Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Taare Zameen Par

Enough reviews have been written raving the virtousity of Darsheel and the subtle nuances of Tisca and Aamir. I loved the movie, no doubt...as testimony saw it twice in two days, both times in theatres spending a good 250 bucks on each ticket!My take, 6 reasons why I loved TZP.

1. I enjoyed the 'zara hatke' running-around-trees by dogs and children (which is natural looking) instead of an anorexic heroine and a constipated looking hero!

2. There were no items songs, no over-hyped villians, no, not even the Principal or the Parents!!

3. The classrooms have normal kids, not some superbrats or super-wise-beyond-their-years-grandmoms!

4. The movie really opens your eyes to difficulties like dyslexia and the varying emotions that both the child and parents have to deal with - especially the parents (from shock to denial to research to acceptance to working with it!)

5. Samir Mondal is certainly a wonderful painter... Loved the colors, the strokes, the vivid spectrums depicted. Geez, am becoming the artsy-f@rsty types, huh?

6. The music is YUMMY! I have refallen in love with Shankar Mahadevan, okay Ehsaan and Loy too, but def Shankar.

Umm, '7' is 'not allowed'. Picasso never understood the number! (cryptic reference.. watch movie for explanation)

Conclusion: I may have had dyslexia, but never got a chance to find out. I was made to slog even before I could figure out my 'b's and 'd's :)



ps: What did Santa bring? For my husband twas' a N95 Nokia and for us, a new set of wheels. More on that later.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Vacation called Goa!

Short as it was, and given the way our schedules look, probably the last vacation in a long long time, I really looked forward to Goa. Clapped my hands in glee, pretended the right amount of surprise and went along on the 4 day vacation happily. Given that we are vegetarians, I even took along homemade kakra, chevda and tonnes of 'munchings'!

We were booked into 'Club Mahindra - Varca Beach'. The resort was quite lovely, on the shore, with a lovely coastline that offers swimming and other activities like parasailing, speedboats, waterskiing, dolphin-watching etc. Also deck chairs and a coupla shacks that offer alcohol at unimaginable rates! Really low :) The resort is also quite kid-friendly was lots of activities for children from pottery to craft classes and cooking classes as well as round the clock inboard games (some paid, some free). Also, activities for the non-swimmers - evening tambola type activities (yawn!)

My surprise was at the number of signs in Russian... seems like Goa is the hot spot destination for the newly-rich Russia that wants to flaunt its wealth. We were at Benaulim beach in South Goa when a horde of Sarong-selling, Shell-selling, Beads-selling and other-unmentionables selling hawkers descended on the crowd. We are the only brownskinned lot there and it was funny how they studiously worked AROUND us. We were never pestered, not once!

A must do for tipplers is this place called Longinos (or spelt differently I think) in Madgaon. The costliest wines there were Rs.150/- a glass! The best of whiskies retailed for Rs.60/- a peg! Strairway to Heaven indeed! Food I was told, totally rocked with king prawns and pomfret. As for me, it was coconut water galore and dal-chaawal!

I realized that I hate to come back from holidays... in fact even the holidays themselves do not see me in the peak of enjoyment... my best phase is the anticipation of the holiday.. when I plan what to take, give the maid and cook a few days off, pack and double check my packing and finally lock the house to leave. Now that am back to work (lots of work), sigh! Goa seems like a far off dream... but like the Terminator says "I shall be back baby"!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Power of Television!

My friend's adorable li'l two and half year old was coaxed by us to recite a rhyme or anything his teachers had taught him at playschool...

He proudly recites...

"Blue Blue
God Bless You

Yellow Yellow
Dirty Fellow

White White
Orbit White"

and after a moment's pause... "Its working"

Ah! The power of television!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

December!

The month of December brings a whole load of memories...

I grew up in a little township in Tamilnadu and december used to be the closest to winter there! December ushered in the month of 'Margazhi' when it was inauspicious to shift houses, get married or start a business. Instead a whole new host of activities centered around the temple would commence. For starters, all children would be cajoled/coaxed/threatened to participate in an early morning (read a ghastly 4.00 a.m) 'nagar sankeerthanam' (hymns sung on the roads of the township) replete with ash-smeared bare bodied tambrahms. Our jobs would be to wake up at an unearthly hour, bathe (yeah!), wear jasmine flowers in our hair and traditional clothes (read 'paavadai') assemble at the temple at 3.45 a.m, stand in rows of three and follow the leaders (the pious uncles and aunties) trying to follow the nuances of the difficult-to-pronounce Tamil bhajans (called 'Tirupavai' and 'Tiruvampavai')! (Pic: My sis trying to show off MY paavadai!)

Once that phase was over, in teenage, decembers would be spent in feverishly copying notes, 'mugging' lessons and trying to understand the hard-to-comprehend maths chapters for the half-yearly exams.

In college, decembers were the post-exam days-to-enjoy. Our mid-year assessments would typically end by early december and until the christmas break, we used to have 'timepass' classes. Professors would come to class, ask us to maintain silence and start correcting our answer-papers! So obviously, it was a riot :) Added to that, it was the busy cul-fest season. So yours truly would try to balance a debate here with an extempore there to a bid to quiz elsewhere. Fun! (Pic: This one year at an amusement park near Chennai)

In b-school, december again meant trim II papers, assessments and the CHILL of bhubaneswar. Enter the world of actual winters (I thought!) But there were also the late night dance parties and the midnight maggi sessions to counter balance the feverish days and nights spent in trying to understand Adam Smith or Phillip Kotler!

Work always slackens during December, except if you are in sales, and November end has seen you achieve 94% of your annual target. Then decembers meant trying to motivate a team that was ready to take a break anyday! But in corporate office, it also meant annual assessments, fighting with your boss on what you think your performance measures are and finally christmas eve fuelled daaru-sessions!


The one year I was in the US, december was magical. "Real" winter, lots of christmas cheer, the Rockefeller tree, Disneyland, plum puddings and discounts in Macy's! And SNOW! I was the only duffer who 'wanted' to shovel my driveway. I offered to shovel my Israeli's neighbours driveway too.. but I guess they did not want that (could it be because I had told them that I thought Arafat was one of the world's greatest modern leaders?!) (Pic: X mas tree with a Hollywood theme at Universal Studios, LA)

Hopefully this year, I shall create some more memories...Psst! I found out (by snooping of course!) that my husband has planned a trip to Goa with his friends next week. Am excited. My first time there!! Go Go Goaah! Yeah, I shall pretend to be excited and act like I did not know it... OF COURSE!

Enjoy the month! Have a wonderful festive season :) Spread the cheer!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mummy Returns!

After taking a long sabbatical from the world of blogging, I finally shook myself out of the stupor I was in... To be fair, there have been multiple activities happening in my life... Where do I start?

With the good news of course... my dear husband moved to a different role.. he doesn't peddle soaps anymore, but sells woundcare products... but that came with a promotion, so we got company acco too! I jumped at the chance to move outta my house (my landlord was throwing us out anyways!) So we are now in a lovely place overlooking the Bandra-Worli sealink, near the most respected elephant god of Mumbai. No noise, the sound of birds chirping (I swear!), the sea for company and a cutesy house. But no, it was no paradise... for starters, there was ZERO woodwork... no cupboards, no cabinets (even in the kitchen), nothing! So had to put up with the smell of sawdust and varnish, not to mention the sound and constant tripping over boxes of belongings! Nevertheless, it seems to be a better place now.. livable... gimme a month, and I can safely post pictures!

As if this wasn't change enough, I finally managed to gather courage enough to stand up and decide that banks did not work for me (!!) and I wanted to be in the third sector - the development sector. So I quit. Got a great job with a worldwide non profit organization (called 'United Way'). However, it was a quantum leap, not only was I moving sectors, I was accepted as a 'consultant'.. no employer, no PF, no office, no chai machine, no copier/fax/scanner, no secretary.... life took an about turn! Its tough to manage everything from admin to strategy to execution on one's own... and I've been struggling to cope... and traveling like planes are no longer going to fly!

Add to it visits from my mom and my in-laws to 'just meet me'! So, well, now that am back, there should be tonnes of new posts. :)

Meanwhile, belated 'Happy Birthday to me', 'Happy Diwali' and 'Happy Thanksgiving'!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sound of Music

This is just a compendium of all the events, products and feelings that cross my mind now (as am typing, trying to eat yoghurt-covered raisins, 'begging' my partner to pack his clothes for our impending house shifting and trying to watch TV) So go on, soak in some garbled ramblings.. in no particular order!

Morya Re...

Mr.Pot-belly himself has decided to paint the town red. Bombay has decided to celebrate on the streets and how?! Every day is a 'visarjan' (procession of Ganpati to the nearest immersion point). Thanks to living on the main road AND on the sea, I am close to over-dosing on the 'dhol' drum beats every evening. But the optimist, party lover and dancer in me cannot help but enjoy the revelry (yes, you guessed right, I AM a libran!) Some of the drummers are just fantastic. My neigbors across the street smile amusedly at me when we pass each other on the road... I don't blame 'em... I have been dancing with pots, pans and ladles while I cook. My kitchen overlooks the road with a direct view from the building across the not-so-wide road. And as if that were not enough, I even tried doing salsa and American jazz (or what I think are versions of these!) to the 'Ganpati Bappa Morya' dhols! Hey, credit me with marks for creativity instead of cruelly smiling. Jeez!

Mr. Prophet

It wouldn't be right if I did not talk of the other festival that is also going on full swing in my neighbourhood - Ramzan. I live in Mahim, in Bombay (atleast for a few more days). For those who do not know Bombay, this area has a pretty strong Islamic population co-existing with a pretty strong Marathi-Brahmin and Sindhi population. So, while the Elephant God decides to reach his oceanic abode sometimes as late as midnight, replete with band-baaja, the punctual Mr.Mohammed ALWAYS calls out in his sing-song tone on dot at ten to five...in the morning. Sigh! But again, the entire area buzzes with excitement, especially at about 7 in the evening with lights and (supposedly) delicious food (am a vegetarian!)

Oh Captain, My Captain

And the Gods did smile on our young captain Mr.Dhoni this evening. By a cruel twist of fate, my cable TV chap decided to cut off my cable connection... but I always believed that India would lose everytime I watched the match, especially excitedly. See, my belief paid off... India DID win! But, alas, no stop to the firecrackers going on and on and on and on and on.... in our area. Seems like everybody is happy, but sleepy me!

Om Shanti Om

In all this hulabaloo, I caught the trailer of OSO on NDTV. Man, SRK looks like a clone of Shekhar Suman! No, don't get me wrong, but he looks all botoxed, with veins popping out and no flab on his abs. Well, if I want abs, there is Salman and Hrithik and old pics of Guvnor' Arnie! Why SRK? Even his chocolate smile looks artificial as does his (erstwhile) melting brown eyes... he IS a bit old I guess. Too old to romance Ms.Padukone?

My Can

The boy in the Pepsi 'My Can' ad agrees. For my beloved friends on the other side of the rainbow, 'My Can' is the slim can version of Pepsi. The ad has a young boy calling SRK and John Abraham 'Uncle'. SRK I agree, but John???? He can't act to save his life, or Bipasha's (but neither can she!) But he does look great with his dimpled smile and veggie food tastes!

Other Ads

Loved the ad for T20 cricket 'appun ka sapna' ad. Lovely concept, getting young kids to talk of their ambitions and tie it up to 'Chota ho to kya, cricket, cricket hai'! Also the i-pill ad. Both ads are pretty emotive, therefore full marks to the ad. Also to the winking 'Spark' ad. Always loved 'Matiz'... still do, even in its new avtaar. Oh, I mentioned it before, also the Lays ad in Ladakh.

Discovery

Found an old cassette of 'Iron Maiden' the other day. Thought I would learn to love hard rock. Thought wrong obviously. Gimme, 'Ganpati Bappa' and my 'azans' anyday.




ps: Anybody want a free (old) cassette? :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Friends, Nostalgia, Spirits and Bouncers!

This weekend was exceptional. Having flung myself into the rapids of the corporate world (and struggling not to fall asleep in the afternoon or throw something at my boss) I realize I have established a monotonous daily pattern of life (sigh)!

Decided after three weeks of working that I needed a break :)

What better than to go back to Bengaluru (yikes, sounds like a warped version of ladies finger's tamil translation) to meet my good friend and ex-roomie. She is now in the US of A doing her MBA again (she wanted to study Kotler again?!) So it was a crazy day and a half trip... we met, yapped until our voices gave up (both of us are hoarse now!) started paying obeisance to Baccus in the afternoon (her dad opened a bottle of an amazing rye vodka from Poland), went shopping to 'Forum' (it is three times more crowded now than it was two years ago) and cribbed till we ourselves couldn't take it anymore! In the evening we went to 'Opus' a wonderful lounge bar with tonnes of memories from our past. A friend of ours went overboard and we had the distinction of being thrown out! All in all, had a lovely time bonding and letting my hair loose completely!

I realized (all over again) -

a) Bangalore is way greener and 'classier' than Bombay (native Bombay junta, stop reading NOW!) The roads are much more crowded than before, but the city still exudes an old-world warmth and genteel culture that is captivating and charming at once.

b) One should be happy with life, because there are so many people who laugh and party despite being under enormous strain (emotion, financial etc.) So to use my famous words again, maid not coming to work is NOT a big issue!

c) 5000 business contacts are good. 500 acquaintances are fun to have. But at the end of the day, it is the close '5 friends' in one's life who bring a genuine smile onto one's face and warm the heart!

Enjoy :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Days 10 - 13: The Long Journey Back Home

Days 10 and 11: Moonstruck

We left in the wee hours of the morning (a pattern to repeat steadily in the next 4 days) for Likir. The route is the endlessly shown "Leh" in all Bollywood movies. Flat stretches of brown landscape on both sides with brown hills a few hundred metres away and a straight road just dividing the brownness with its harsh black. We crossed the famous 'Magnetic Hill' where the car is supposed to go uphill in neutral (which I understood as no horsepower) After many childhood myths (of the Boogeyman, the Wicked Witch, the tooth fairy and Fairy Godmother being broken!) its hard to believe in miracles. So yes, it was an optical illusion :) We crossed the famous "Indus-Zanskar" river confluence (which has made a significant appearance in the latest 'Bingo from ITC' ad with the bumbling fireman in it) We visited a lovely monastery at Likir. It had a great museum with a painting that had an ancient form of snakes & ladders on it! Many of the artifacts had been brought to India in risky conditions across the border. Ladakhi Buddhism also has traces of an earlier religion prevalent in that area (called 'Bon') the remnants of which are skulls of humans and mountain goats at entrances of several monasteries (interesting, ain't it?)

We stayed that night at a local Ladakhi lady's household. Oh! I can write a book on the stay there. First of all, the village is barely 300 human beings strong. The house was 'manned' by a lady, her husband was in Leh, working as a teacher. Ladakh is are really forward in some of their customs. Men and women can get married and choose to live in the man's house or the woman's! So you bring home a bride or a groom! 2 of her 3 sons chose to be "given away" in marriage, and 1 of her 3 daughters decided to "bring home" a groom! Marriages are occasions for feasts in the entire village (thrown by the person to whose house the new entrant is coming in!) It involves the bride wearing a heavy head ornament with a line of turquoise stones being added for each generation of brides. Of course I 'HAD' to try it! Attest to its weight for sure! Not only did the two of us lasses try it on, we even ventured to dance with the women there. A corrupted dance form drawing liberally from Ladakhi folk dance forms and Bollywood inspired kitsch!

A second talking point is the Ladakhi kitchen. The vessels are kept GLEAMING and are displayed for visitors to show the prestige and status of the family, rather the economic well-being. The kitchen is the 'gathering room' of the house. The radio has a place of honour in this room. Kids study here... etc. Anybody can literally barge into anyone's house and will assuredly be served butter tea, chang (if they desire, and they do usually!) and dinner. The concept of 'athithi devo bhava' is at a totally different level here ( Imagine, for a saturday evening plan we spend multiple tens of rupees on calling and confirming, and re-confirming the timings and dropping into someone's house without prior warning is actually bad manners! How much we've lost, thanks to technology....sigh!)

We were given two rooms for our stay. We had to use the Ladakhi loo. Have to describe it (!) Its a raised room with a small roof and a door and a hole in the centre. In the corner you'll find a heap of sawdust and sand mixture and a shovel. No running water. If you are smart you'll learn how to balance a toilet paper roll and a torch. And no, it doesn't smell! The compost that naturally forms below the loo is used to fertilize the fields (am guessing!) The crops that grow abundantly in this area are barley, mustard and other crops that I didn't recognize. The crops literally surround the few village houses. Water is usually through a mountain stream that gurgles its way through the village as well (and provides for pleasant company through the night!)

We left the next day with heavy hearts towards Lamayuru. We passed the 'moonland' in Ladakh. The beauty of Ladakh is that the terrain is really different with every third turn you make. The mountain-scape here apparently resembles the topography of the moon. I agreed wholeheartedly, except for counter questions on how I knew whether the moon does look like that! The brownness and silence of the moonland is eerie. Felt like a budding astronaut as well :) We stopped at a few more monasteries, notably Lamayuru, the oldest monastery in the Ladakh area. It had the loveliest wall paintings ever and a pleasant monk-guide. That night we stopped at a guesthouse at Mulbekh, our hearts heavy. We were on the Ladakh-Kashmir valley border and would leave this lovely district behind in a few hours.

Ladakh is home to a few peculiar customs(like all places I guess. Your comfort zone vs. someone else's?). In the mountains, people leave three stones one on the other to indicate that 'they had been there'. In olden days the piles were really useful both to inspire and indicate that human presence in that area was not new and was possibly nearby. The practice still continues.

As if to counter it, the border roads organization has these really 'funny' road signs all the way to Kargil. One really funny one was 'Darling, I like you, but not so fast'. Another one - 'Overtaker fit for Undertaker' and 'One more drink for the road or tea at home' (or similarly) But the one that most confounded us was the one in the pic. Pls be kind enough to tell me what you think it could mean!

Days 12 and 13: Jannat yehaan hai!

We left early to join the convoy to Srinagar. We crossed Kargil at an eerie 4.00 a.m. I can't tell you how my heart almost burst with the joy at how courageous our army was. The road is barely 100 metres from a series of hillocks that had been occupied by insurgents from Pak. A local tea-stall owner told us that they(P) had even built cement bunkers there, but our intelligence had failed to notice the activity until one patriotic (?) sheep ventured there. Its loving owner searched for it and found army bunkers with Pak flags flying, realized all his sheep were in danger, and rushed back to tell the local army battalion. The rest is well-recorded history. The entire road, the only link from Srinagar to Leh (and therefore to other sensitive army outposts) was the target and today is protected by a thick cement 10 metre high wall that runs along the road for a long distance. We reached Drass at about 5.00 a.m and stopped for chai. We had a really funny encounter there. The driver and guide took off for their morning routine I suppose and we were pretty sleepy. But the men decided to brave the cold and get us chai. We women decided to stay put in the taxi. The 'azaan' for the morning prayers were being called (and sounded lovely in the dead-quiet) After the prayers a bunch of men came shouting loudly in chorus 'Subah ho gayi hai, utho utho, Allah-ho-akbar'. They came right outside our taxi and peered inside (looking determined to wake up the sleeping male offenders) When they realized that the bundled up figures there were women, it was amusing to see their expressions change (they were genuinely sorry to have peered inside the window!) They quickly dispersed, and even stopped chanting their 'wake up calls'! Am guessing Drass residents that day had reason to thank us :)

The entire way upto Sonmarg and even upto and in Srinagar is highly patrolled. Military everywhere. You feel really safe and as a tea stall owner in Sonmarg told us "a few free teas to military personnel is a small price to pay for the future of my daughter!" Howzzat for perspective? Sonmarg hurt our eyes with its greenery and beauty. After the stark terrain of Ladakh, Sonmarg was a refined green Kashmir-of-your-dreams in contrast. I have to commend the J & K tourism board for the way they've developed Sonmarg. Nothing short of resorts in Europe (umm, at least Scotland!) Well marked paths, clean mountain side, dustbins everywhere, information centres, clean loos with running water(ah! we'd missed civilization!) I made a note to return sometime in life! Would give the Alps a run for their money any day (if you manage to ignore the military presence reminding you of the tension in that area)

We reached Srinagar. The other couple chose to leave that day, but for sentimental reasons we decided to stay put (we had come to Srinagar for our honeymoon a couple of years ago!) We slept the whole morning, washed our dusty hair in warm running shower water(bliss!) and ate non-aloo food (after 12 days!!) Visited the dal lake in the evening (just like that) Went on a lovely shikara ride, ate 'nadru yakhni' (a lovely vegetarian dish with lotus roots in it, i HIGHLY recommend it) and opened a bottle of wine to celebrate our holiday. Oh, the other lovely drink we had was 'Khawah' (also pronounced 'kahwah') A lovely Kashmiri chai, with dry fruits chopped into it. Left the next day with a heavy heart, headed back to the rainy mess called 'Mumbai', arrived late and tired to a musty unwelcoming home and now, after a month, our entire trip seems like a dream.



The biggest lesson learnt? People live in amazingly inhospitable terrain with nary a complaint and if my maid doesn't turn up for a day, I lose my temper and good humour completely. The military live in cold(really cold) inhuman conditions to protect us (without proper food, and backsides frozen off most times) and here I am, complaining about bad roads or an eyebrow shaped slightly wrong (like by 0.0001 mm) This holiday really put things in perspective. About how to keep one's sanity intact, and not freak out about small issues. And that there is more to life than bad bosses or a bad hair day or ill fitting clothes or a grumpy husband. Keep smiling, life is short, enjoy it!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Leh: Gompaaaah!

Days 7 & 8- Leh, Day 9 - Tso Kar

After the strenuous journey to Pangong and our health-related misadventures, we decided to take it easy the next couple of days. We decided to do some local sight-seeing and SHOP :)

To sight-see as much as our hearts desired, we set off early. We decided to catch the Buddhist monks chanting their morning prayers at Thiksey monastery. It was a wonderful experience hearing them chant together, but what is really cute is the duty roster for the little boy monks. The kids, at a mere glance from their headmaster, run to fetch pails of butter tea(a typical Ladakhi concoction that is made with oodles of butter and salt, and is no where close to tea! Its like soup actually) and is served during the chanting at regular intervals. Ladakhis drink butter tea with 'sampa', a barley powder. This concoction preserves heat in the body and is favored by natives of the area especially during the harsh winters. It requires some effort to get used to, but hey, you persevered with (yucky) beer, didn't ya?!

A typical monastery would have an assembly room, where the monks gather and chant, hold meetings, discourses etc. This room would also contain Buddhist scriptures arranged in 4 levels - the highest level is for the enlightened masters, the one below for experts of Buddhism, the third level for people with some knowledge of Buddhism and the lowest for people like me, whose knowledge on the subject is negligible. A small room behind the assembly hall is a 'Pure Room' that houses a version of the most important deity and is usually not accessible to the public. Another room houses 'Protector Deities', sometimes their eyes are blindfolded so as to protect the common man from getting intimidated by their fierce expressions.

And then of course a separate living quarters for the monks. What is amazing in Ladakh (and possibly Buddhism) is the way the monks are part of the society. Coming from the South of the country, where holy men are put on a pedestal and on some days of a month women not allowed to meet them and a million other rules imposed, I was stunned by the 'accessibility' of the monks here. Yes, they are respected, even revered, but they do not hesitate to eat and drink at a local hotel(for instance) or flag a car for a lift or pose for a photo (unsmilingly sometimes!) and participate in archery competitions(yes!)

We proceeded then to Hemis monastery, which is easily the most-photographed gompa in Ladakh. A lovely place with a huge statue of Guru Padmasambhava.

We then drove to a place where we could dip our feet in the river Indus. Oh! it was heady, the thought of dipping my feet in the waters of the river that gave its name to our country. And yes, brrrr! def chilly even in the hot sun. We drove through fields to reach a Ladakhi home for lunch that day. We were offered butter tea(which strangely I quite liked) Being in good health that day, we decided to give the local 'spirit' a 'shot'.. 'Chang', made from barley tastes like fermented buttermilk (yes, difficult to imagine, fairly difficult to like as well!) Imagine me turning down a second drink (that was a first for me!) Food consisted of a dish made of radish leaf in milk with saffron thrown in for good measure, rice and 'sku' (a sort of stew with balls of barley dough) I was the only one who loved the experiment (all the men attacked the next tea shop for plates of 'maggi', talk of 'adventure'.. bah!)

To cut a long story short, over that day and the next, we also visited a local ladakhi palace or two, a stupa built as a symbol of friendship by the Japanese and a couple of other monasteries, which were also colorful, spiritual and beautiful.

On the second evening, we returned to Leh early to commence our shopping expedition(raison d'etre et al!) . G1 and I left our respective partners behind and ganged up with my friend R. The three of us bought earrings and beads till we were tired of seeing any more turquoise, jade or yak bone accessories. We also bought a 'singing bowl' used in incantations, a lock, some printed 'thankas'(paintings), t-shirts... basically the entire flea market. (Locally ladakhis feel that they are more scrupulous than the Tibetans who've set up flea markets EVERYWHERE!) Anyways, with our purses literally empty and our hearts happy, we had a wonderful dinner at 'Summer Harvest' (the best restaurant in Leh), walked back sated, little knowing the horrible adventure that 'leh' ahead.

The next morn, we decided to go to Tsokar, a lake about 3 hours away from Leh, popular for the salt deposits on its shores and some Brahmini ducks(which G insisted that he wanted to shoot). You guessed right, the weather turned the 'worst ever' that we had seen. By the time we hit the second highest pass (which we had to cross), we'd given up on reaching Leh alive. For the first time, we saw the guide and driver grim (and obviously it didn't add to my spirits at all) The last stretch of the road was HORRIBLE. We reached a huge field with just one tent and a man beckoned us inside - our own St.Peter showing us heaven, and he offered us hot black tea (read 'manna') We were shivering crazily. Barely could hold the hot glass without our hands shaking. With the tea inside, G1 and I decided on a crazy adventure, we decided to go out in the freezing snow and rains, to pee. Remember what Forrest Gump says? "when you gotto go, well, you gotto go". With that philosophy we bravely bore 'frozen backsides' (ye women of the world, do empathize!)

Stayed in that tent next to a kerosene stove for all of 4 hours till the rains decided to well, 'go away for another day'. As we sat there getting warmer, we bonded with teh simple villagers selling hot tea in the tent. Even danced to some vague Ladakhi music, much to their amusement! G in his foolishness decided to shoot the ducks. The ducks? Ha ha ha! Anyways, we left the minute we could. But to date, I thank that chappie in the tent, with his two consorts who saved my life and soul for another adventure another day with his hot black tea!!

Once we returned we packed our stuff. We had to leave Leh the next morning on our long journey to Sringar, through Kargil. More on that soon. Watch this space!!



In tough times, simple acts of kindness seem overwhelming. Little Acts, Great Joy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pangong Tso : SO blue!

Days 5 & 6: Pangong Lake through Chang La

After our adventure to Nubra and back, we felt like homegrown Ladakhi lads and lasses and bravely decided to travel to Pangong lake the very next day. To get to Pangong, we traveled through Chang-la - the third highest motorable road (in the world, I think!). Ladakh is a region of extremes - if the weather is bad, it is horrendous, but if it is good, you wonder why you'd ever want to go back to Bombay. The colours are unimaginable - vivid greens, bright yellows, sparkling lapis lazuli blue, shades of burnt sienna - made brighter and more dazzling by the pure, crisp mountain air. The weather gods bestowed their heartiest blessings on us as we set off for Pangong.

After Khardung-la, Chang-la was a breeze. We stopped, took some pics and hurried towards Pangong. We took packed lunches with us - quaint lunches! Cardboard boxes with cucumber sandwiches, two biscuits packed in foil, a boiled egg (which of course I traded), a boiled potato (I got in return) and a kit-kat. Howzzat? We had lunch by a lovely bubbling brook an hour or so before Pangong (which is about 6 hours drive from Leh, at least). Military has a really strong presence en-route. It is heartening to see how the lives of the local villages there have been enhanced by military presence - regular supplies of essentials, primary health centres and a strong sense of security.

We were busy taking pictures of tall mountains and the bubbling brook that gave us company till we turned a corner - we were knocked out, I was speechless (an immense feat if you know me even slightly!) A lake with every imaginable shade of blue. Light blue,Sky Blue, Electric blue, Lapis Lazuli, Royal Blue, Indigo, Turquoise, Sapphire (any other variations?) What makes the entire picture even more striking is the range of mountains that create the border in the deepest shade of brown. The lake stretches a long way, parts of it are inaccessible except to local Ladakhis and the military. I was moved to tears by the pristine beauty. Felt I was in a calendar picture.

Pangong-Tso is a salty lake (Tso means lake in Ladakhi) About 80% of the water of the lake belongs to China and the remaining 20% to India (thank God we get to see atleast the 20%) From the banks of the lake one can see mountains and peaks in Tibet (which China now claims as part of its territory) We stayed in a JKTDC run resort (a fancy term to use for the basic acco) It has about 8 rooms and 6 tents and no running water in any loo(!!), also musty sheets and just 2 staff to run the show entirely. But every room has a huge window overlooking the lake and the staff (esp Mr.Raj Mukherjee) are REALLY courteous (the Hiltons of the world could learn some warmth and hospitality from him) We took a long walk alongside the shore. Its hard to describe how the beauty affected me, but for once I really forgot to carry the sorrows of my existence with me - I was filled with a deep happiness for the world and esp my partner. All that mattered was “us” and the blue lake. Felt invincible and strong, but insignificant and tearful at the same time (my Libran scales see-sawed wildly, you can see!)

The blue of the lake was scientifically explained to the distracted-me. Something about Raman's effect - thin air and the position of the sun causing the shades of blue. The three men in our group were excited about the physics and science behind it, and the two of us non-engg people (both women as well!) were mooning over such a lovely creation and ecology and the need to preserve it for the future generations. Differences, differences! Dinner there was a simple affair. The beauty of the night sky was another glorious sight. I wonder if you have really see the milky way, replete with cosmic dust? We actually saw it stretching into the distance. "Ten million saw I at a glance" (to misquote Mr.W's verse and reference) Every inch of the sky hosted a thousand stars. Our excitement levels crossed all previous limits.

We barely slept (mostly excitement, partly musty sheets) Were up and about in time to catch the sunrise. Then the other lady(G1) fell sick - violently. Food poisoning accentuated by lack of sleep. Another mis-adventure. We rushed to the nearby PHC. Got her some medicine and proceeded to Leh immediately. She got quickly better en-route; so we decided to gate crash at a village fair held in honour of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's b'day on the 6th of July. The entire area congregates at a grassy knoll on the banks of a stream (water from the Indus), pitches tents and sing, dance, make merry. They bring stoves to cook food as well. Men and women were dressed in traditional attire. Our guide added tongue-in-cheek that it was the best way to meet the most gorgeous women (for him!)

All in all we were feeling upto more Ladakh more than ever before. The next day was spent in traveling to local monasteries. We got a chance to take a peek into local life - but more on that on another day!


Spirituality is belief in recognizing and appreciating beauty, its creation and existence. We need to do our bit to preserve what has been handed over to us. Reduce using plastic.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nubra Valley: Camel Humping!

Days 3 and 4: Khardung-La - Onward to Hunder and Deskit


After two days of lazing around, we mustered enough courage and energy to drag our backsides to our ever-ready Qualis to conquer the highest motorable road in the world. Yeah, you read it right, in the WORLD at 18,385 feet (when you realize you are not more than 6 ft tall, imagine where we were headed!) It was a pleasant morning. Slightly cloudy. The guide gazed up at the sky worried, but before he could say anything, I sneezed. If you are the least bit superstitious, you should know it is unlucky. We bundled ourselves in woolens (all the woolens we possessed in our sunny days at Chennai and Bombay!) The Qualis set off. As it wound its way up several mountains inexorably towards Khardungla, one of my friends fell prey to Altitude Sickness. He quickly popped several pills, fell asleep and missed what was to come next. Bad weather? You guessed right. But did you guess SNOW? In July??? Yeah, it snowed so much that we could barely see half a foot ahead of us. The roads were bumpy and not fully laid out either. We prayed to all the Gods, Sub-Gods and even the Asuras. Suddenly in the swirling white mass, the guide announced that we were at the pass. ('La' means 'pass' in Ladakhi. Therefore Khardung-La, and later Chang-La and Tanglang-La) We stumbled outta of the jeep to be hit by a fierce wind whipping off our woolens and chilling our very bones, even our thoughts. We rushed into the vehicle again, only to be assaulted by a wave of breathlessness again. Sped towards our destination.

After an hour, the scenery changed completely. The hills moved from white to brown again, and in the next thirty minutes even to green. The sun rushed out quickly to welcome us to Nubra valley and we gladly stripped outta our top two layers. We stopped at Panamik, where some natural hot springs attract tourists. Had HOT black tea, ah! Ambrosia, after the cold ride. Proceeded to Hunder. To get to Hunder, we drove across a river bed(imagine!) Hunder is the last civilian stop before Siachen glacier. We felt totally patriotic coming this far, almost to the borders. :) I even sang all the national-integrations songs I knew(and that is a good number, I am a Kendriya Vidyalaya alumnus!)

The Hunder area is famous for its sand dunes and Bactrian camels. Sand dunes like the kind you would see on a sea-shore. Geographically, India as a subcontinent moved away from southern landmass called Gondwana to attach itself to Laurasia, squeezing a sea called Tethys in the process. The sea folded up to create Himalayas, and left behind sea-shells in Nubra (amazing, right?) Okay, my facts may be a bit skewed, but was stunned to see the sand dunes in Ladakh (the last time I had uninhibitedly played in similar sand dunes was two decades ago, in my home town Kalpakkam, which boasted of a virgin beach those days) We had the pleasure of riding two humped camels, peculiar to this area. These camels were once part of the great silk route, and originated at Turkistan (now Turkey). Nomads left behind the ailing and old camels, which mated and miraculously thrived in Nubra. Their great-great-great-grandchildren now provided me with the ride of my life!




We stayed overnight at a lovely camp, with a bubbling brook running thro' its boundaries. It was an organic resort with lovely flowers and green veggies. We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with some bikers from Bangalore who literally had to plunge their feet into boiling water to save their toes from frostbite(they had ridden thro' the snowstorm previously described) What was even more pleasant was the presence of a WorldSpace radio. Guiltily ignoring the one non-tam in the group, we tuned into KL Tamil radio and listened to Ilayaraja's hits. Black tea. Tall trees. Bubbling brook. Bliss.



The next morning, we proceeded to Deskit. A lovely monastery with a gory tale. Apparently an intruder's head and arm were chopped off and reposed in a statue of a protector deity. Gory! We saw a unique Tibetan lock for the first time. The lock has an ornate key and has a unique locking mechanism with a piece of metal sliding into close it. Difficult to explain. Figure it out yourselves from the pic!



This time on our way back, in excellent sunny weather, we stopped at the pass. To our relief saw tonnes of army personnel. Jai Jawan! Measured our oxygen levels (mine was low!) Took pics. Bought a souvenir cap. Drank tea. The men peed over the hillside (vicarious pleasures... men!!) Felt 'on top of the world' :) How do firangs keep themselves so fit? I felt like a winner when I managed to walk twenty steps from my jeep on top of the pass without stopping once, only to feel sorely like a BIG loser when I spotted two firangs riding up a bike (I mean a bicycle) They had come all the way from Leh. They stopped on top of the pass for a minute, drank water, gave high-fives to each other and rode back. Well, who wants to dope and ride a bicycle? (yeah, I am maligning them! Sore, oops, sour grapes!)



Drove past the Khardungla frog (a rock shaped like a frog) Returned to our hotel in Leh, happy, satisfied with our first trip, and in hindsight, feeling good about our snowy adventure.

Little did we know about our next adventure to Pangong lake!



In the difficult ride, I remembered all the apologies I hand't made, the loved ones I had lost touch with and cursed my cell phone for no coverage.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Leh-Berry!


Days 1 and 2: Leh bound.

We arrived at Leh, all excited and raring to go. Me, my better half(P), his best friend (G), best friend's gal (G1) and my dear friend R. Even the runway is different at Leh, short, leading into the mountains and heavily fortified on all directions by the military. The first glimpse is raw, shocking, breathtaking. Bare-as-your-backside brown mountains, some wearing white snow hats, brown ground, harsh, stretching into the horizon with nary a river and suddenly a green patch, houses, a runway and boom! you are at Leh.



We were met by our extremely helpful guide Stanzin and the impish, young-but-really safe driver, Punzo. Our luggage arrived and we headed towards our hotel Namgyal Palace, craning our necks outside the Qualis for our first fill of the city. Prayer wheels (called Manes, pronounced muh-nay) in any direction we turned, also low arrangement of stones shaped like a low wall (creatively called mane walls!).The 'manays' have religious significance. So, much like the Hindu 'pradakshinam' concept, the correct way to go around the manay is clockwise. 'Manays' dot even the centre of the roads (quite like temples in the middle of the road in South India), the driver always drove past on the left side! The Ladakhi people seemed friendly, with tiny crinkly wide-set eyes, a smiling mouth, petite build and cheerful and hardy countenance, going about their daily business - school, shops, office et al.

We reached our hotel - new, painted a pista green, on Fort Road, checked in, sat at the window taking in the clean air, the brilliant mountain view and telling each other that altitude sickness is a silly concept, written in books for paranoid people. A couple of hours of jumping around and wow! altitude sickness (alternately called mountain sickness) hit us, and badly. Headaches, nausea and breathlessness. As it is, none of us would fit into size 32 jeans, even remotely, so you can imagine the amount of oxygen our bodies would need... so cursing the heights, we all hit the sack.


And stayed there for the next 48 hours.

Ventured out on day 2 evening to the bazaar. Couldn't walk uphill (a bare 15 metres) without stopping thrice. When we made it finally, we felt as though Mt.Everest would be an easy conquest ( a feeling that visited us regularly over the next few days) Walked 'down' one street, decided we were not acclimatized enough.

Came back to the warm confines of our hotel rooms and slept again.
Breathing cool CLEAN air (after mad Mumbai), air that smelt of the snow, the freshness and curiously of Glad Mountain room freshener!
Dreaming of our next day's trip to Nubra Valley.


Travel opens ur mind to worlds that are different - you learn about the place, about yourselves and about your companions.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jul-Leh!

Am off to Leh and other places in the Ladakh area for our annual vacation. Can't stop jumping around in excitement... can already visualise the monastaries, the blue sky, the mountains around, Indus, Pangong lake, homestays, traditional Ladakhi food, Kargil and the bravery it symbolises, the beauty of Srinagar... Ah! am half there.

Shall be back in time for Mr.Potter. More on my travels later.

As they say, Julley!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!

There is no business like show business



We watched 'Oceans 13' last night. George Clooney is definitely uber-sophisticated. But I don't think Brad Pitt deserved the kind of rave reviews that some critics gave him. The movie is set in Las Vegas and as always, is a perfectly pulled off heist with nary a mis-step.

This morning I checked my mail to find one from my sister from the lovely city of Las Vegas (she is holidaying on the other side of the world for a few weeks with her husband)

Memories of the city flooded my mind. My first memories are to do with the glitz and glamour of the city which blinds you the moment it gets dark and the lights are switched on. The casinos wear their best finery and razzle and dazzle you with the sounds and sights. Its humbling to realize that the city was created out of desert sand. Especially when you stand outside a casino called Bellagio which has a huge man-made lake at its entrance. Yet another example of the Great American Marketing Gimmick! Oh, how they know to markets their smallest attractions. (ps: Vegas tag line - 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas')

Creativity, rather creative plaigarism is the order of the day at each casino. An Egyptian Sphinx rubs shoulders with the Eiffel Tower, next to a rainforest, past the Venetian gondolas, near an ancient Roman palace facing the MGM lions, behind shark infested aquariums that swim close to the Statue of Liberty. Gambling, drinking and the most beautiful women (and men) ever.... all available for what your wallet, conscience and wife permit you! Slot machines, baccarat, dominos etc. etc. - every conceivable way of blowing those greenbacks. You end up celebrity spotting with Paris Hilton buying 10,000 USD chips and Robert Di Niro walking to an exclusive private lounge. Margheritas on the street and adult shows in the foyer of your hotel. Everything is bright, colorful, enticing, exciting, luring you to lose your senses one by one.

We walked around the 'Strip' the entire night. Almost until 4 in the morning. Went back to our room happy and elated and somewhat curious as to why we couldn't replicate this marketing model in India (see what happens when you do two years in a B School!)

We woke up at 10 or so. Hung over with the sights and sounds of the city. Our hearts ached for more. We had a flight to catch at 4 that evening. So decided to do a few more hours of walking, till it was absolutely time to run to the airport. Dressed up, stomachs full, we rushed out... and then encountered the greatest of shocks. Vegas in day time is dirty(by American standards of course!) Visiting cards with phone numbers of 'paid escorts' litter the streets nestling beer bottles. The casino lights are obviously off and the buidlings look ordinary by daylight. Cleaners and repairmen work hard and efficiently to restore the casinos to its best-looking by evening. Vegas is ARTIFICIAL! With the make-up stripped off, Vegas seemed like an old, sagging hag.

Such is life, right? Behind apperances, there is always a reality that lurks somewhere. We believe in what appeals to us. Las Vegas is a dream, its a night-rider, a mind-bender and when morning comes, best left to its hungover, grumpy self by itself. What we think, is not, and what we think not, is.

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.
- Woody Allen

Alternate Maxisms

At office, especially today, I was stifled for humour and warmth of any sort. So I fell back upon my tried and tested Mr.Marx, Groucho Marx of course. His quotes are as tart as a lemon pie and as witty as your significant other at the peak of your 'being attracted' phase! Go on, smile away!

I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.

He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot.

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.

Ice Water? Get some Onions - that'll make your eyes water!

You know I could rent you out as a decoy for duck hunters?

You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I'll bet he was glad to get rid of it.

A man's only as old as the woman he feels.

I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.

I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.

If I held you any closer I would be on the other side of you.

Women should be obscene and not heard.

Why was I with her? She reminds me of you. In fact, she reminds me more of you than you do!

Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife.

As soon as I get through with you, you'll have a clear case for divorce and so will my wife.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted.

- Groucho Marx

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Of Rhymes and Resignation

I have been reading up on poetry forms. (Don't ask me why - blame it on lots of time in my last few days here!) And decided to try my hand... results are as good as a child's first attempt at baking. Overdone crust and Undone insides. But well, persistence and shamelessness are traits I was born with - and I give thee a chance to sample my trials.


Haiku
Is a form of Japanese poetry with a 5 - 7 – 5 syllable pattern (traditionally). Poems are succinct, convey precise information and create a word picture in your head. Japanese haikus also have strict rules on usage of certain words - each word should convey a season, like a cherry blossom connotes spring etc. Basho and Buson are regarded the Haiku geniuses. English Haikus are not so rigid. Poems are three lines in length. The creation of a mental image is the only "rule".


Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion
- Basho

More on Basho -
http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Island/5022/basho.html

Tanka
Is another ancient form of Japanese poetry, dating to almost 1200 years ago. All occasions in Japan used to be marked by writing of a 'tanka'. Young men and women used to be judged not by the artistry of the poem alone, but also by the paper used, the syllables chosen, the kind of ink and the choice of symbolic attachment it went with(a flower blossom, a branch etc) The syllabic pattern is 5-7-5-7-7. Tankas are becoming popular in English too, with 5 lines of poetry expressing a thought, a season etc.


all day
rain has come down
drop by drop
the pain of your absence
has penetrated me


-Keith McMahen

Some more American Tankas -
http://www.americantanka.com/samples.html

Now that I have given 'gyaan' (!) herez my take on these two... on the topic that is plaguing my mind - my boss refusing to give me a relieving date from here, and anyways, after he does, then what?


Resignation Letter
Request Release Date
Pleading, Cajoling, Threatening
Boss refuses to budge.
Resignation.


Courageously Quit Office
Long Live the Revolution
Freedom, no job?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fight Club

I've always felt that the way a group of people reacts to a fight gives an insight into the "city's" character. And the following are my observations:

Chennai: If a woman is involved in the fight, the crowd is larger than before. Typically crowds are bigger during weekends and holidays, and in non-peak hours! And usually the voice of the toughest-looking person or person with some Govt. authority (Policeman, Postman, Bus Conductor, Watchman) is taken as judgment. Abusive language, mostly in Tamil. And I am biased because it is my hometown.. So no more comments!

Bombay: No one cares. (Scares me, for what if I get involved in a brawl?) Recently a woman screamed at a man for slapping her derriere and what was the shocking result? He pulled out a gun and shot her 18-month-old son (who died from the bullet wound). And it happened not too far off from where I live. A couple of friends and I once had a spat with a taxi driver, there were a few interested onlookers, but not one came to take our side or his and no one cared. Even if any of us had been manhandled, I don't think we'd've had any supporters or 'willing' witnesses.

Delhi: Is probably the worst. (Opinions based on events dated by 3 years) I could scream in Gurgaon about some man trying to pull my handbag and feel parts of my body I'd not want him to even stare at, and no one would respond; even worse, there is no one to respond. Cars whizzing by, people ensconced in their own private security. Who is that girl? My wife, my sister or my mother? No one.

Kolkata: By now you'd've guessed that this city is my favorite! A fight, any fight, is a joy to behold. Especially if you are NOT heading for the hospital or the airport or client meeting. Traffic halts completely. Passengers, Students, Chai wallahs, Bus Drivers, Taxi Drivers, Motorists and any one else, young or old, male or female gather around the warring factions. Light their cigarettes. Buy khullad chais. Chew pan. Discuss it with points and counterpoints for an hour or so, until the fighting parties forget the original reason for the argument. Content with the ‘intellectually stimulating’ discussion, everyone leaves.

None of these compared to what I saw in a different city in a different country (Trenton, NJ & NYC, NY) Fights never last past the fifth minute and usually end with a few bullet wounds/deaths and/or knives and policemen. Why do we want to compare Mumbai to Manhattan, I wonder? Why this apathy towars others? Why this "I've gotto get to someplace and I don't care if I have to trample someone to do that" attitude? What are we running for? Why this mad rush?
Give me my abuses and traffic jams anyday. Give me my discussions and interested bystanders. At least I live to see another day, another fight!

"Louis: I have to say, this is my first trip to New York...not for me. The garbage, the noise, I don't know how you put up with it.
Carrie: Thanks. I had a great time.
Louis: Wait, you're going home alone? It's rough out there.
Carrie: Nah. It isn't so bad.
Carrie (voiceover): If Louis was right, and you only get one great love, then New York may just be mine...and I can't have nobody talkin' shit about my boyfriend. "
- from "Sex and the City"

Monday, June 11, 2007

Grumpy Mee.

Five reasons am feeling out-of-sorts and confused. Writing helps. So here I go....

a) Am just being invaded by the cold virus. Feel like Iraq, Afghanistan and PoK combined. My throat hurts and I feel feverish. I need a warm blanket, hot soup and tonnes of cuddles and sympathy. A cold/fever is a hotshot way to miss mom, ain't it?

b) I miss my partner. He is traveling on work. So am a work-widow until friday. So much for my I-don't-need-anyone stance before I got into this relationship. Wonder how quickly we adapt, right?

c) I have put in my papers at work. I know I don't enjoy the work here. I also know that this organization doesn't have any career path charted out for me. I have tried to rectify it and failed. I have taken a bold decision to resign because I am not happy. I don't have an alternative right away. I want to move to a different industry. I don't know if I'd get a chance to, immediately. I know I have some frustrating days ahead.... but I took this call, and it is my choice.

d) I have been waiting for the 'dreaded' monsoon to break out for 10 days now. Have been carrying a heavy umbrella, an extra salwar, wearing old clothes and asking my maid to hang clothes to dry inside the guest bathroom.. all in vain! Am convinced that Mr.Monsoon decided to go-go-gooaah and take a vacation there! Hate the unease. Hate waiting for unpleasant situations. Much rather go thro' it and get it over with.

e) A close (younger) friend of mine is not listening to what I deem 'sensible advice'. She naively wants to do something that am convinced would not lead to long-term financial independence. Simply put, I want her to write her GMAT and apply for an MBA, she is convinced that she should get her husband to do that, and that she'd continue to work to support him. What's wrong you may ask, the deal is that her husband is not sure if he wants to do his MBA! She is. Sigh! Such is life.

I hate being cranky and cantankerous, but am sure this too shalst pass.

Trivia for you.

Origin of the phrase "Saved by the Bell"

When our ancestors realized that they were burying a great deal of people before their time had actually come, they came up with a solution. They tied a string onto the "dead" person's hand, buried them, and tied the other end of the string to a bell and then tied it to nearby tree branch. If the person revived enough to ring the bell, their survivors would rush out and dig them up. Hence... "saved by the bell"

Morbid!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Surprise! Surprise?

"Surprise, ssuurrpprriiisseeee", we all screamed.

She was shocked. Pleasantly so. Thrilled. Turned red in her face trying to control the multitude of emotions that ran through her - joy, excitement, love, delight... and all of us smiled/laughed approvingly, feeling thrilled ourselves for having been part of a 'surprise' b'day party. The party rocked.

Happy B'day CP! May today bring you lots of joy, fun times, good wine and lovely moments the entire year.

Why do we love surprises? Because we didn't know of it, and it is new ground? Because it is an offering of love? Because we are being given the spotlight, the hot seat? Because we know we are going to enjoy it? WHY?

"The moment two bubbles

are united, they both vanish.

A lotus blooms."

- Murakami, Kijo

Ps: There is a place called Surprise in Arizona. (http://www.surpriseaz.com/)

Ps2: My darling Wiki has the following to say of “Surprise”

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cheeni Kum - Especially post-interval!

"You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"
- It’s a wonderful life

No, am not going to talk about the plot or the actors (I think enough justice has been done to them in various blogs and critique review) Herez a recount the top-of-mind thoughts about the movie 12 hours after I watched it.

- Tabu looked ravishing. If I weren’t married and if I had had alternate preferences, I’d’ve made her pic my bathroom beauty! (the only other time she looked so wonderful was in a tamil pic ‘Kaadhal Desam’)

- Loved the gumption of Tabu when she says she is going ahead with her marriage plans and couldn’t wait for her dad to die. (Aravindswamy in ‘Bombay’?) Or the nicknames they had for each other (‘En Arumai Pattikaade’, anyone?) Or the lighthearted repartees (a la Mani Ratnam – ‘Agni Nakshatram’, ‘Anjali’, ‘Roja’, ‘Bombay’?) Not that am complaining. Similar genre I think.
- Amitabh was cool. His ponytail and single-rich-man demeanor was brilliantly executed. (Straight out of an Italian Count/Greek shipping magnate/Mediterranean Prince M & B!) The only other man who could pull this off (debatably) is Kamal Hassan (yes, kill me non-tams!).

- Ilayaraja rocks (coming from an A R Rahman fan, it’s a lot!) I’d forgotten how his music was the most hummable(MS word refuses to accept this word) and romantic pieces ever. Pure melody. Velvet smooth. Reminds me of a waiting-to-be-loved, warm mellow feeling after a few drinks on a nice breezy evening. :)

- The cinematography was fantastic. Light. Airy. Real at the same time. Yet, a place I wanted to be in, not currently in my grasp. Brilliant! P C Shriram is brilliant.

- Zora Sehgal was a riot. Nutty nag. (here’s a secret, my grandmom-in-law is a WWF fan too!)

- Paresh Rawal should’ve been a Hyderabadi or a Tam Brahm. The characterization would’ve been perfect then (arguably). He seemed a little over-the-top, especially the drama at the end.

- The kid was wasted. Precocious. Too smart for her age. Too sad. Unnecessary melodrama. Her lines, atleast in the first half were great, then they began to jar.

- The second half seemed like a private joke.. a mockery of commercial cinema with laughable long speeches (a la the Angry ‘Young’ Man!), silly references (Iron pillar at Qutub anyone?) and suddenly dampening Tabu’s joie-de-vivre(notice her dumbness when Amitabh comes to put ‘sindoor’ on her maang..silly!)

Overall, a wonderful movie. After a long time (after tamil movie ‘Mozhi’) I laughed so much in the theatre and enjoyed the repartees to the hilt. Restored my faith in Indian cinema after a disastrous ‘Shootout at Lokhandwala’ last Friday! A must-watch.

"I love that you get cold when it's seventy-one degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're lookin' at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely. And it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
- When Harry Met Sally

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

How many times in our lives have we started a conversation with "I want..." Pretty often. And once we do achieve the "I want..", do we stop saying that? No, probably not.

I read a couple of articles this morning in the papers that set off this line of thought.

# 1: Mukesh Ambani's house
Mumbai Mirror reported that he is building a 27-storey house with features such as helipads, mini theatre, swimming pool, 6 floors of parking space (to house upto 168 cars), two floors of guest rooms, 4 floors of living space for the family and 600 service staff to maintain the mansion. I wonder if he’d be happy with this, or want more, once it takes shape in concrete and mortar?

In contrast, my maid told me this morning that she is thrilled to have found a first floor asbestos roofed 1 room house before monsoon and she aims to buy a one room shack in two years time!

Who would be happier once they move into their dream house? Would they want more after that?

# Cars and Car Owners
Bluetooth backseats, warm seats, I pod connectivity, moon roof, run-flat tyres.. the list goes on. As if it were not enough to own a BMW, these are some of the extra features that are regularly asked for by BMW clients.

In contrast, my colleague has begun traveling by rick once she moved into this company. She says she is much happier without having to fight for a foot of space on the train each morning. She is saving up to buy a second-hand car in 3 years time.

Will a BMW go faster in Mumbai traffic as compared to a 3 wheeler? Who would be happier traveling in their mode of transport on a rainy day? Would they want more?

When some material, spiritual or emotional change brings us comfort, it doesn’t last, we want more. Want more salary, want children now that we are married, want to go to all jyothirlingam sites….

When do we start saying ‘I want’ and when do we stop?
Who is happy with what they have... my maid? Mukesh Ambani? Me? You?

“It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. How did he know that? “
- Will Smith in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness'

Ref:
http://www.mumbaimirror.com/net/mmpaper.aspx?page=article§id=15&contentid=20070530022210718d7460de5

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Snootier_the_car_quirkier_the_requests/articleshow/2085109.cms

Monday, May 28, 2007

Best Friend's Wedding

My best friend is getting married today. And I am going through a wave of feelings. We were really close in childhood and took some brave life-changing calls together. We did different things later on in life, and even lost touch for a few months in the course of life. However, the bond has always remained, for both of us. We still take off from wherever we left our conversations the last time and all the gaps - time, distance and life, just melt away. And till date, I am myself with her, no airs and no put-on personality, just me in all my truthfulness!

I am thrilled for her of course, she is marrying a person she has known for 3 years and am sure he would treat her well (as a lady should be treated) and bring her laughter and security on a daily basis (and I am hoping lunch to her on a tray often too!)

Am apprehensive about any tiny misunderstandings that could happen during the ceremonies and I pray her wedding goes off flawlessly (just as all her accounting papers in school would always go!)

Am feeling guilty that I am sitting a thousand miles away, typing this blog, instead of being at her side wishing her well in person. My spirit and thoughts are with her (it took me all my energy to drag myself to office today!)

Am feeling happy that she is going to discover a world of togetherness, of being woken up in the goofiest way possible, of enjoying wonderful moments of intimacy, of feeling strong enough to tackle the world knowing that there is a one-man army to back her up, of having a shoulder to rest on and a person to share the world and the rest of her life with!

My dear friend A, wish R and you a super life ahead.

PS: I know I have to do a lot of prayaschittam, rest assured, I shall, and hopefully soon!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Men, Cricket and Kitchen

Am trying to understand men (I know the futility of it, but full marks for my tenacity!) Your views appreciated.

All men that I know (especially the ones who are married) cook at least a bit. But cooking is just creating the dish. It rarely involves the accompanying activities -
a) Cutting the vegetables (forget buying, washing/cleaning)
b) Getting the appropriate cooking vessels
c) Returning ingredients /spices to its appropriate place of residence!
d) Dumping used vessels in cleaning area
e) Transferring cooked preparation to serving bowl (actually, thankfully they don't!)
f) ZERO CLEANING!

But watching an F1 match or better still, a cricket match on TV gets men to do ALL of the following -
a) Adjusting the drapes to set room ambience
b) Buying beer
c) Putting beer in fridge (wow! you know where the fridge is!!)
d) Locating and using the bottle opener
e) Calling the grocer to buy snacks (Hmm!)
f) Locating the remote without assistance!!

Talk about conditional processing!

ps: Dear Men, will thee consider ordering food the next time?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sikhs and Cicadas

Two news items caught my interest this morning.

One pertained to the brouhaha over Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim who leads a spiritual organization called Sacha Sauda(henceforth referred to as SS), which runs campuses called 'deras'. The organization has over 2.5 crore followers, several hundred acres of land (also used for agricultural purposes), runs charity institutions like colleges, schools and hostels and propounds a way of life that includes a certain form of yoga to be practised for a healthy life. However, SS has had a chequered past, with sexual scandals, murders and land cases tainting its reputation. SS is also supposed to have political connections with Hindu parties (translates to non-Sikh parties)


But the current controversy has nothing to do with SS's way of life, court cases or murder; it is to do with a dress worn by the leader on some occasion. Huzoor Maharaj Sant Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh Ji (as he is referred to by his followers) wore a dress that resembled closely the dress of Guru Gobind Singh, the last guru of Sikhs, which really hurt the sentiments of Sikhs. This resulted in angry protests, a 'hukumnama' (edict given by the temporal body of Sikhs, the Akal Takht) that all deras (in various places) were to be forcefully evicted immediately. Some right wing radical factions of Sikhs even broached the idea of sending suicide squads to various Sacha Sauda deras.

So SS retaliated by deciding to hold blood camps on the same day (today) in its campuses.

Move.
Counter-move.
Counter-counter-move.
Counter again.
Check.
Mate.
Stalemate.

My opinion is this - at the end of the day its a garment. Did Mahatma Gandhi not ape Christ's last loin cloth? SS as a sect is non-violent. It doesn't advocate any negative philosophy either. Nor is it prejudiced against a race, caste, community, religion, country or social practice. If the leader preaches a philosophy similar to Guru Gobind's, so be it. Plagiarism is the best form of Flattery! By extension, SS followers are a quasi-Sikh community. Why not allow them their path to the Big One? Everybody has their way to God, hope, the Supreme, a super being, faith, fate, the Big Man with a Pipe, destiny, or whatever you wish to call the Un-named force. Restrictions are unnecessary and cause sectarianism.

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or out"
- Robert Frost, 'Mending Wall'


The other article I read was certainly lighter (though personally scarier). Not hundreds, not thousands, not even millions, but BILLIONS of cicadas are expected to make their way into Middle Earth from underground this June across northern Illinois, parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. The monsters are red-eyed (yup, grandma always maintained horror creatures were red-eyed) and the size that scares me most... shrimp-sized. Fortunately, they do not sting or bite. But billions?

Their mating calls (chirping? More like mini wood saws!) are expected to drown most other sounds, including television and telephones. Dogs, cats and other insect-lovers can have a feast though, these cicadas are supposed to be high in protein. (yikes!) I believe they surface once every 17 years or so. They live underground (about a metre or so below surface), go through six life stages and in the sixth stage burrow a tunnel to the top soil. They wait for good climate (17 deg C) and then emerge like superstars. They then quickly molt and start mating. They are called 'nymphs' at the 'emerge-from-the-ground' stage. Then they turn 'maniacs'. (Yeah, used in conjunction with the 'nymphs'!)

They mate like crazy. In fact that is ALL they do for the next 30 days, the last 30 glorious days of their life, one super orgy(yeah, baby!). The males then drop dead from exertion. The females lay the eggs and die too. The babies once born just burrow into the earth for the next 16 years of hibernation, awaiting their prom-orgy!

Lots to learn from the cicadas... just love and make love. Why fight over clothes and the lot? Life is short. Chill, chill, just chill!

ps: All views are solely mine. And are not intended to make fun of or hurt the sentiments of anyone.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May mein...

Things am looking forward to in rest of May

  • My ma-in-law's famous kozhakattais (modaks, sweet momos, steamed sweet south indian delicacy)


  • Thalaivar's 'Sivaji'.


  • Going home to be with my dad on his b'day.


  • My Insti's alumni meet in Bombay. (hope to meet batchmates after passing out ages ago!)


  • Buying some kurtas at FabIndia.


  • And some good times...for good times = Santori times! (I love 'Lost in Translation')