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Friday, May 31, 2013

Into the heart of Borneo

The word Borneo makes one think of  the colour green ,a world of lush tropical forests meandering streams and the sun peeping through tall trees in falling rain .
This turns out to be true as we realised on  travelling into its heart to the Temburong national park in Brunei .
The national park itself  a part of the Borneo conservation efforts is only a small portion  of the 575 sq km of forests hills and waterways
 Unscathed by mankind there were exotic and rare varieties of plant and small animal life
The dwarf squirrel ,the black butterfly also named as the White rajah after the ruler of erstwhile Sarawalk the Englishman James Brooke ( read the white Rajahs of Borneo ).
The Brunei government   preserves the  rich  flora and fauna the country is blessed with .
adventure and ecotourism are  encouraged but with great care not to disturb nature in any form .
Even the capital city is richly endowed with greenery trekking hills are available within the city limits itself which is rare anywhere .
To reach the Ulu resort in temburong national park one had to go by motor  boat bus  to Bangar in Temburong and from there by bus to .Batang

 has to go in a longboat canoe fitted with an engine then to reach the resort .
The day trip arranged by sunshine tours was around 150 Brunei Dollars per head of which entry charges to national park was around 80 dollars
We were picked up from the Empire hotel the exotic five star hotel befitting its name by the beach very near our house at 7 am sharp by the tour people and dropped off at Bandar seri Begawan jetty
We got into the steam boat which was more of a small bus with rows of seats ,the steam boat left Bandar and the Kampong Ayer ( Kampong means village and Ayer is water )
The water village was  called the Venice of the east by traveller Antonio Pigafetta when he visited Brunei in the 16th century
Its  is a small city of houses built on stilts on the Brunei river in Bandar Seri Begawan the capital ,one could reach it by motor boat taxis called Perahu Tambang .
There are wooden houses some made of concrete and some are fitted with all luxuries like AC ,internet connection etc .
The motor boat bus sped along the blue waters quite fast ,the city receded fast ,we went through mangrove banks thickly green uninhabited with the occasional bird fluttering out ,there were crocodiles too there it seems but usually they kept away when  boats plied in daytime .if one was very lucky one could spot a rare proboscis monkey too !
the plump driver continued his work unaffected by my presence on  his side as I had migrated from my seat  to get a front view of the action and take some photos ,the driver was used to tourists doing just that , slowly I even found a small perch to place my haunches on and focus more better in the speeding boat and suddenly was amused to find a small crowd around me imitating what I started .
we reached Bangar in about 45 minutes and eased into a jetty stop with all facilities ,we got into a local bus which drove along narrow streets to reach another jetty on the other side of the island ,on the way we saw some longhouses .
Incidentally the long houses are seen in  countries like Malaysia ,Brunei ,Indonesia etc .
 I had read about them in the travel book by BBC correspondent Palin called Full Circle .
Longhouses are exactly what it it means ,it contains a long array of rooms or apartments with a central common area where all residents could gather ,even though the families lived in separate apartments there was a communal feel to the house ,such living began  in the days when people needed to live together for safety from enemies or wild animals ,today longhouses are   dwindling with  people living more in individual houses some  longhouses still existed in the interiors .

on reaching the steep jetty we quickly adorned our life jackets and got into the canoes which were motor powered ,
5 passengers excluding the driver in each canoe was permitted .
we could sit on a small seat and lean back ,the boat skimmed on the green waters speeding along placid and at times turbulent waters ,whenever we reached rough waters driver would off the engine to prevent us being sloshed ,we did get wet a bit and was careful with our cameras but the ride itself was exhilarating ,both sides the embankments were mountainous full of thick forests wild flowers b and rare plants  tall thick trees .
 A real garden of Eden .
Brunei's first national park, the Ulu Temburong National Park, is located south of the Temburong district, covering 550 square kilometres of the Temburong forest. The national park has a scientific research centre facility, the Kuala Belalong Rainforest Field Studies Centre, which is only accessible by boat.The Temburong District is rich in unspoiled natural heritage, including the Ulu Temburong National Park (formerly the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve).
The  resort  was perched on a steep bank and we had to gingerly step out of the rocking boat and climb wooden steps to  a hall with souvenuirs and a small restaurant there were also around 19 cottages to stay overnight but we were there only for the day .
there were no TV ,internet connection or mobile phone range there and one was cut off from all these modern day distractions to be in the lap of nature .
We then started our trek to the hill nearby .
the park was famous for its canopy which was a 50 foot steel bridge built on tall towers with steps this was on top of a hill which one had to climb first.
the canopy was built for scientists who needed to study the flora and fauna above the tall treeline on top of the hills ,today it has become a tourist attraction .
the climb was also hardy some over wooden steps then over rocks gnarled giant roots some mud and slush ,
I was gasping and sitting  on every rest stops  and finally after an hour of climb reached the canopy
looking at it from below and its steep curving ladder  I decided to call it a day and refused to join my family who were brave enough to plod on those vertical limits .
So I only have a second hand version of their joy in reaching the top its cool winds and wonderful sights of unremitting green hills the tree tops and the azure skies .
We then clobbered back down and on  the boat to a small waterfall ,we had to walk a bit this time  barefoot over sharp stones which was a torture
I stood for long in the cool shallow waters with tiny fish nibbling our soles
we  returned  to the resort for a lunch which I could gulp down well because of some handy  yoghurt conjured by the attentive chef on my request !
later after a dozy rest on easing chairs facing the flowing river we got back into the canoes and then got back to and later to Bangar and Bandar
It was a trip into the virgin Borneo forests ,a treat for our senses and a balm to our soles


Friday, May 03, 2013

Kill my name please

A rose by any other name is still a rose !

But still a name is a name .

In Advaita philosophy life itself and all of us are just illusions and our existence is described by that wonderful term MAYA which has no equal in the queens language and so our names and ourselves are actually quite worthless .

But for a mere mortal like me Advaithic thoughts dont come in the way of name attachment .

We are so much used to our names that we see ourselves as a projection to our names

All of us are happy when somebody calls us or remembers us by name

This has been one of the oldest tricks in the chicken soup for your soul business !

Remember names to keep winning in life .

With an inborn amnesia bordering on the early Alzheimers for me name remembering exercises have been one mostly of embarassaments and fiascos .

I always knew myself as Harimohan

( heard my parents wanted only Hari but added the appendage to please a friendly neighbourhood long nose who insisted on adding Mohan why should he do that ? ).

So I got a Mohan as a tail due to no fault of mine .

Hari with Mohan is not very common but Hariharans ,Harikumars and Harikrishnans grew wild like weeds specially down in the south .

There are lot of Punjabis who were Harmohans I knew

but then neither my appearance nor body language  would fit a burly sardar or a brawn muscled Panjabi Jat.iam just the short rotund pot bellied south indian not very dark but !

I would describe myself as a podgy spectacled wimp who could never ever burst into a Bangra on hearing balle .balle .

( I have 2 left legs  ).
neither was me a voluberant verbiose large hearted hug everyone tightly and laugh loudly sardar you see

I did search Harimohans in Google and surprisingly found that the first few searches were on me and my blog ( you can try it ).just donet forget that vital s

There was a Harimohan.p who was a writer

well I liked that .

After all all Harimohans dont end up dreaming of becoming  writers ,

some also do so !

I did contact this Harimohan and he was nice of enough to reply to me and keep in touch .

Now I am coming to the heart of the matter which is to dwelve upon the mutilations my name suffered when I was in UAE for 6 years and now just arrived in sultanate of Brunei  .

In UAE I worked in Tawam hospital run by the Johns hopkins group .

It has a resonable sprinkling of humanity from all corners of the earth as its staff

( they say around 80 countries ! ).

The day I joined here they called me into the office by the name Dr Narayanan as my passport shows me as Narayanan Harimohan ( Narayanan is my fathers name )

I ignored the call for some time before enlightment dawned on me and then sauntered in creating the impression of having an auditory disability or being intellectually backward

Slowly friends and colleagues started calling me Hari .

Formally I was Dr.Harimohan.

The Filipino nurses who were in abundance generally spoke in thier tingling high pitched tones converting names to thier Legalo language .

To them I was Harimona !

Monne in malayalam my mother tongue is an endearing adjective akin to darling so no issues there .i sort of liked it !

To the whites what could I be other than Haaaarry .

Some nurses made it a habit to call me Haarry potter !

my pot luck I should say

( in Malayalam potter is kosavan so it is Harry kosavan no potters from Kerala dont hail from Serbia Kosova !)

The Arabs( syrians ,jordanians ,Algerians ,Morrocans ,Somalis ,Ethiopians ,Sudanese Iranians ,Iraqis you name them we had  them )

liked to call me Hani or Harith which are familiar to them .

I often got phone calls directed to my Iraqi friend and plastic surgeon Harith Al Ani who is now in New zealand ( so no more calls )

In the ER ,Hani was another physician who often got confused with me !

The South African nurses would sometimes would call me honey !

( Honey I would kill you if you give me more work )well this is what i called as honey laced murder

The best part of it was in one formal letter I was even called Hair mohan .

Well that takes the cake for someone who doesnt have a lot of this crowning glory .

Narayanan and Hari both are lord Krishnas names .

How I fit the honour I dont know

I too have a roving eye like him but had never been so sucessful .

 people are called by the family and the fathers name .in the UAE

Bin means son of ( like Osama Bin Laden .....Osama son of Laden )

So I would be Hari Bin Narayanan if I take from my father .

If it is from my paternal grandfather I would be Hari Bin Moose no no not mouse he was Parameswaran Moose an Ayurvedic phsyician ( The Mooses are a Namboothiri clan who have a penchant for medicine as thier profession )

some of his genes wouldhave been swimming in my professional chromosomes !

If I take from my maternal grandfather I would have been Hari Bin Raja

That sounds a bit pompous ,but he was P.C.Manavedan Raja of Padinjara Kovilakam Mankavvu Calicut ( Iam showing off you see )
and now in Brunei it has started again
thankfully many call me plain Hari and some Mohan as this is a very familiar name here
the Harry potter still lingers though i should be the seniormost version of harrypotter ever created
Hari means day in Malay and Hari Raya means festive days and Hari Bagus means good day we often see shops in this side of the world called Hari Hari
Thankfully Iam nothing of all these

I am still your plain old Hari
so take care


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