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One of the funniest stories my dad told me from his younger days was about Sosamma who ran a roadside eatery. One day Sosamma made 10 puttu, hoping to sell each for one rupee. For whatever reason, she was particularly hungry that day and began polishing off the puttu one by one. By evening there was only one puttu left and in order to meet her sales target she priced it at 10 rupees. The fate of that sole remaining … More»

Featured stories

As far as office rides go this one takes the cup. The fibre boat crested every wave at somersault angles and landed with emphatic thuds, each a sledgehammer blow from below deck. I sat close to the helm – it is smoother toward the aft, where the rest of the crew were – where I was installed prior to the launch. If I attempted to move back now from fore I might have to swim ashore – a skill which … More»


Trading and religion have always gone hand in hand – the unpredictability of one unfailingly appealed to the vagary of the other. Pala, flanking the fertile banks of the Meenachil River, attracted farmer settlers from millennia ago. Recorded history shows they were mostly Christians or Nasrani – as the Syrian Christians of Kerala are known as – due to the evangelisation efforts of St Thomas who came ashore the sub-continent in the first century. Achayan, as the Nasrani menfolk are … More»

Movement mellifluous: A Balinese lady

It was a rare event – Wally was quiet. And Wally was never quiet, as his friends vouched, unless he was sleeping nor still if he wasn’t staring you down enquiring after the ‘angle of the dangle.’ Then at the Tree Top Bar which he runs with his son Mathews close to the Labuan Bajo harbour there is always some reason to be raucous. Like when I walked in Mathews had just announced that he had got a new dog … More»

Fast fading glory

What do you wear when you are soon going to doff it for a copulation session for canvas? What was that semaphore again for more shisha in the hookah? How long does one keep jigging for the frolicsome mood to be captured as still life? At the Qudsia Bagh in Civil Lines I tried to lay a handle on some possible existential crises of Mohammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ (‘The colourful’), one of whose begums built the eponymous garden. The crossdressing debauchee … More»


‘Geological time includes now.’
Looking up at the looming cracked dolmens, precariously balanced boulders, perching promontories and other formidable formations from the gulch I was tracing it wasn’t easy to shrug away Edward Abbey’s artful caution. That they had been like that for most part of millions of years is exactly what prompts – and tempts – you to walk among them and even try a hand at bouldering while there. Soloing myself up, no fancy highballing, I looked up again … More»

Enter colour - a karaoke bar

“When I invite my girlfriend to an evening in the karaoke bar she is aroused and anguished at the same time,” says Alitt Susanto taking deep drags from a fancy cigarette atomiser. A fruity flavour wafts around us.
“She doesn’t know whether I will be singing about love and longing. Or leaving.” The silver haze is quite atmospheric, something like what Rhett Butler might have stepped out into after the famous ‘Frankly…’  Alitt, a bestselling author and vlogger from Indonesia, cloaked … More»


A hunt in the deep forest where I vanquished a wild boar with my bare hands followed by the martial Caci (pronounced ‘chachi’) dance when I leapt and brought the whip down on my opponent from a jaw-dropping sky-angle. It didn’t take any of these for the Manggarai tribe of Kampung Melo (‘kampung’ is ‘village’ in Indonesia) in Flores island and their headman to declare me the chief from the visitors’ side for the day; guess they decided to settle … More»

Regan lump-locked me

Magical and empowering stories from the fringes of the largest archipelago.
Ayo Mandiri Foundation
“When even the physically fit and mentally sound finds it difficult to land a job these days it is better to write off the prospects of the handicapped,” says Kasim Mambut, owner of Ayo Mandiri Massage Centre. Then this is exactly what Kasim refuses to do – write them off. His centre in Labuan Bajo in Flores trains the moderate to the extremely challenged people to be … More»


An adventure was easy to conjure: Manto the captain of the bowrider confessed to a non-functioning GPS. Everyone wore dark glasses, cigarettes were chain-lit. An Indonesian actor who was also a secret political activist held forth on the Machiavellian machinations that led to Sukarno’s, the first president, ousting from power and the rising spell of the Contra. Cans of Bintang beer sweated lustily in the icebox under the canopied stern. The sea shimmered all around, a galaxy on earth. Somebody … More»


“13,466,” said the UN.
“17,504,” claimed Indonesia.
The 4,000-odd in between were mostly atolls and a concatenation of minor cays which disappeared during high tide, countered the UN, basing its findings on a GIS survey conducted in 2011. Hence can’t be counted as islands proper. Take these few thousands, Indonesia still remains the largest archipelago in the world. And come high tide or low water, there are around 7,000 islands inhabited round the year. But for most who actually live here these are just … More»

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