is native.

It prints coloured pages reasonably fast, scans photos and documents up to 1200dpi and borderless coloured photos on glossy paper up to 6×4 inches. If you’re not on the same network, you can even print things remotely using the HP app, as long as this printer has Internet access.

This is probably the most useful thing I have ever bought. From school homework to bureaucratic paperwork; I couldn’t imagine my life without this.

Bye Bye Credit Cards

For as long as I have had a career, I have lived off of credit cards. I handled my expenses using these cards and paid it back at the end of the month. Using these cards, I also purchased things that I couldn’t afford and paid the money back over many months. At one point of time, I had up to 4 credit cards in my wallet, all maxed out.

Credit Cards
Credit Cards, PC: Business Insider

With my recent move and a long overdue financial reset, I decided to get rid of credit cards from my life once and for all. I was anyways going to get rid of my Indian cards, but I also decided not to get any in Thailand.

At first it was scary and I almost ended up applying for one during a weak moment but eventually pulled through. Now it has been more than a month without a credit card and I couldn’t be happier. For the first time in my life, I am actually sticking to my budget goals.

I hope I am able to stave off the temptation and maintain this going forward.

The Inscrutable Thais

I have been living in Thailand for around a month now. I have visited here many times before, but this is the first time I am actually living here. As such, my interaction with Thais has been quite different from other times and for most part, I have found them to be inscrutable. However some aspects of their (unique) character has struck me, which I would describe below:

Thai People, PC: mythaland.blog
  1. Most Thais have their main social circle at work. Unlike people who come to office just to work and then go home, most Thais are actually pretty good friends with their colleagues. They even spend extended hours at work (even if it is not needed) just to be close to their colleagues/friends. I found this very weird for the first few days; people at work well past dinner, but then I realized it is more of a “social” thing rather than an “overwork” thing.
  2. Thais love ice in everything. All their drinks are 70% ice. Even some of their desserts are full of ice. Whatever ice is left after enjoying the drink/dessert, they happily eat.
  3. Thais are extremely polite. Most Thais (especially in the service industry) will go out of their way to be courteous. On top of that, they are also very non-confrontational which means you will hardly see fights or arguments on the streets.
  4. For some reason, most of Bangkok malls are full of banks. Most malls have branches of all the major banks and they are open for extended hours and over the weekend. Strangely, the main branches elsewhere have short hours on weekdays and are closed on weekends.
  5. Thais don’t seem to be very fond of wearing jewelry. Also, jewelry stores are not very common in markets or malls (Unlike India) and can only be found in some specific areas.
  6. Thais love the colour pink. Unlike other countries, where the colour Pink would be considered overtly feminine, in Thailand, pink is common everywhere. You will find things like pink clothes (common among both genders), pink cars, pink branding, pink bikes, pink buildings everywhere.
  7. Thais love air conditioning. Be it offices, restaurants, malls, taxis, air conditioning is typically dialed down to an insanely low temperature. Most people from other countries would find indoors too chilly.
  8. Out of all the countries I have been to, Thailand easily has the highest ratio of women in the workforce. Almost everyone in the service industry is a woman, in the tech industry, the ratio is much higher than other countries & women are present at all levels. In fact 15-20% of taxi drivers I get here are also women, which, frankly, I have never seen anywhere else.

Looking forward to getting to know them even better over the next few years.

Weird Birthday-2

This year, I had another weird birthday. My last birthday was spent in Bangkok, alone at a hotel. After that, I thought I might never travel to Bangkok again, but coincidentally, not only am I back in Bangkok, I even spent my birthday in the exact same hotel.

The difference was, this time I wasn’t alone, but with family.

Spent the day at IconSiam & bought the Apple Watch braided solo loop as a birthday gift. Overall, a nice upgrade from my last birthday.

Quarantine Life

Since I left Gurgaon & moved to Bangkok, I have been in quarantine with my family. Almost 1 week in, it has been a bit difficult, but not torturous.

We are not allowed to leave our hotel rooms, except to pick up the food which is placed outside our rooms 3 times a day. Apart from this, our only window into the outside world are the windows with the same constant view.

Day View

The only difference in the view is how it changes between day and night & during different hours of the day depending on the angle of the sun.

Night View

Looking forward to getting out of quarantine in 9 more days and exploring the city (again).

I am a judgemental Person

I am not the perfect person (far from it, actually). One of my character flaws is that I am a judgemental person. I judge people by

  1. The make of car they drive. I look down on people who drive certain brands of cars.
  2. The make of smartphones/gadgets they use.
  3. The fact that they have a religious mark on their foreheads.
  4. The area of a particular city they stay in.
  5. How many people in their family live in the same house.
  6. How many kids they have.
  7. What chat app they use.

The list goes on. I hate myself for it, but I can’t help it.

Earth bound misfit, I