Huddlespace – the oasis of modern age

Many years back one morning, in the far north of China, I hitchhiked from Yinchuan, in Ningxia province to the border of Inner Mongolia. Nothing but wilderness and crumbling ruins of a wall (part of the series of walls that make the great wall). There were no tourists here, hardly any traffic, and the landscape was all mine to wander about.  I thought about all the people who had traveled though here to the west along the silk route. Places like these where the travelers may have camped – someone makes a fire and that becomes the resting places of several caravan headed in different directions  – Persian, Koreans, Chinese and a dozen other nationalities that no longer exist.

Wish I could go back in time to find out what stories they exchanged. These days the nearest I can get to the silk route camp experience is the huddlespaces I find in airports – around power plugs and wi-fi points.This is one place, strangers become friends, share chargers, only momentarily, but still friends. 

Growing up in 1960s China

I always bore my friends or their parents in China into telling me about life in the 1950s, the 60s and the 70s. I love looking at old brownish photographs from those days.


I am reading “The Attic” by Guanlong Cao. He talks about his growing up in China, 20 years after the revolution. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in studying modern history of China. You read about distant and near events unfolding from the point of view of the family. Interesting are author’s description of Shanghai street markets of his childhood days.

The Sikhs had been brought to Shanghai by the British during the colonial times, primarily to serve as gate watchman. After the revolution their quiet personalities carried over into their new, meager business. Off in a corner of the market a tall gloomy Indian crouched beside the hind leg of his horse. A huge white turban rode above a pair of deeply socketed eyes. Patiently he waited for a rare customer to come over for a cup of freshly squeezed mare’s milk. As a ritual some mothers like to feed their newborns a few spoonfuls of horse’s milk. They believed that the galloping speed of the horse would boost the quickness of their babies’ mind.

And the food!

Sticky-rice balls, fried rice cakes, scallion pancakes, steamed bread, meat-filled buns, boiled sesame dumplings, seep-fried pork steaks, skewers of barbecue lamb, fragrant steam and greasy smoke rose and lingered above the Penglai market from dawn until midnight.

Now, we are hungry, more details about the book at Amazon.com: Books: The Attic: Memoir of a Chinese Landlord’s Son

Judge Dee

One movie I like a lot is “The name of the Rose”. It is a detective story set in a Benedictine abbey in early 1300s. Sean Connery plays a monk investigating a series of murders in the abbey. I have been searching for similar historical detective fiction. The other day in the library I found a book called “The Chinese Gold Murders” by a Dutch author Robert Van Gulik.

The hero in the book is a smart and righteous magistrate called Judge Dee, who solves couple of murder cases and uncovers a smuggling racket. The stories are set in the Tang dynasty (676 AD). Judge Dee was a real person by the name of Di Renjie. He lived from 630 to 700 AD. He rose from the rank of the magistrate to eventually become the prime minister. Chinese writers in the later periods started using his character in detective stories. Most of these later stories were fictional.

Van Gulik was a scholar of Asian history and a Diplomat. He revived the character of Judge Dee. Initially he translated some of the existing stories. Later he went on to create his own stories based on the Judge Dee character. The stories are very detailed with colourful portrayal of the cities and the society. Van Gulik also illustrated the books and each of the books. In his drawings, Van Gulik used later day Ming period costumes as the Chinese writers generally do. Each book story features at least one nude.

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Lovely toys

I was in the sleepy little town of Huanglongxi in Sichuan province of China. One of the street vendors had set out this game. I tried but could not get even a single ring around the lovely toys, while the local kids laughed at my “foolish” throws. I plan to practice at home and return soon.

ah the lovely toys I will get you soon

A poem For Ling Ling

Tina was talking about a little niece of hers. Ling Ling is three years old. It seems she is very naughty and keeps fighting with every one. If you scold her she will try to beat you. I like Ling Ling already. Here is a poem for her.

Some one bring bring,
To me Ling Ling,
heard she is feisty,
I like kids nasty

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Ling Ling on one of the rare occasions when she is not beating any one

The Lantern Show In Zigong

Zigong is famous for its lantern show. The people here are expert at making all kind of figures - human, animals, scenic spots, scenes from historical books etc. with their lanterns. There is a park near the city center where they exhibit these lanterns.

Tang Ladies
Tang dynasty scene

Mr Bush
Even Mr. Bush was here.

Evil Sars
Here is the evil SARS virus. You can see the doctors in the background

Wu Song killing the Tiger

Wu Song the tiger slayer. He appears in two famous classics - The outlaw of the Marshes and The Golden Lotus. He is a valiant fighter who kills a Tiger with his bare hands. Later he kills his sister in law (the golden lotus) and her lover as he discovers that they poisoned his brother. He runs away from justice and becomes an outlaw.

The food In Chengdu

I had come to Chengdu via Bangkok for a reason. While at Bangkok, I had generously indulged in the green curry and the red curry. People had warned me about the fiery Sichuan Huoguo (hotpot). Fully confident I dipped into the huoguo. It was redder than the red curry in Thailand, and fiery it was. Here you see my equally spicy Sichuan friend Luomin at ease with the HuoGuo.

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There is a new Indian restaurant in Chengdu called Tandoor. We visited this place one evening, The brochure advertised dance performance and showed a picture of two girls performing a traditional dance. Scam!! we got a northern girl imitating bollywood steps. Five more minutes and the little renmin Luomin would have also done it. The restaurant was nice though and they had the Kingfisher beer.


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