Travel Writing

I was born in San Diego, California to parents from South India and was infected with the travel bug at the age of of two months, when my mom took me halfway across the world to meet our family. 30 years and 44 countries later, I am now sure that there is no cure.

Thus, I took my international upbringing to the maximum, living and working in the United States, France, Spain, Nepal, and Indonesia. I believe that travel is a way to bring good to the world, by connecting people, issues, and building a global community. Travel is a lens to see the world – too often, we only see what we want to see. I hope to break barriers and show the world as it is, by connecting it to history, society, and our own selves.

If you are interested in picking up any of the pieces for your publication in original or a modified form, you can contact me here.

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Blog Posts

Asian Street Food is Fast Food

Ubiquitous, cheap, filling, and, most importantly, delicious. Street food and Indonesia are often seen as one and the same. They are outside the shopping malls of Jakarta, providing a cheap alternative to western-priced fare inside for mall staff, tucked into alleys in Denpasar, in specially designated areas in Solo, always within a few minutes walk in any city, amazing for a country where nearly everything requires you to drive. Street food is to Indonesia as boulangeries are to France. Unlike French bakeries, though, street food is relatively new to Indonesia’s culinary scene, and has been transformed into a national obsession. Its emergence coincides with rising diabetes, blood pressure and other health issues quickly turning into a crisis. Most tellingly, according to the World Health Organization, the adult obesity is now at 21%, one of the highest rates in Asia. The chief culprit? Unhealthy diets of greasy street food and sugary drinks. To understand the effects of street food in Indonesia, we need to go back to the 1960′s in my own country, the United States, when a transformation altered the way people ate food and, created a health crisis that has, today, reached epic proportions. Read entire article This is an exert from a piece I wrote on Asian Street Food culture in Indonesia, published in Jakarta Expat, a print... read more

The Rise and Fall of Couchsurfing

Last year, after finals, I decided to take a break and attend the weekly Couchsurfing meetup in New York City. Though I was an active traveler before, Couchsurfing in Europe and Asia and hosting and organizing events in San Francisco, here, in New York, school and roommates kept me less involved than before. Before the event, I joined some surfers for dinner. Immediately, I noticed this was unlike any other Couchsurfing meetup I’d ever been to. One girl had never used the site as a guest or host, only to meet people to go drinking with. The guys had barely traveled, weren’t interested in talking with me, and didn’t actively host in New York. None of them seemed like real Couchsurfers. At the meetup, it got even more strange. Upstairs, in the dark, loud, and unfriendly room, was a group of nearly two dozen guys, all American, and a single girl, surrounded by guys. No one came up to welcome us, and the atmosphere felt stifling. “Man, where are all the girls?” said one of my dinner mates. I left only 20 minutes later. That didn’t feel like the Couchsurfing spirit, not at all. Little did I realize that site which had changed my life, had itself changed for the worse. Couchsurfing has gone from a modest start as an attempt by a traveler to find a free place to stay in Iceland, to become the largest travel social network online. It now boasts five million members, and the growth shows no signs of stopping. For six years, I’ve been a member of Couchsurfing. I’ve met several of my... read more

There’s Something about Malaysia

It’s now been more than five years since I returned from my first great voyage, my around the world trip. It often feels like it was much further than that, mostly because of how much my perspective on traveling has changed. During that trip, I visited 28 countries. Of those 28, I spent more than a month in six. Of those six, none was an unexpected as Malaysia. I knew, beforehand, that I’d spend time in Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Thailand. Nepal beat out Sri Lanka due to instability in the latter. But Malaysia was unexpected, in many ways. And five years later, it continues to surprise me. I’m nearing the finishing of my book about that trip. Writing was just as much of a journey, if not a greater one, than the actual trip itself. It forced me to repeatedly reflect on the meaning of travel, to reminisce on the good and bads of traveling, the wonderful moments such as teaching in Nepal, along with the moments of intense ackwardness and shyness I felt, such as the rut I was in when I entered Malaysia. Five years later, many of the friendships I made on the road have faded. People move on, change, and distance created unsurmountable boundaries. Today, I probably only keep in touch with a handful of people. Of those, four are related to Malaysia. Two whom I met there, two who was born there but I met elsewhere. Only now, after writing my book, and with the wisdom of retrospective distance, do I see things clearly. Malaysia was near the end of my trip, when I... read more

Cape Town’s Old World Fusion

Up, on the slopes of Signal Hill, in a picturesque neighborhood of colorful, old Cape Town homes, was an amazing neighborhood, Bo Kaap, the Malay quarter, home to the mostly Islamic descendants of slaves from modern-day Indonesia and Malaysia, who’s arrived here nearly 300 years ago. Indonesia was my home last summer, so up the hill I went, to see if anything here resembled what I’d seen then. Few here had even been to Southeast Asia, having been disconnected for generations. In some ways, I was a bridge, connecting two worlds. After visiting the small, informative but sparse Bo-Kaap museum, I followed the recommendation of the attendant to a Malay restaurant at the top of the hill. I opened the menu, wondering if anything would resemble the dishes I’d loved in Southeast Asia. Instead, I was surprised to see numerous Indian-esque dishes, along with other with Afrikaans names. But it made sense. Indian slaves came alongside the ones from Southeast Asia, and Afrikaans was the dominant language of “colored” peoples, under which “Malays,” as they were referred to, fell. I choose one of the Afrikaans dishes. The attendant looked remarkably similar to the lighter skinned Malays I’d met while in Kota Bharu six years ago, with soft skin, and large, friendly eyes. “Good choice, that is my most popular dish,” she said. Minutes later, I was treated to a feast – a salad with three different types of pickle and dressing, and the main dish. “It looks wonderful,” I said, “is this a typical Malay dish?” “Yes,” she said, then, reading my mind, continued, “In Indonesia, this dish is made with... read more

French Myths Exposed (and confirmed)

From Marseille, France Agrandir le plan I promised this post – exposing some of the French stereotypes that pervade our (read: American) thinking about Europe. There’s a motto about traveling, especially when you go to a place with expectation, that you end up seeing what it is that you want to see. We go to places like France with certain expectations – perhaps, it’s bakeries on every corner, perhaps it’s something as simple as wine with every meal. Sometimes, it more, leading to disappointment. But more often, we just see what we want to see I’ve seen that France before, but this trip, I’ve done and seen things differently. Strangely, compared to my previous trips, this France I’ve seen while spending all my time with French people. So, French Stereotypes exposed. Disagree? Post in the comments! #1 – French people drink wine with every meal. STEREOTYPE – If that is so, how come I haven’t had wine once yet, even though I’ve had at least one meal with French people every single day that I’ve been in France? #2 – French (and Europeans) don’t get drunk like Americans – because they began drinking at a younger age, they know how to better handle alcohol than Americans who can’t legally drink till they are 21. STEREOTYPE – Certainly not the case at the big university party I went to in Cergy, France. Lots of obnoxious binge drinkers, lots of people way too drunk, causing fights, etc. I even heard my friend, who had previously lived in America, tell her friends that AMERICANS can hold their alcohol much better than French people. Myth busted (don’t sue me Discovery... read more

Five Favorite Places in San Francisco

I’ve been living in San Francisco for over a year now, and in that year, I’ve made it a point to try to explore what San Francisco has to offer. I finally feel, after months and months of effort, that I know San Francisco, and that I know where to go, what to do. Obvious exception – I know nothing about high-class San Francisco life. But there are some places in this city that I absolutely love – and here, I’m going to share with you my top five “favorite places” in San Francisco. What makes something a “favorite place.” Basically, it has to bring me joy. A place where I can show up and not only feel welcome, but also feel as ease, relaxed, in some ways, at home. So without further ado, here are, in no particular order, my five favorite places in San Francisco. #1 – Abandoned Planet Bookstore, Valencia Street @ 16th, The Mission Valencia Street is full of bookstores – you can barely walk a block without running into numerous sidewalk carts hawking $1 and $2 books. I often wonder how they all stay in business. I wonder that about this store too, Abandoned Planet, a favorite mostly because my good friend Yusuke works there. It’s a gem,still, full of fascinating, classic books, strange antique merchandise, beautiful soft tunes, and it’s rarely crowded. If I’m having a bad day, my mood can brighten almost immediately upon entering Abandoned Planet. Serene, peaceful, and welcoming, it will always remain in my heart when I think of San Francisco. # 2- Crossroads Cafe, Delancey Street and The... read more
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