Monday, January 27, 2020


Indian passport is not felt welcome in most countries in the world. I practically need a visa almost everywhere I travel. While some countries are sweet (like they allow me to get a visa on arrival), most expect me to give hundreds of documents to prove my intentions of visiting them, and also that I will make my way "out" of their country. I need to prove I have sufficient funds, I need to book my flights, my hotel tickets, medical insurance, travel insurance and above all provide itinerary of what I am going to do there, even on the weekends in between. And then to top it all some countries also require my last 10 years travel history!

This is annoying at least and downright humiliating at worst. I remember one particular nasty visa interview in which I told the officer that I ain't interested in visiting your country, if not for my business trip. She didn't like my answer, and I got a visa that was valid for exactly the dates of my meetings.

Anyway, this blog-post isn't about that. It's about the citizens of these privileged countries that come to south-east Asia unchecked (as a virtue of their passports). They have no money, no return tickets and then they go around most of Asia by begging. You can go Google "begpackers" and look for yourself the photos that vividly explain what I am saying. A lose definition of begpackers (beggars + backpackers) would be  - people from first world countries travelling to poorer countries in Asia and asking for money to continue their journey. The reason they can enter the country in the first place is because of their privileged passport.

My office in Singapore is in a touristy area, and I also occasionally pass such privileged travelers on my lunch break. I guess Singapore is much more stricter than it's south-east Asian neighbors so you see it more often in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and of-course Bali. Most (if not all) of these "beg packers" I can only guess based on their skin color come from the privileged western countries.

Anyway, I completely understand why the visa system is currently the way it is. And I don't think there is any easy solution for what I feel is fundamentally unfair (classifying people just on the basis of their place of origin). However, till this can be sorted out by a better system, I guess, my fellow Indians and people with not so privileged passports will continue to suffer and get annoyed by the privileged begpackers.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The New Year Celebration Irony

So every year we all make resolutions and decide to do a better job of our life in the next year as compared to the previous year. Then many of us go party late into the night on the 31st of December and get drunk, wasted and start our new year with a terrible hangover and a late start.

So  much for having a "good start" to the new year. New Year Celebration is probably the worst celebration that the entire world has. It has no reasonable meaning whatsoever (why celebrate the earth going around the sun?) and even if we celebrate, the alcohol induced late night on the first day of the next cycle of 365/6 days is morbidly insane.

Anyway, statistically most new year resolutions are broken in the first 3 weeks of January. So as you read this blog, most of us have already given up on whatever resolutions we had. Some of us celebrate the lunar new year, so yeah, theoretically we have another chance of setting up a resolution for 3 more weeks before we break that one. And if you happen to be an Indian (from Maharashtra) then you get another chance in April (Gudi Padwa).

Anyway, as I get older, I have discovered (like many of you already know), a resolution is better off if you decide to follow something as a habit. "Habit forming" is more effective than yearly resolutions. Whether it is learning a language, learning a new musical instrument, exercising, keeping your house clean or just plain dieting to maintain your health, it's the consistency that matters more than anything else. Resolutions are essentially habits to be formed for the rest of your life. And to set those habits, you can start anytime, not just the beginning of a year.