Main story 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»

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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»

4. Taking in sights and signs

Pigeons traipsed in circles and trilled in distress over smoke-blackened rafters at the ongoing intrusion. We had stopped for lunch at Karumbalai, three kilometres out of Salem, ushered in from the main drag by a friendly blancmange in uniform drenched in summer sweat. It was the kind of place where your burp was acknowledged as appreciation. Everyone burped before leaving their tables – met by delighted nods of approval from those around. Soon it was me and my dad’s turn … More»

Booze-some buddy

Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now. Steven Wright (wit, writer, actor)
A mat was placed and the lady, tall, dark and easy on the eyes, motioned me to sit. I looked around the small courtyard, trellised out of view from the neighbouring huts and sat close to the opening – a clump of bristly branches held together with hemp working which required laborious joggling. The livestock in the corral peered at me through moist eyes, eerily calm … More»

Delish Deepika

The sloth bear had turned in for the night, that too stoned, so it was alright our Gypsy had stalled. I and the tracker returned to announce breathlessly that we saw it disappear between a set of boulders not very far away, a mound of fur trundle clumsily in the fast falling dusk. It’s rather long nuzzle nearly upon a thicket or trunk before it retreated and changed directions. My forest tracker, whose marijuana-induced misanthropy had limited our conversation till … More»


The ‘From the Middle East to the Mount Everest’ part is over half way into the book with the climactic final assault of the Everest taking up maybe a page. The perils posed naturally by Hillary Step, the last real challenge along the Southeast route, take up a chunk of the narrative. No falling ice or avalanche, shifting glaciers or nail-biting crevasse crossing. The only suspense here is the author hurrying despite frostbite wanting his summit to coincide with Jordan … More»


Looking for pusta # three-and-half

Most direction-giving is associated with landmarks. Hence the parlance here changes with topography. While the Metro introduced the ‘pillar’ as a driver marker over a decade ago, the ‘pusta’ remained confined to civic suburbia. But as cities become one nonstop conurbation with the south segueing into the southwest into the northwest into the north the pustas have come closer to urban living. But what indeed is the pusta? Heading for a shoot from Dwarka in southwest … More»

A Kangra face-lift

The metallic clanging from the lathe shop falling oddly in step with the strides on the makeshift catwalk next to it could have been an installation. Then, this is what happens when daily life takes an arty turn. Or when you are impressively exposed to unusual attempts at reinventing space through creations that are not aloof from the land or the people surrounding it. But it was just another day in Gunehr. Rather the day before the finale. The culmination … More»

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