I write two newsletters, which come out on an extremely irregular frequency ranging from daily to monthly (though I try to keep them to a weekly schedule).

The first and oldest of them is the Old Jakartan Newsletter, which was started sometime in 1995, in a desperate attempt to keep the memories of our Jakartan travels. Indonesia was a wild experience (and I do mean wild ), but after a few months out of that hectic environment, I began to notice that I was forgetting some of the crazy experiences that had occurred there.

The original newsletter evolved as I attempted to keep the old group appraised of each others' activities, but swiftly bourgeoned into a bunch of wild (but true, honest!) tales of our time in that country. Its scope's expanded now to cover just about every country and place I want to write about (hey, I write it, I get to do darn near anything I please ! I control the horizontal ... )

The second one is the Vadakke Kurupath family newsletter. A swift explanation of this, for those of you who might have unsuspectingly walked in here without a clue of what's going on.

Kerala, my home state, is matrilineal i.e. the children take the mother's name, which is applied as a prefix to their own. The father's lineage isn't normally mentioned. My formal name, Kerala style, would be Madassheri Balakrishnan, since my mother belongs to the Madassheri family.

However, most of this planet doesn't seem to understand anything other than a patrilineal lineage, alas, as my uncles swiftly found out when they approached the Passport office: the officials couldn't understand how they were related to their fathers when they didn't have anything in common with their father's names (I know, I know ... bureaucratic imbecility ...). But still, in an effort to ease the way, the generation before mine took on both names ... their matrilineal prefix, as well as a patrilineal suffix.

Which converts my name to Madassheri Balakrishnan Menon, since Menon is my father's surname. Which, of course, is why I'm just known as Bala Menon Few besides my family members are capable of remembering (or pronouncing ) that particular mouthful.

Though I did run into one amusing case to the contrary ...

So strictly speaking, the Vadakke Kurupath family would be the line of descent of my paternal grandmother (my father's side of the family; he takes the Vadakke Kurupath name from his mother). However, the newsletter's just a means of keeping a widely scattered family linked together, howsoever small a method it might be, so it's been extended to several non-Vadakke Kurupath members as well. (And yes, we're terribly scattered across the planet Heck, I met a distant uncle of mine in Indonesia, and I had never been aware of his existence before !)

The more, the merrier ! It makes for an interesting life.

So ... ready to head back home now ?