Monday, December 10, 2007

Eye Sa Lah!

No. An ordinary sty wouldn't have done. Some vague rash-too pedestrian. My eye needed something grander. So it opted for a chalazion- which by the way, looks exactly like a sty but since it is grander & sounds more sophisticated- fancies itself a much much longer & indefinite stay on the eyelid.
I'm compelled to write about this "thing" on my left eye which developed sometime in May, starting out as a small swelling but by sheer determination (by the glands on my eyelid) and by utter neglect (my own), has grown to be quite a nuisance. To be fair, its a painless bump on the left eyelid which causes only a very minor incovenience-no eye make up; but has become a "grr point", thanks to the predictable barrage of questions & reactions it invites.
At first, people shy a second glance and then when they've acquired enough courage or have astutely established the presence of a swelling on my eye that deserves to be questioned, pop the exclamation-first in a series of many....
" Oh there's something on your eye!"
Those who pride themselves on their acute sense of observation come up with a diagnosis:
"oh something's bitten you on your eye"
(this is accompanied by them pointing to their own eye to show me the exact location of the "thing"). The assumption being that I lack either a mirror or any sensation in my eye or both. At these times, I'm tempted to give them sheets of paper and crayons so they can draw me a delightful, colorful diagram.
When I deny the existence of an insect bite and tell them its a chalazion-they are partly outraged at their superior judgement being questioned and partly confused at what the hell a chalazion is. So they proceed to:
"Oh, its a sty!"
"Why dont you go see a doctor?"
" Are you taking any medicines?"
"What did the doctor say?"
"When will it disappear?"
" How did it happen?"
"Does it hurt?"
" How can you prevent it from happening again?"
Explanations & details such as this thing being painless and having been there since 6 months, having to do nothing with make-up or my diet or any other deliberate action of mine are neatly ignored. They are convinced that this hurts and that I'm responsible-they just have to trace the steps back to the scene of the crime.
Facial contortions follow if I do happen to let out that this will have to be removed surgically.
"Oh so painful!"
"How awful!"
" Is there no other way"
Of course not, I just thought a surgery sounded like a fun thing to do. And yeah, buddy, those exclamantion marks sure help in easing out the pain and preparing me for the minor surgery (which I'm assured by my doc-takes only a couple of hours and about 2-3 days of rest).
So if you've seen me in the past few days or months and have been bursting with curiosity about the "ugly" thing on my left eye- Here's where you should go:
It would have been thoughtful of me and convenient for you if I'd just put up an FAQ list on my eyelid, right next to the chalazion-but I've kind of grown fond of the 6 month old "thing"-don't really want to offend it 2 months before I make it go under the knife.
I knew you'd understand.
ps- I do realize that most of these questions would have & continue to come from well meaning and thoughtful individuals, but pls realize-collectively, the same questions everyday, become quite a pain.
- I want to start SFAAC (society for awareness about chalazion). If people are as generous about donations as they are with questions-this society will never be cash-strapped.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

11th Sept-Two Guys, Two Girls & a Shorwa place

Summing up the last evening in Paris is like recounting all the adjectives & descriptive words/phrases I know. Admittedly the vocabulary is limited, but well, the emotions are not. So here goes.
Confused were we, with the food choices we had in Latin Quarter-quaint eateries, pricey fine-dines, cheery cafes and just so many Greek/Medit. restaurants!
Generous was the owner of Mason Gyros ( a shorwa place near the Tunisian sweet shop). He was a Sri Lankan and when he found out that we were Indians, he gave us free juice! That single act of generosity was so unexpected for us that we kept staring back in disbelief-It was just so nice to have someone be nice to you for no reason. I wasnt really planning to order anything, but then after this, just felt compelled to order something!
Delicious was the sandwich which the Generous Owner made for me. Since there was nothing veg on the menu-I asked him for the regular pita sandwich without the chicken. But then true to his name (strictly on this blog), he loaded it with feta cheese, corn and olives, besides the usual lettuce etc and then went ahead and charged me a full euro less than the actual price.
Annoyed was I, at being asked by 2 men (estimated age: early 30's or maybe late, really late 20's) whether they could occupy the table next to ours. A good deal of my annoyance came from the reluctance to relocate my bag, which at that time was sitting bang in the middle of the coveted table.
Persuasive was G- who was probably just sick of my company by that time to readily welcome some nice looking strangers. Also she was more more accepting of their logic-the only free table was next to the shorwa grill and sitting there was like happily stepping into an oven.
Thankful was I- coz if it hadn't been for G, we wont have got to meet Sofiane and Amine, the 2 friendly Algerians, who'd been staying in France since 5 years or so. Conversation started with Sofiane trying to guess my nationality- he thought I was Mediterranean! And for some strange reason, I seemed to like the fact that the brown skin and the curly locks could be attributed to another region, another culture and I dont really know why that felt liberating. Just did. In a similar way, getting to know that "Sumeida" meant brave in their language, made me feel braver & more warrior like than usual.
Quasi-Indians they turned out to be! They told us that they watched Hindi movies every Friday-sometimes the same movie every Friday! They shared anecdotes on how more and more Algerian women are wearing saris for their weddings, about how their moms cried during Hindi movies and how they feel intrinsically, the two societies were similar.
Lit up were their faces when I sang out the song that they referred to as "Jaane Tu" (tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi...). If you'd told me a year back that I'd be sitting in Paris with 2 Algerian men singing a song from a Mithun movie, I'd have laughed my guts out. Acutally I did laugh my guts out at the way those two sang away "jaane tu ya jaane na" without a clue on what it meant :) Singing forgotten Hindi songs in foreign land with absolute strangers possibly has the same uplifting effect as having karhi-chawal in foreign land.Try it.
Intense was our discussion about Algeria and the politics of that country, about Islam and how some customs just dont make sense any more (e.g. how men are not supposed to look at their brother's wife); about Hinduism and how India is so diverse; about Paris and how living in Paris could be-it's home but the sense of alienation does creep in every now and then; about their professions (Pharmacist/Biologist) and how they encounter a fair bit of racism even in their professional lives.
Gallant were they to offer to walk us to Berthilion for ice-cream and extremely suspicious was I, for even after spending about 2 hours talking to them, my defensive instincts (honed to perfection on DTC buses & sales routes) told me that strange land, strange people & late evening do not a happy prospect make. But then as the story goes...Persuasive was G and Thankful was I :)
Happy coincidence was a shut Berthilion which forced us to walk more and discover a delightful Gelato parlour which even shaped the ice-cream (sorry, gelato!) as a rose. Awesome treat for the senses.
Hilarious was Sofiane's English when he gloriously announced in the Gelato place, "I would like to invite you all". The serpent of suspicion was just about to hiss in my ear (what?? invite us to his place? invite us where? huh? huh?), when better sense prevailed and we asked him what he meant. Apparently, all he wanted to do was to treat us to ice-cream! Funny how even intentions get lost in translation.
Charming was learning how to pronouce Champs Elysees correctly and teaching them a few Hindi words like "phir milenge" , "chalo" and "achcha" in return.
Conclusive was the evidence that men will be men, always- silly putty, at most times and just so hopelessly illogical, at the others!- You'd have chuckled knowingly if you'd seen Sofiane express with his hands how "Hot" he thought Aish was. You'd have also stared incredulously if you'd heard Amine pronounce his dictum on "more children are good" and how he wanted 6 children of his own. But then if you'd have been there, you would have also sensed their warmth and goodness, their strong desire to set the record straight for their community and their daily struggle against prejudice and stereotypes.
But well. you weren't there. A good thing too-because "Two Guys, Two Girls and a whole lot of others at a shorwa place" wouldn't sound half as good. But then, you do know now, which song to sing to an Algerian to break the ice, dont you? :) Jaane tu....ya jaane na?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

11th Sept- Paris-Of Notre Dame n Latin Quarter

The morning emerged with the relentless question-"Do Romanians not like taking a shower?" In the 3 days that we'd been at our hostel room, not once had I actually seen them head towards the shower-combine that with the assault on the sense of smell and the answer seemed astonishingly simple. The solution was not-we just sprayed some perfume in the air and got on with the explorer's life.

The day was to be devoted to Notre Dame and then the Latin Quarter-the original "cool" place.
Taking the audio guide at ND chapel was such a waste-all the information is available in English and it was one place where the guide was a bit of a distraction rather than an invaluable aid.
The tour up the tower though, is highly recommended. The cost of the uber scenic view of Paris is 400 steps or thereabouts-not ready currency with the faint hearted! What was really persuasive to my 26 yr old legs was the sight of people 3 times my age mocking my stamina and marching on-Such josh machines, those oldies!

Got to discover loads of fun facts-e.g. all religious bells are baptized-thought it was a rather sweet tradition. Naming inanimate things just makes it better, yes? 'Met' Emmanuel: the largest bell of 'em all- it was earlier rung by bell ringers, but is now set in motion by the electric motor, that too on major occasions only.

Awesome crepes and gelato later, we walked towards the Pantheon (the fake French version-we did see the real thing in Rome). It was completed in 1789 and remained a church only for 2 yrs-post which it was seized by the Revolutionaries. Now these Revolutionaries-they were anti-Catholics and because they were proponents of an extreme ideology-they did take things to the extreme. Burnt bodies of saints; converted churches into civil offices; even beheaded the gods on the facade of the Pantheon! (many of the heads are now either in the Middle ages museum/Musee de Cluny). Today's Pantheon serves as the final resting place for some great and glorious people (Mdm Curie's buried there!) and well, you have to be really great and really French to find a berth with the other exalted ones. Pity not too many are making the cut these days-dont make 'em like they used to!
Janine was our Latin Quarter Walk guide-the tour's absolutely worth it at 12 euros-nuggets of trivia, exploring the place by foot, lovely weather-all added up rather well.Highlights of the Latin Quarter walk:
- The first and the most prestigious high school in France.
- The Chapelle next door (no its not called that-just dont remember its name, but do remember where its located)-famous for two reasons-a) its the only church with the stone rudeway left (a structure that divides the worshippers and the priests) and b) it stores a Saint's finger-the only part which somehow escaped the rowdy revolutionaries who burnt her body and threw it in the river. Such idiots!

-Mitterand's house: no. 22, if you please: he lived in a narrow gully!
- Oldest church in Paris (11th century i think)
- Oldest tree in Paris (1602)
- Shakespeare & Co-the English book store started by an Englishman called Mr. Beech, who also rented out the rooms above to aspiring writers- this was a regular Hemingway haunt.
- Place St. Michel
- the fruits and veg market (operates on 4 days of the week-Tue, Thurs, Sat, Sun)-not so much of an 'attraction' for the desis-but well, everything in Paris gets a coat of mystique and finesse-even a subzi mandi.
- Lots of eateries: Greek, Mid-Eastern, Indian and yeah...a bit of French and Italian too.
- The original jazz place: served as a hiding place for Free Masons!
- Sorbonne University, which actually started as a theological school-but surprise, surprise-it changed its positioning after the Revolution. Smart thing, that.
- Luxembourg Gardens: Beautiful and majestic-overlooking the Senate. The lady (hehe..forgot her name too) who ordered the construction, never really got to stay here-her son sent her on an exile to Germany! No respect, I tell you!
Two bits of trivia which I feel compelled to share:
-Most avenues in the Latin Quarter are named thus: Rue de "____"- the blank is filled by a profession, coz this is how the residences were organized and there was one avenue for scribes (people had to go to them for all things to do with the written word- illiteracy was rampant), another for butchers and so on. I found this quite fascinating- using profession as a variable of organizing society isn't just one Ancient Indian whim then! Silliness is pervasive and as ancient as society itself. How gratifying.

- Notre Dame was cleaned in 2000, with lasers! and as proof of how dirty it had become, they've left the middle tower out-so the poor, not-so-little-thing stands tall and ashamed, showing the visitors the surrounding soot-less towers, silently begging to be revealed for what it really is.
To be continued.....(the evening was the most memorable one in Paris, and perhaps in the entire trip-just have to give it the privilege of undivided blogspace-sure G would agree.)
ps- if any of the facts stated above are found to be wrong, you know who to blame- Janine, of course! :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Zoned out and Switched Off

The gyaan is getting to me. The sound of jargon hitting my ear drums very hard. Maturity levels of people around me testing my tolerance limits. I need to count to 1000 in 5 different languages to stay calm. Screaming out loud seems so much easier.

How hard is it to ...shut up and be not jump the not be humble?
To put my mind to some rest,
On, i took a silly test.
Which Harry Potter character did they think was I?
the freckled friend, the wise oldie or the wizard boy...
Oh great-the answer was plain to see
Oh blast-even my hair looks like Hermione's!

I need anger therapy. and maybe some shampoo as well.
But know what-I don't really care
whether my hair shines like a diamond
or dandruff signs you can tell.
My worth is not equal to what I buy.
My sense of self is also not for sale.
Happiness-not a derivative of products & deals
What they make is fluff-I know I'm for real.

S-C-R-E-A-M! REAL LOUD SCREAM!! (look ma, no rhyme-no reason).
I'm putting myself to sleep.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sept 10th- Paris- Utterly Loverly Louvre

The day started relatively late (8:30 am), but the silver lining was the unhurried and exclusive use of the shower and a leisurely breakfast. Having spent a wonderful & no-harm-done day in Paris, we deemed it proper to dole out some tips to newbies (e.g. what bus number to take to the Eiffel Tower etc.). Very satisfying was that! And very smug were we!

We took the Metro to the Musee du Louvre. (While reading the news today about the metro strikes in Paris protesting Sarkozy's "main azaad hoon" type war cries against the welfare state's stubborn deficit inducing ways- I only wanted to thank our stars, for having made the trip when we did- Dunno what poor backpackers would be doing on Oct 18th!)
Anyway getting back to the Louvre-ignore the hideous monstrosity of the glass pyramid and soak in all the other sights-the fountain, the old medieval fortress look (it actually was one) and the yuppies doing the Da Vinci Code tour. Take it all in and brace your feet for the long haul and your brain for extra comprehension and absorption power!

You'd need about two days to do this museum justice-and I know two days in a museum can sound dauting-so here's the deal- devote to it one solid day-non-negotiable!! It has 8 sections- Sculptures, French paintings, Oriental Arts, Egyptian, Arts of Islam, Middle Ages paintings, Napolean Chambers (Objects D'Art), Decorative Arts & Paintings and trust me-even 12 hours may seem too short.
We did the paintings section first-populist tendencies overtook better judgement-didnt want to "miss" the Monalisa! And this is not my cynical self that speaketh- Found it a bit over-rated- Maybe it was the crowd of people & cameras that I had to negotiate with to get one look at that mythical smile or maybe it was because I've seen so many good and not-so-good copies of that image-it has perhaps lost that allure. If you'd seen the empty rooms in the previous section and the mass assembled in Mona-Lisa room, you'd be forgiven for thinking poor Leonardo never put brush to canvas, save for the lady's portrait!
The real surprise in that room was "The Wedding at Casa" (portrays the scene of the feast where Jesus turned water into wine)- It was such a beautiful & vast painting and oh, with a really comprehensive explanation carried in the audio guide-I probably stood there for 15 mins, gawking! Again, the audio guide is an imperative-most of what's written in the museum is in French and there's a good chance you'll be breezing past masterpieces if you dont have the audio guide. Not a stickler for looking at at every square inch from all dimensions, but then having travelled that far-it'd be a shame to deny your brain even that eensy-weensy bit of perspective on what your eyes transmit as a fuzzy flower in yellow.
Nett-dont miss it the Paintings section (arguably, the Middle Ages section is missable- they didnt call 'em the Dark Ages for nothing, duh!) Mesopotamian is a great treat and it did get me into a philosophical mode (what with people routinely dying in Iraq everyday and the general sense of chaos this country has come to portray)-what is it with great empires and not being able to sustain their power and might-Romans conquered that region and then decadently voted themselves out of the race. I really do wish to be born again after 500 years with the same consciousness to see whether the US, Germany and Japan really retain their power or does Trinidad & Tobago edge them out for the Top Job, somehow!
Dont miss the Sculptures-esp the few Greek ones-extremely rare! See on display "Venus Di Milo"- now the sweet part is-no one knows whether its Venus or some other goddess but well, some Roman decided it was Venus and therefore, Venus is what the world calls her.

The Romans really did a darn good job at copying all that was Greek and Great and then creating their own borrowed versions of greatness. And you see it in the sculptures around you. While you grudgingly grant the Romans their due, also bless the French archaeologists who are responsible for getting a lot of these artefacts together from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Italy.
Another thought that lingered in my mind was how fashion and trends come a full circle and how similar people living generations & continents apart could be! A lot of the jewellery and art on display from the Pompeii ruins or the Eqyptian pyramids is so contemporary-on more than one occasion I caught myself thinking-hey, I or my friends could wear this stuff!! (no sarcasm here, I swear and no criminal intent, either!). The same fuzzy we-are-one-always-have-been feeling emerged again when I looked at the Egyptian beauty products display! :D

The Guided Tour of the Louvre was well worth it (might have been better if we'd managed to catch the morning tour-seeing all the highlights and then doing the sections that seemed really interesting would have been simpler-but oh, well!). Our Guide was very well informed and gave us lots of stories on the different sections and the major highlights of the museum-her accent also kept me well entertained-Her "H" was silent and I really did find it amusing when she said something like-"Dis 'orse 'eez verrry good".

On our way back from the Louvre, we went to the Garden of Tiles again (doesnt sound half as pretty as when you say Jardin de Tuileries, na?). Watched the evening sun blot its colors all over the sky. I did think the sky was really pretty in Paris but a long debate with G made me think, maybe it was just coz I never bothered to look up when I went about my daily existence in Sing/India!
After our Heat and Eat dinner at the hostel, we decided to walk a bit around Montmartre-the charming district we were staying in- as was expected, we lost our way but discovered some small winding streets with quaint shops. And we caught a glimpse of the lit Eiffel Tower.
The icing on the cake was the free internet hours the French (& by now friendly) receptionist gifted us, along with the advice to avoid Sacre Coeur at night-Free internet, lovely French music in the background and smile on our faces-what else did we need-umm, a keyboard with the keys in the right places would have helped!! Demanding, demanding!

Traveller's Tip#1-Do take the audio guide-at 5 euros, it's a steal and an absolute must if you are to make any sense of what's inside the Louvre. Also taking the morning guided tour makes more sense.
Traveller's Tip#2- Keep some time for lunch-the terrace cafe is supposed to be good but has a long waiting line-we had to make do with a cold and expensive salad just to be on time for the guided tour.
Traveller's Tip#3- Avoid Sacre Coeur at night-if you insist on going there to catch a view of the Eiffel Tower-carry minimal cash & be safe!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An evening in Paris-9th Sept

Glorious sunset. Laced the wannabe Paris Eye (just a wheel really) with its battery of reluctant-to-leave rays and turned it into a magnificent work of art.
The beautiful sky. Draped in hues of orange and pink. The kind that makes you do a 360 degrees marvelling at nature.
Champs Elysees. Stealing some and getting the ground its fair share of glamour, light and color. The sprawling n sparkling avenue is called the most beautiful avenue in the world and according to us, it surely lived upto its reputation.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and what our eyes showed us were dazzling lights, places that define fine-dine, shopping arcades that spell class, perfumeries & chocolateurs luxuriously humouring fabulously dressed people (and here, my eyes obviously wasted not a second on people who came anywhere close to looking like punks with pink hair & pierced aunties who combined saris with sports scruffy smelly get the picture right? Essentially other ordinary plebians. Needless to add, mirrors and reflections were duly avoided to prevent self from cringing).
I think I saw all the brands I thought I knew and more, which simply deserved to be known coz they were on Champs Elysees. (Note: not to be confused with Champs On Lease, the galli just behind New Rambo Gym that produces (third) world class wrestlers!- the correct pronunciation for the lovely avenue, if written in German style English (where each letter written was in dire need of intonation), would be- Schaunz Eleez) Of course you'd still sound silly saying it without a natural or cultivated French accent. Think the easiest way to not offend someone French would be to say "oh..we went to the most beautiful avenue in the world"-they would understand and also be more likely to be amenable to your lowly existence :)

Arc de Triomphe was spectacular as well and thanks to the misadventure with the bus (we waited for over 40 minutes for the bus back to our hostel, only to realize that buses stop operating after 9 on weekends) & my stubborn hostility towards the Metro (just had this image of it being a shady and unsafe place to be at night-not true, btw), we got to see the Eiffel Tower at night-all lit up, resplendent and awe-inspiring. There's even a brief period when the lights flicker and you feel there are 1000 people celebrating Diwali on the Tower -the Sparkler effect is really something else.
I think G was really on the verge of losing it because I was steadily veering in the direction of "lets take a cab and just get to the hostel" (which obviously was a violation of the "if-you-are-on-a-budget-trip-act-like-you-are-on-one rule"). A local couple came to her rescue and they seemed earnest and reliable enough for me to pay heed to their advice to just take the Metro. We did and reached the hostel in 15 mins :)

The comedy of errors that followed looked something like this. G & S go to the kitchen (same place where we had breakfast) to heat dinner and realize that the door was locked. So they trudge up the stairs and tell the French receptionist that they need help since the door was locked. He says-no it isnt locked-just give it a gentle push-it should open. G & S run down the stairs and use all might to give the damn door not so gentle pushes and shoves and continue to do so until they become scared that they might be accused of breaking down the door and made to pay. Thankful that no one was paying particular attention to this drama, they run up to the lobby again-and since both G & S pride themselves on being mega intelligent souls, they decide there must be another way to the kitchen, so they go down the other way, but lo and behold that door is sealed-it might have opened to the street, once upon a time-you could tell. But it is not the door to the kitchen, that too, you could tell. So after completing a virtuous circle that only serves to make the tummies rumble louder, G&S decide to approach the receptionist again. The receptionist looks at them quizzically and decides he needs to intervene. 4 confident steps later, he shows G&S the "kitchen" which they had passed some 20 times in their hunt.
Hurt, but still defiant, S asks what he meant by pushing the door a little harder, since the door was already open. At this, the receptionist calmly points to the microwave!! (he thought we couldnt open the microwave??!!) G, S and the receptionist look at each other and burst out laughing. We murmur "Merci boku" (thank you very much)-though "moorkh bewakoof" would apply better to all the participants in this drama.

The evening ended with a desi delight-kadhi chawal! Long Live Kohinoor and its makers. Bless them-for what could give greater joy to the soul than yummy kadhi chawal enjoyed on the steps of Montmartre-the slight chill in the air making us savour each hot bite a little more. Yeah, we were in love with Paris. But the Dil remained firmly Hindustani :)
Traveller's Tip #1-When strolling down the Champs Elysees, keep an eye open for street vendors-they end up selling 3 eiffel tower keychains for 1 euro! Good gifts for sundry junta :P
Traveller's Tip #2- Be mindful of time schedule differences for buses, between weekends and weekdays. And it is safe to take a metro around 10-11 pm (I see G smirking)
Traveller's Tip #3- Do not eat on the streets-even if its the small pack of French Fries-you wont get ticked off. Verbally that is! Sit and finish your meal. Remember this is the prim and proper land and you dont really want to stand out any more than you do by virtue of your tone (both skin & accent!)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Oh Paris- 9th September (afternoon)

The Boat tour lived upto the high expectations-We passed major landmarks of the city, located on the banks of the river-audio guide was also good in that it wasnt exhaustingly comprehensive but provided enough interesting facts to keep us entertained for one hour (sometimes, staring at bridges does get a bit tiring-but then you hear some snippet from the past which makes you perk up and take in the view with renewed interest).

That done-the next task at hand was to take care of our rumbling tummies-and here we were let down-the mistake we made was to settle down for lunch at one of the places near the Eiffel Tower-the primary consideration of something veg on the menu was satisfied and we even saw some desi faces-But as they say-kindly not to be going after appearances!! The expensive and cold meal consisted of a tough baguette with grated carrot and tomotoes (for me) and cold ham with potatoes & cheese (for G). My teeth rattled, my palette saddened & my tummy and G became grumbling companions-former hated me for the excuse for food I was shoving into it and G cribbed vehemently about the "kachcha meat"!

Next we trooped to Musee d'Orsay. Home to wonderful impressionist work-feasted our eyes on Monet, Renoir, Passaro, Sisley & Van Gogh- Oh, art can be so beautiful :) Leave alone art as an investment which tends to take a rather economic & dry point of view-my entire "art-nah for me! perspective was totally transformed. One of the many changes that this trip brought about in the way I think.

Outside the Musee d'Orsay, we joined the crowds sitting on the steps and the sundry street artists who were performing to this audience: there was a skater boy doing wondrous stunts (the stuff that finds its way to youtube) and there was this crazy wizened old man who was imitating passers by in a really silly & highly comical way. (I too became one of his hapless victims, though for me it wasnt very embarassing coz I was just intently looking in the skater boy's direction, with hand on chin- didnt realize when he sat down next to me, obviously imitating my actions-so when I turned, I jumped coz I was staring right into his face LOL-crazy idiot!).
The Jardin des Tuileries was lovely-combine a sunny Sunday afternoon, couples & families basking in the sun, some coffee and a rum crepe- Heavenly! A walk in the garden just brought alive all the praise and the adulation that I had heard heaped on Paris and made me a convert of the "I love Paris" brigade. Such a beautiful and unhurried city-would definitely be coming back here loads and loads of times (but armed with better French!)

( I just have to break this day into 3 parts-just cant get factual about Paris-bear with me as a I relive the experience in words & visuals)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Paris & Tour Eiffel-9th Sept morning

Got up quite early, considering how bad the previous night had been, but then the competition to the bath and the loo is known to have transformed the laziest buggers into proverbial early birds. Early breakfast and helpful directions later (contrary to what we'd heard, all the people we asked for help/directions etc were rather forthcoming and sweet-not stuck up at all!), we boarded bus 80 to Tour Eiffel, named after its creator (The tower-not the bus!)
What I discovered is that the French tend to dislike anything new, its gotta be old enough for them to like it-we saw plenty of examples of this-from the unique Metro station signs (which looked like dragon eyes) to even the poor Eiffel Tower-which were subjected to the same treatment- therefore, anything new must age before becoming a recipient of grudging acceptance or adoration. (Remember the term nouveau riche? same logic!-so you need generations of wealth to be certified wealthy! Rags to riches story wont do!)
The Eiffel Tower is an imposing & grand structure, but when you are walking all those steps to get to the 3rd floor (from where you take the elevator up to the top), all you are seeing are the welded iron & steel insides, which arent particularly glamorous. Also, my long held belief of the Eiffel Tower being black in color was shattered-its as brown as Cadbury's Dairy Milk! I attribute my wrong belief to the black replica we had at our place (had it just fallen prey to oxidation?)
As testimony to the great shape we were in, we managed to climb all those stairs without too much fuss and man, it was so worth it. The panoramic view was aided by information on what exactly you saw in front of you and each of these info points was accompanied by small visual milestones on the left (when the tower became a TV transmitter station/ weather station, the tower's 1 millionth visitor, when prominent people came to visit etc).

The view from the top is a busy tourist attraction and well, just about okay coz at that height, you do manage to make out some of the more important structures but well, you did that with better sight downstairs anyway!-but if its your first time in Paris, you just have to go right to the top, even if it is knowing what I just told you :)Living upto my reputation of being a sucker for souveniers, I bought small Tour Eiffel replicas (brown, oreadi! so no danger of oxidation and propogation of a wrong belief) and a couple of extremely nice Black & White postcards.
Since the Seine Boat Tour was really recommended, we bought tickets for those and used the time between then and the departure time, admiring the Eiffel Tower from afar.

Traveller's Tip #1-Buy the Visite Paris pass (i think there are difft versions available-we bought the 3 day pass). This pass also entitles you to discounts at a lot of places, including museums and boat tours etc.
Traveller's Tip #2- Avoid buying the pass to the top from the ground floor ticket counters-Climb up 3 storeys and what awaits you is information & a shorter Q to get to the top.

Traveller's Tip#3-What really helped in planning our days in Paris (and the other cities) were the Fodors travel guide itineraries, available for free at the website-they usually mention tourist places and must do's which are close to each other, so you can take devote each day to a district and the highlights there, without totally wearing yourself out). They also have nice culture & food tips -which, if not very useful, make for a fun read.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

London with a touch of Paris-8th Sept

The thought of getting up early after a nite of hard partying was torture-putting it into action was tougher. But no recourse, as I simply could not leave London without meeting good friends-The Loomba parivar.
While in the tube (the metro, silly!-wasnt travelling through magic beakers & test tubes), for some strange reason, I couldnt stop smiling at the fact that this was going to be the first time I would travel alone in London (yeah, I know-grown up girl and should be no big deal)-but I get this feeling each time I travel alone in a new city-the nervous excitemen does fizzle out after a couple of hours but I do really feel proud of navigating my way around a new place-it could have something to do with my pathetic sense of direction (in my world, I locate places by landmarks and landmarks alone-had a hard time during my sales stint in Pepsi, where I wouldnt know the name of the road but I would know the exact series of outlets that I'd find there-" Laxmi pan bhandar se right" , phir "jalaram cold drinks", uske aage " Bhavesh general store" blah blah- Landed me in a soup a couple of times during high profile visits, coz I missed the turn and made my god level bosses believe I was a fat-ass who never did any market work & someone who just played a recorded traffic scene each time they called). But well, enough of a digression!
So yeah- felt great to meet the Loombas-had a delicious hoome cooked meal and saw great snaps (that sold me on to the idea of definitely visiting Scotland, sometime!).
And as paranoid that I had become after the barrage of horrible stories of thefts at youth hostels and the pickpocket gangs in Italy, I thought it'd be wise to download all my London snaps onto Suvir's unsuspecting computer. Logic being-at worst, I'd lose the camera-wont lose precious memories. Yeah, very positive, I know.
(for the record, all my steely glares and paranoia-induced strategies of deception worked and we didnt really lose/forget/damage anything valuable, during this trip-only our minds, sometimes!)
The day was also marked by the huge 'phatka' of 125 pounds each, courtesy a misunderstanding in reading train times. Our train was supposed to leave at 15:11 and arrive in Paris at 18:43. However, G in some delirious trance, calculated time differences and worked out some economic curve to arrive at the fact that our departure time was 18:43-with the result that once we reached the station, no rubbing of eyes could reverse the train that we missed. So well, had to buy new tickets! (Einstein!)
The temptation to scream and generally create a scene was curbed rather well, I'd say, particularly by me (given the past record of hysteria and panic at smallest change in plans), with the long term vision of having a great trip and the overarching feeling that we shouldnt let this minor blip make grouchoes (if ever that's a word) out of us.
The Eurostar journey from London to Paris was comfortable and uneventful and largely comprised a great quiche and a dishy but extremely boring co-passenger.
Arrived at Paris du Nord-had to change trains (yeah-backpacking also means no-frills, no-cabs and no 100 euros a night hotels!) and several steps to get to the hostel and we did get a bit lost on the street looking for it (rather frightening..coz I had visions of us huddled in one corner-spending the night on the streets!). God bless G's soul- she helped me with carrying my fat bag around most of Europe (so G, this is the cumulative, all-in-one mega Thanks :)
Though at one place, the Montmartre station, it was just so pointless-and since its a funny incident, I insist on describing it in detail. Yeah so we reached the station, relatively unscathed (after an encounter with a Loony Punju weirdo who kept shouting sat-sri-akal & blowing air-kisses from the other platform-When will scumbags leave this planet and create their own scumworld??).
Now the direction to our hostel clearly stated, "Take the steps followed by some rights/lefts (which i couldnt distinguish between as no landmarks were provided)" as the instruction #1 and since, compliance in foreign land comes easy-we gulped as we saw the "sign of 90 steps" that greeted us, but valiantly made our way up. Huffing and puffing and sweating- even getting an occasional sympathy smile from the passersby, -we made it-tired but victorious! Getting to the hostel safe and sound made us forget our torture-What revived it cruelly was the sign to the bloody elavator which we noticed, the next day!!!!Those smiles- they were not signs of solidarity from kind hearted souls-they were the "how-dumb-can-you-get snickers from strangers!
The hostel was nice & warm and it felt nicer after we realized that we get 1/2 an hr of free internet and that there was a loo+shower attached to the room :) (yeah, I also had visions of queueing up for the basics!). We were to share our small lil home for the next 4 nights with 2 American girls (stuck up), 1 Romanian girl (seemed nice but her lack of english and our lack of french couldnt possibly amount to a decent conversation) & 1 Romanian boy (her bro, we discovered later).
Sleep didnt come easy-maybe it had to do with the squeaky bed and the individuals listed above who had graduated in honors from The Twist & Turn through the night School. Maybe it had to do with sleeping in close proximity with total strangers. Or maybe my hostel paranoia. Or maybe just, maybe it could have had something to do with the 2 calls I got from Singapore numbers at some unearthly hour, about my cable tv and my credit card! (the singaporean accent can sound very very annoying at 4 am, trust me!). Or maybe my brain just sensed how stupid the rest of me would be proved the next day when i read the "lift" sign. Ah well. suffice to say, I hardly got any sleep. But well, what do they say, tomorrow's another day-and will admit, it did turn out to be a great one!
Traveller's tip#1-For London-Paris, a return ticket on train is cheaper than a single ticket. Yes ! Just dont ask me how or why. The flight is even cheaper-so unless you are spending sleepless nights over global warming and you've turned carbon-o-phobic, just fly a budget airline. (The indian rule of train fares being lesser than air fares fails miserably)
Traveller's tip #2- Book your hostel in Paris way in advance-tends to be the most expensive city as far as good hostels go. Square Caulaincourt, where we stayed, was good-but we booked it only coz others like Le village etc were full.
& since Im feeling generous, Traveller's tip#3- Do carry some heat & eat/cup'o noodles type of food (I'd reco kohinoor rice series-coz it gives u the curry and the carb together lah)-most hostels have fully equipped kitchens-make the most of it. This will be really helpful if you are comforted by'hot' food alone/are veggie/dont have the energy or money to make it to the next restaurant & can not, simply can not have more crepes! (which I promise, you WILL have a lot of , if you are veggie).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

London-7th Sept

The celebrity hungry morons that we were, we went back to Mdm Tussaud's, quickly forgetting the shooing away of the previous day.
After an internal debate of "should i really be clamoring to pose with wax dolls" vs "you are here-might as well", populism won! For me, there was also the vicarious pleasure of comparing height with other short famous people (I lay claim to only one of those adjectives :P). The vicarious pleasure of standing next to Jennifer Anniston and seeing eye to eye was immeasurable. The only celebrity statue who I couldnt wait to be with was Jack Sparrow! (didnt stop me from joining G with Leo and others, including Bob Marley, Newton & Shakespeare).
But here too some sort of a prejudice-all the desi celebrities looked so hideously plastic-even their accessories seemed to have been bought from the great chor bazaar sale-really irked me no end to see SRK and AB looking like poor cousins of themselves, while even the B-grade firang celebrities had been done up rather nicely! There were exceptions though-Beyonce looked as if she had used 1 yr's supply of whitening products in 24 hrs :D

Strolled around Baker St and picked up the mandatory souveniers. I'd decided to buy a coffee mug from all the places I visit (yes, the Delhi show off spirit rules :) and well, London marked the beginning for this purchase series.

We went to Buckingham Palace after this-did my best to peer inside those drawn curtains, but the grandeur behind the gates was all I saw. The time at Hyde park after this was simply great-abundant sunshine and a lazy afternoon- splendid partners! Had Ratatouille at the cafe there and well, cause enough for me to grin, all associations with the movie came wafting back.
Oh, and since no day in London must go without us getting ticked off (however much politely!)-we did! We did ask for it though, when we walked into the Ritz and were about to enter some sacred area, when someone in a haughty voice reminded us that we were not dressed "formally enough" and hence could not enter-Bah!!

The evening was absolutely exciting-packed with new friends,club-hopping and dance. We went partying with Bracey ,Super Sam, G & B's friend. We went to Leicester Square and was that place abuzz with life or what! The places we hit & the drinks that hit us: All-Bar-One (1 wine), Planet Hollywood (1 Absinthe), Metra (1 wine+ 1 tequila). The alcohol added up to a fair bit and G & I had a minor tiff over some equally minor issue (I'm glad we made up soon after). Ignoramus ol' me had no clue what Absinthe was-it turned out to be a saunf-based alcohol which is banned in the US and other countries as it escapes the breath analyzer tests!

Had a fantastic time dancing (though, for the life of me, I can't remember what we danced to)-and I do recall getting back home around 4 am! whatta rockin nite.

(a tankful of thanks to Bracey and Super Sam for all the happy times in London)

Monday, October 01, 2007

London-6th Sept-the jinxed day!

London greeted us with a sunny morning and we cheerfully responded by setting out for the Tower of London-we didnt know that time that this was the most jinxed day of our entire trip!
We got off a station too early and as a consequence, walked a fair bit to get there. The funny bit was, when we asked for directions, the gentleman passing us by, asked for the street name! As abnormal as people asking for India Gate and being asked back for the name of the frickin street
Tower Bridge looks great-awesome photo-op provider! The Tower itself was okay-the place itself has a rich and varied history-it's served as a residence, a mint, an armoury..even an execution site! Saw the different weapons on display and yes, the Kohinoor too! Did get a bit agitated that its really an Indian treasure which is being forcibly kept in the British custody.According to G, it's a good thing they took it away and are keeping it there safely-I couldnt argue with that-well, the safekeeping and insurance expenses are serving them right :)
Post that, went to Baker Street to Madam Tussaud's, but since we'd booked the tickets online using Devika's credit card-we were briskly turned away as we were in possession of neither the card nor Devika. Big Boo to the burly smartass at the counter who saw these innocent faces as those of fraud perpetrators!
Smarting at the gujju crowds which effortlessly made their way inside and determined to put our time to good use (itni door aaye hain, to kuch dekh ke hi jayenge!) we decided to go to the museum named after the most famous inhabitant of this street. After getting the token snap clicked at the gate, we went in and hurried over the over-priced souveniers. Expressed interest in going inside but were politely told that wasnt possible as the museum was getting re-carpetted!!
Hungry and a bit disappointed at being rejected by museums (tch.tch.), we just decided to head home-But well, the tube was also raring to give us a beating- we took the wrong train-TWICE!-and finally reached home only around 3 pm. Decided to give ourselves a hot meal break!
Then came the ugly encounter with the dark rogue who misbehaved (wont go into the ugly details-but essentially he took 'eveteasing' to a new level) and shook me out of my touristy complacence. Double Boo to him and may he be denied entry to Madam Tussaud's as well :P

Harrods was next on our list of To-Do's and contrary to my image of it being a style haven, it turned out to be the most hideous & grotesquely done department store. Sure it houses everything I cant afford (except for the donuts and the coffee at the food stalls)-but must it put garish replicas of Egyptian mummies at every corner? Jimmy Choo & Pharaohs-icky combo this! But well, its a great place for spotting trends and every style diva in London does sashay down the aisles here, though the view does get marred by the well-past-the-prime wannabe with the bulging, adorned with bling waist and the shrinking, painted red lips. But well, after an hour there, we had luxury brands streaming out of our ears-Tiffany, Chopard, does want to make you feel like a millionaire-if only to offer to redecorate the Dodi's gaudy place!
Since no true London Experience is complete without watching theatre, we trudged along to Playhouse Theatre (no connection with Playboy!) to watch Footloose-had a great time and there were so many times, when I just wanted to run up to the stage and join the performance! Any shoes are dancing shoes :)
Oh and as if we hadnt rubbed the snooty London nose the wrong way enough number of times, the pregnant waitress at the Italian pizza joint asked us in the most icy tone possible- "Is that all you are having?"- Our crime? Ordering one pizza for both of us! We hastily ordered fruit juice-Ayyo, what attitude!The post-musical walk along embankment was wonderful-the city looked beautiful at night.

<---that's us-and in the background is the London Eye, though you have to strain Your Eye to see it :) Day ended happy- infinite boos to the jinx!

Traveller's tip: Book tickets for the museums and theatres online-much cheaper (also, do remember to take the credit card with you-and yes, do ensure you have a credit card before u embark on your travel :)

London Expense orientation: Coffee for 2 pounds & pizza for 5-7 pounds. Not all that bad, huh? But take that with a pinch of salt-that's the happy tourist talking!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

London-5th September

Arrival at the heathrow terminal 3 was also marked with the longest immigration queue I've ever seen. Made even my 'favorite' Delhi airport seem much better. Though the one thing that was common was the Punju accent-London is more "tikka-ized" than I thought.
Happily smiling at the reverse imperialism, I met Devika and Sam-the journey back home took three times longer than usual, thanks to the extra wheels on the roads because of the tube strike. Home for the next 3 days was at Hammersmith.
After an angrez breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, we ventured out. Took a day pass of 5.10 pounds (most economical way of travelling around-unlimited rides on all public transport). First stop was Leicester Square-home to many theatres, pubs and swanky eateries (the place really comes alive in the evenings). Walked towards Blackfriars and saw the Thames up-close-mucky water-looked like a grown up version of the Mithi river (yes, there's a river in Mumbai and it looks like a disguised drain!).
Passed the Hyliograph gifted by the Egyptians to Her Majesty for the English victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile. Found it very hard to understand this curious habit of the erstwhile Eqyptian governors of gifting national treasures to imperial powers for random battle victories. (the De La Concorde has an obelisk-its twin is in Luxor). Its like seeing one minaret of the Taj Mahal in Philippines, where you'd least expect it-Culturally discordant and a bit detrimental to tourism for the original monument. ( A funny anecdote from our Thames cruise guide-the sphinx were put in a wrong position-facing the hyliograph, instead of facing outwards- they are meant to guard the damn thing, not ogle at it admiringly!)
We met Annie (one of the most genuinely funny & really warm persons I've met) after much deliberations over directions etc. Had great pizza (we had loads of those on this trip) at Harry's bar & pizzeria. From there we walked to St. Paul's-we just lit two candles and spent most of the time admiring the cathedral from outside.

Took the DLR from Canary Wharf (this was like coming to Raffles Place-all concrete and glass) to go to Greenwich. But alas, the observatory was closed (closes before 5 pm) but we did have a look at the famed 0 degree that our time zones are based on.
Weather was gorgeous and we spent some time lazing on the lawns-that's one thing I was taught by London-enjoy good weather while it lasts! (though to give them credit, the weather gods in Europe were really kind to us-not one drop of rain in London-my umbrella felt so cheated!)
Took a river cruise from Greenwich to Westminster and thoroughly enjoyed it-thanks to the witty cruise crew who kept us in splits with his comments. Some gems:
" To your left is the house of contemporary art-Does not draw too many visitors-if you see the art-you'll know why!"

" To your right are the containers that carry Londoners' waste to Essex-that takes care of two problems-what to do with the waste and what to do with Essex!"

Saw all the picture postcard sights-Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Big Ben (which incidentally is the name of the bell that tolls insides-not of the clock tower). The evening was spent walking around Westminster Abbey, Downing street (closed to general public, but well, at least we saw the sign) and Trafalgar Square.The one thing I loved about London was the adorable little flower baskets hung at home & shop entrances, lamp posts and well, just about anywhere-Felt very pleasant!
Took the direct bus from Trafalgar home and crashed-I let jet lag catch up and win!

Sawadee-kaa: At Suvarnabhoomi airport

The best laid plans do go astray and you learn this the hard way when you start the big trip with many firsts (first independently financed, first 10+ hrs flight, first "long trip etc) with a big boo-boo-leaving the neccessary travel companion-the jacket snug in your cupboard! Armed with the knowledge that some of the cities I'm about to visit have temperatures hovering around 14 degrees and weakened by the body's low cold tolerance levels-buying a jacket was the single most urgent task at the Bangkok airport.
(my flight was not direct- Thai Airways insisted I spend some hours yawning at BK airport, before I was allowed to go to London-But entrepreneurial me decided hunting for a jacket was much more interesting-So there!)
But finding a decent jacket turned out to be a fair challenge-I was faced with 20,000 bags, but only 5 jackets-out of which only one was my size-Since laws of probability indicated that there was bound to be more choice than just one-I set out to hunt for another shop that was kind enough to understand that people forget jackets at home. My feet covered all square feet of the Suvarnabhoomi airport, but nope-bags, bags everywhere-not a jacket to slink.
Usually I hate too-much variety as it confuses the hell out of me-but on this one occasion, I just felt so cheated-Not that the jacket was bad-but having no choice while purchasing, did cause some post purchase dissonance!
The other airport experience (dinner) was surprisingly pleasant- Best green curry-rice I've had in a long time (at Pizza & More-dont judge by the name!). Made a trip to Boots too-impulsive shower gel type purchases, planned so that I could test my new credit cards :)
After all that walking around, I was sufficiently tired and sleepy to just head out to the boarding gate and well, board my flight!
The flight was quite comfortable and thanks to my walking expedition, sleep came easy. What didnt come easy was acquainting myself with the soggy, lifeless dinner plate in front of me. My veg meal request somehow got lost in translation and emerged as a vegan monstrosity-dull looking tofu, some red beans dessert, margarine, dinner roll and some bland, boiled-against-their-will mushrooms! I became that much more indebted to "pizza & more" and that much more determined to change my meal request for, at least, the flight back to "normal veg".
For the breakfast, i hurriedly returned the Asian veg plate (which had steamed rice & steamed veggies!), graciously accepted the normal fare- ignored the sausage and gorged on the omlette.
The small talk with the Brit lady next to me, revealed that 11 of the 14 tube lines in London weren't working-A welcome strike by the tube workers! Nice.
Anyway, Devika was coming to the airport to pick me up-plus weren't buses much better to "see" a new place? I think the yummy omlette made my outlook towards life really positive :)
The journey also allowed me to read my Paris and Rome printouts-but I had serious difficulty staying engaged with strange and unpronouncable names-decided to take on one city at a time and since I had researched nothing on London-I rewarded myself with what else, but sleep! Only to wake up and feast on the marvellous views of the wimbledon, the london eye, the thames and the other readily identifiable places. Paisa Vasool!

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Quirk tag

Oh this is so unfair- just when I was about to start my travel blog (yes the 19 day glorious Europe trip has ended..(sob sob.).but (smile, grin, bigger grin)..what a trip!! Wonderful experiences which deserve to be told in much greater detail. But first the tag- since McD insists she wants to know my quirks, here goes:
1. I frown- a lot-and most of the times, i dont know im doing it- I've been frowning since i was a kid-its the thing i do when i want to listen, to pay attention, to understand, to disagree, to think- so if you havent seen me frowning-dont think you've met me :P
2. I smile- coz I really do feel it doesnt take much and just makes you & others around you feel better. And as a rule, I dont trust people who remain unsmiling for the better part of the day-something menacing about that! There have been times when I've done it rather unwittingly, like the time I did it when a prof was asking me something and I hadnt been listening and he ticked me off with " you will not succeed in the corporate world with a sexy smile" or something to that effect. I didnt know whether to feel insulted with his stupid comment or happy with the compliment. I just frowned in response.
3. I have a security blanket called "Satin"- I have slept under it ever since I can remember (there have been times we've come back mid way from a journey just coz I had forgotten it at home and wont sleep without it) and though I can now, get sleep even without it-its like a hug, a comfort wrap, a pacifier-yes, i do realize it is inanimate but such a constant in my life. (and no its not a museum relic- my aunts and relatives have been gracious enough to gift me substitutes every now and then-though I do have a hard time adopting the new one & letting the old tattered one go.
4. Food is a mood changer (share this with McD)- its a Top of Mind item-always! Singular in its ability to uplift mood or cause it to sink to deeper than deep levels. I love food and I love being a foodie! Loads of quirks associated with food (eating maggi sandwiches, or licking off the cream from cream biscuits ..but too many to list down here)
5. Doing random activities like reading, making cards, writing etc while in vajrasana, walking or standing- My parents used to get quite concerned that I stood for hours while I made Diwali cards for friends and family-but I just couldnt sit on a chair and do those things. Did get a cramp in my legs sometimes and my legs went numb sitting in vajrasana for 3 hrs..but well, I did it my way!
6. The color blue- Till college, 90% of my clothes were blue and I would have ended up as a dyed in indigo version of Simi Garewal, had I suddenly not discovered my fascination for other colors. (yes, even yellow and tan).
7. Extreme panic & hysteria when I dont find something-even if its extremely inconsequential. This is a very time consuming and painful habit (ooops, was I supposed to call it a quirk?). I am a mad woman on most occasions but go raving mad when I cant find something where its supposed to be or where I last left it. On most such occasions, I find it where it was supposed to be-the bloody thing just did a darn good job of hiding itself for an hr! (Recent case in point precious hours saved by Rashie through the discovery of my earrings in the original container- just seconds before I was to embark on a massive hunt).
8. Matching tunes- I'm good at tracking tunes and songs which sound like each other. So I know that "tanhai tanhai" from koyla was actually used as a background score in "karaj arjun". Or that lage raho munnabhai is actually a modified version of a bong song (dhitang dhitang bole).
9. Rembering just antaras or mukhdas and not being able to retrace the start/end of the song is such a nightmare!
10. My hello on the phone and other not-so-glorious ways of saying things- have been ragged enough about the former (of how the accent is so acquired etc-its not by the way-its just been that way since I was a kid and we didnt even have satellite TV then-only the world this week). I do have a sing-song way of saying somethings and have been imitated enough by uncles & aunties & friends when all I said was "Could-I-speak-to-Divya" or shouted "aale aale" (coming!). For more ask DT and wicked meera :)
This is an open request to others- if you think of any other quirks (worth mentioning and not worth censoring), do leave a comment-always good to agree/deny/refute/frown/smile :)
And the travel blog will start tomorrow-any more delays and it will feel as dated as the Roman Forum.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

3-2-1...Blast Off...!

This happened on way to Boracay (may). The kid was precocious. Would be about 10 years old. No loss of baby fat. All gains made in the decibels department. And as the airplane prepared to take off- the kid was almost choking with excitement, but that didnt come in the way of his rhythmic semi-screams, semi-chants of "1-2-3 Blast Off". (His dad did try to tell him this wasnt a rocket nor a missile & that the order should be descending). But no, the lil champ continued unperturbed.
His enthusiam was so infectious-my frowns at being constantly woken up (this was a flight at an unearthly hour of 7 am or thereabouts), gave way to wide grins.
I think I feel the same way, now that most of my packing and logistical nightmares are over (almost-there's always something I need to do right before the exit to the airport, to feel I've judiciously divided my tasks among my waking hours). This is the first trip I'm managing independently and though it may not sound profound, but this is really the longest I'll be in a foreign country (ies) on a holiday! And unlike most other holidays, wont have my security blanket-my fall back option (read the ear that takes in my cribs and the shoulder that supports me while i nap). Nerous am I. but Excited as hell.
And as I set forth on my Europe trip tonite, I know what I'll be chanting when the airplane prepares to take off.
Bon Voyage, Gnain & me!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

My life looks like this right now. So many things to do-desperately fighting the "why didnt i do this earlier" thoughts as I set about listing down stuff that needs to get done before i leave on the Europe trip!
And all this when i just want to complete "in spite of the gods". Just where is the magic wand when you need it?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Glorious achievements of Maya memsaab

Admittedly, she's not my most favorite politician and that's certainly not coz she scores nil in the personal grooming department. But when the Tabloid of India screamed out a half page ad announcing her govt's achievements in 100 days, I found the story too interesting to miss. The relevance of the aesthetically disastrous ad had also artificially heightened due to my touch & go visit to lucknow the previous day.

I was genuinely interested in giving the lady a fair chance-I'd just re-read my own crash post and decided against judging (or at least decided I'd judge less- with Mr Judge-ria & Ms. Judge-a-thon doing a relentless & tremendous job of doing that, I didnt miss it that much). I mean we did hear about Laloo and his IAS army doing a solid job of turning around Railways etc. So I did read the "ad" with all the objectivity i could muster.

There were some 30 odd points and I read through them all. An excerpt:
The grammar was as expected- abysmal-but so was the quality of the "achievements". To tell police officers to register FIRs and to decide to appoint school teachers takes 100 days?? Demanding crores from the central govt-Reserving more seats for SC/ST-transferring jails from one department to another because of increasing "anarchy"- This is the work a state govt accomplishes in 3 months and then boasts about???
And then comes the news that Reliance retail and Spencer's hyper cant sell fruits and veggies coz it upsets the law and order situation in the state and since no one knows how soon the elections may happen-why annoy farmers-just ask retailers to shut shop coz they might just upset all those intermediaries who provide the moolah and muscle for the party.
And in the midst of all this, the Times of India is creating a ruckus about its Lead India campaign-it's seeking to be the Rang De Basanti agent of change. Quite good and positive-that move. Though it did pinch me- this blatant assumption of a man leading India (their recruitment ads are peppered with "he", "him" and "his", when describing potential candidates & expectations)-I just felt sad, not neccessarily agitated.
Maywati just proved how silly fighting a gender debate is-though she does make a fine case for equality- equally terrible , equally repulsive and equally avoidable as Mulayam!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Good mood induced by good food & sundry others

The mood's awesome!!
And it has ze lot to do with the lovely lunch I treated me and family to at Original Sin.(highly reco'd-the food i.e. Dont think my family would like the idea of you wanting to try them). I want to learn how to make hummus-so I can keep more than myself happy :P (dont think everyone will get this-but that's ok)
Promotion news natually thrilled me but for a shorter period than expected-the effect wore off after the first 12 hrs-but that's usually the case with me-bad or good, things can't hold me for too long. The move to marketing is a bitter-sweet pill-Sweet coz i asked for it and finally got it-bitter coz in some ways, its like starting all over again. I just hope I can stick to this function for long enough-2 yrs in sales, almost 2 in CMK....I almost expect myself to find myself in finance or IT after 2 yrs! Dont bother absorbing that-its just my usual schizo cynical self. (why else do you think i'll sit and analyze my own good mood)
Good tidings also took the form of my UK visa approval-one less 'what-if' to get tormented by! And most of the hostels are booked too-save for salzburg. But the europe trip plan deserves an individual post. So getting on with another good mood inducer. X visited my orkut page and since curiosity could be my shorter middle name (current one is a mere 14 alphabets), I visited X's page and I blessed him-with a hearty laugh. Read on:
X says:
i m tough guy (ooh)......difficult to understand (dude-most ppl like it simple and if you understand yourself, wont really put it past others)...slightly romantic (ok!) ,,,,,, (notice how the comma has been used as a fullstoppish pause) highly temperd (with jeera and rai?),,i luv to make frnds (n i also thnk u lrnt ur eng thro sms).......but i don't like girls who show exessesive attitude (lil attitude u can take, huh?)........i like soft girls who can understand me exactly wat i m (contradiction-weren't you difficult to understand and what's this obsession with soft-u mean soft spoken, soft skin, soft in the head....a pillow?).........i simply give up myself in front soft girls.......... (Even i give up!)
Sorry-rather mean, but I honestly, dont understand how or why someone would say such things-about themselves too! Tee hee. And to think the guy had put Pierce Brosnan as his profile pic. You asked for it, bugger!!
I'm supposed to move house tomorrow,but there's no sign of the cartons the movers promised-Hmm...why do I sense my mood shifting to anxiety!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whoa Woe Europe

Have done precious little today except for random 'classified as admin' work. Searched for hostels in venice, innsbruck and salzburg and navigated through unpronouncable names and impenetrable locations. I dread being recognized for what I truly am, when I finally get there. And before I go any further, I am taking a budget vacation across Europe-London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Innsbruck, Salzburg & Munich. (No. not with my significant other. Why-coz he has work to do. Who with then- a close friend. No she's not in singapore. She's an Indian doing her PhD in the US. No. Im not gay.Yet)
Now that I've answered the unasked and hitherto unanswered questions, time to start describing my woes. We want to see the world on a shoe-string budget. Nothing wrong with that-except that decision leaves you wandering in the maze called "hostels".
I think the primary problem is that there is just so much information-Rough Guide, Lonely planet,,, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Info overload just acquired a mighty ominous dimension. All I wanted was a glamorous sounding, scenic, backpacking vacation-why, just why, didnt anyone tell me about all the work involved in getting there!!
All hostels by rule, have and equal measure of both good and bad reviews, which just confuses the hell out of you or leaves you with no choice! Everything's good and everything's bad. This one has complaints about the bed, the security sucks at this place, this one has curfews, this one is too noisy. References are only a tad better. It just seems to boil down to putting your money where your karmic circle ends and breathe and wait for the trade-off to play out during your stay.
Im an Indian and I need a visa to go anyplace worthwhile on this planet, other than des of course :P The UK ppl want me to give them all possible details to assure them that i do have money to take care of myself in the 4 days that i'm there. So after 2 trips to the application centre and the biometric test & loads of dollars later, my application has been submitted. "if all goes well", i should get my visa by the end of this week/ Monday. After which comes the next step of the Schengen visa (im beginning to believe its a spelling & pronunciation conspiracy- Pray for me. And save some for next week.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Rubik

Dedicated to Mahesh, who solved the Rubik's cube.

Thank you, Mr. Rubik

(sung to the tune of “thank you for the music” by Abba)

And I say, Thank you Mr. Rubik
For the cube he’s twisting.
Thanks-Spaciba-my heart is singing.

A treat at Tent it got me
A coffee too, at TCC
LN-it’d have been without it
Drowning in sambhar-idli- seriously!

And I say Thank you Mr Rubik
For the cube which gave me glee.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

5 key takeaways from the offsite party

5 things to do when at the company offsite party:

a) stay away from PS LT members (applicable to both guys and girls). Their tharak coefficient hits the roof and their dignity hits rock bottom. Plague seems attractive in comparison.
b) carry your own music. How the hell do you dance to ice ice baby?
c) invest in the franchise performance-pays great dividends.
d) Keep close friends at arm's length-you'd need them in case point (a) doesnt work.
e) Thank god for filipinos-humour, compassion and good spirit. And they do know how to dance and not just wildly shake all body parts in ritualistic convulsions.

obviously not my best party ever.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

why do people blog?

For the first time, i actively went blog-hopping to read something that would interest/entertain. For the most part, the journey was happy. Till the end that ie, which is when I found myself asking why people write blogs-it to be read by others or just as a record of daily personal cribs and raves? Maybe its to be understood better or to discuss topics of common interest?
I think entries about movies/ travelogues/anecdotes are great-very involving and at least you end up with more information. Reading opinions is fun too-different strokes for different folks. And since im tech duh- i like info, even if its a helpful deluge.
Diary type entries just elicit a massive yawn-yeah, everyone wakes up and all that blah. Who cares about whether you spent a day pretending to be a vegetable or cooking one. I think as a rule, diary blog entries should just be titled dear diary to avoid any accidental and regrettable clicks. (i know i will do that-to know that my last entry was about my cold !!hehe). Self-indulgence is a very sticky vice. (no connection to the Sticky rice at AMK-passable fare)

The question remains-Dont know-lack the energy to think about this right now or maybe that's my excuse for not wanting to confront the question myself. And maybe, it just aint that deep after all.
I think I'm writing coz I like it and coz it would be rather touching to find my kids reading this 10 years from now and giving me a classic roll of the eye.
And yes, I made that up as I was writing it-so no deep seated desire of domesticity and changing nappies :) The question is sweetly evasive..aint it?- especially for bloggers.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Da Vicious Cold.

Having felt like a virus factory for the last 4 days, I just feel compelled to dedicate some alphabets to something that’s quite annoyingly dominated my life. Here’s what I realized.
a) A cold is bad-no two ways about this-almost like a warm-up during gym, it starts with a sniff or two and before you realize it, the bloody thing has started wreaking havoc on your nose by making it leak, like nobody’s business. And then again, it’s your nose not the basin to plug it up!
b) Home remedies, anyone? Well, I tried to fight it with my will and my army of countless tissues. I even tried substituting my regular pickle with amla pickle and drinking lots of orange juice (I’m all sold into the benefits of Vitamin C, u see). I was also advised to drink haldi and milk-but well, milk and I gave up on each other ages back and worked out a mid-way solution as cheese and yoghurt. And well, haldi is fine for the veggies! So something a little less disruptive for me.
c) The time comes when you just need to wisen up and yes, take that dreaded tablet which promises to put an end to your watery woes, but also makes your super drowsy. The state of zombie-ness starts and you feel the processing power of your brain ebbing away.
d) After 2-3 tablets, voila, a miracle-and you can turn your back on the tissues. But hey…why does my nose feel like a clogged drain-a choked pipe-a blocked passage? Oh, now’s the time you need to take a mucus decongestant and/or take steam!! Oh damn at least I could breather earlier!
e) I’ve heard of husbands getting sympathy pains when their wives go into labour and found the whole thing quite amusing-but honestly, all traces of humour evaporated with my throat getting sympathy pains for my nose-it was as though, in a sacrificial filmy mood or some directions from the organ union, my throat had asked to share the pain and the bad times. I officially had a cough.
f) Armed with a cold and cough is not really the best time to go to a movie-I was equipped for the temperature inside-have been in Singapore long enough to know how Siberian the theatres can be-but not quite prepared for the inopportune timing of my relentless sneezes and hearty coughs-I salute the patience and fortitude of those around me-bear they surely did with me-albeit with a silent curse and a handkerchief to their nose.
g) One of the most debilitating effects of the cold has been my inability to smell anything-good or bad-feels terrible to be devoid of one of the senses that I really took for granted-I realized how much it means to me- half the joy of cooking was lost coz I could no longer savor the aroma of the spices, and half my judgment of the end results! Also, I felt rather dumb putting on perfume coz I just didn’t know whether it was enough or too much! Lost half my appetite (which, going by the steady increase in weight, is not half bad). Oh god, please invent a way to grant a cold, but without the loss of the power to smell!
h) I also, understood for the very first time, the power of receptivity and what brand loyalty means. The first one is on how I suddenly seemed to notice the Strepsils ad on the train and the vicks drops on the 7-11 cash counter-unreal. My head and nose were sufficiently blocked for me to trace my steps to Mustafa after the Saturday lunch-after several rounds of directions and aisle hunting, I was told that Vicks Vaporub was out of stock-And just listening to my vehement NO to the store assistant’s suggestion that I look for something else, made brand loyalty a very personal emotion. (I do love Vicks for its unduplicated & totally reliable way of giving me a good night’s sleep-even with the monstrous cold)

Ah well, I haven’t quite recovered and the struggle to beat the cold continues-only know, I’ve paid heed to my mom’s advice and started my course of antibiotics-I think this dual damage of losing both taste and smell might just work as well as the GM diet! Here’s to good health!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Give me hope, Joanne!

We met Joanne on Saturday. She took us to the zoo along with her other friends and colleagues who took others to the zoo as well. She helped us find our way through the zoo & reach the designated spots on time; made sure we didn’t miss the animal shows and the interaction with domesticated animals. She clicked photographs like a pro, kept us entertained with her wild antics- all this while keeping a watchful eye on us and making sure that we had our meals on time, and that we expressed our appreciation & enjoyment clearly & unabashedly.
Joanne really gave us a lot-not only a feeling of unprecedented responsibility, compassion & sensitivity towards other’s needs but also countless opportunities for genuine smiles, laughter & fun.


This is Joanne-a kid with multiple disabilities, whose mental & physical growth is lagging behind her years. I, along with a few other friends and colleagues were volunteers for kids like Joanne from AWWA’s school for children with disabilities. ( And if you are generating those thoughts of sympathy and pity in your head-abandon them now! For make no mistake, the eight year old may look like she’s four, but the lady’s a man-eater, a charming live wire who gives differing versions of her age depending on the target audience :) Incidentally, her favorite animal is a pig and she’s slightly scared of animals, but was brave enough to venture out to the zoo & be near animals like us!
Here’s one of the snaps she clicked ----->

Yes, she needs assistance to do basic stuff that kids her age don’t even spare a thought for-But the playful and vivacious kid made us realize things that time-strapped, ‘now’-driven selfish adults like us, don’t spare a thought for-How doing something worthwhile can lend a delightful glow to your otherwise mundane clockwork existence, how a genuine smile from Jo was worth much more than the empty laughter & the fake pleasure of random parties & how simple everyday things acquire a whole new dimension when you see it from a different (her) point of view.

What made it even more fantastic was meeting really nice people (thanks Connie-especially for the snaps) and sharing those wonderful moments with Mahesh (whose organization gave us the chance to volunteer for this).
Thank you Joanne, for making me realize the deep sense of gratitude that I now feel towards everything and everyone I usually took for granted and snapping me out of the self- induced pool of disenchantment & cynicism.
Thank you for the positive thoughts & feelings you left me with. I hope to see you soon :) (Though I feel I’m cheating you with giving you just time and getting so much more in return).

(for those of you who are in Singapore and have a desire to put your time/money to good use, the AWWA school is located near Ang Mo Kio & welcomes volunteers-for more details follow the link.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Crash. Boom.Bang- What a movie!

Biggest miss of 05-06- Not having watched “Crash”. Will not dwell too much on the how and why not (because there simply is no reason or excuse). But I guess this is a call to action for all those miserable cinema buffs who missed this movie.

What I like about the movie is that it's unassuming and stays true to the theme of how dangerous & wasteful it is to stereotype people and why judging the faces and acts around you, on the basis of melanin deposits, postal addresses and net worth, is severely detrimental to your being, especially in the era that we live in.

The movie lures you into judging and then just when you've trudged the hill, allowed yourself a pat on the back for traversing the cliff of that judgment, it gently pushes you onto the edge-to make you see how wrong you were in assuming what you did , when you judged.Of how wrong those milestones were. And how wrong you were to have climbed that cliff.
Black and white. Yellow and Brown. All shades of humanity do a wild dance on the palette called the screen and make you see the world in all new colors.

Who’s the hero-someone who appears racist, but is quite literally baptized noble, by fire? Or someone who is shamed by these acts of racism, but commits something irrevocably horrifying, simply because he tuned into the wrong frequency of suspicion (based on color)?

What’s right and what’s wrong? Who's the sinner and who deserves to be the glorious saint?
The movie provokes you into questioning your own deep rooted beliefs-things about your faith, about your behavior in society, about the people you know-and the scary part is you always took these things for granted-as natural as your breath-based on what you’ve been taught, what you’ve imbibed from your family-so much so, that just acknowledging these things which have so far been invisible atoms of your existence, becomes a source of amazement. It's like being pushed into a swimming pool and realizing that you can't breathe the way you've been breathing all your life.
Turning interrogator, jury and defence on your own self is tricky. What right do I have to judge whether an American is being racist when similar accusations can be made against me and the crime proved? Do I not cringe when I see a dark unfamiliar face peering at me in the train? Why is it easier to smile at someone pretty and with blue eyes? Why did I assume that the person who just spoke in a language I dont understand was saying something rude about me? Just how deep seated is this prejudice when I can not get rid of this inspite of the realization that an individual’s goodness is not dependent on his ethnicity or the texture of his skin. Is mere realization strong enough for me to dispel all shadows of doubt and trust people for what they are and not what they appear to be?
Generate your own set of questions-go beg or borrow this DVD, if Crash missed provoking you. Also, one word of advice- stay away from Babel, the me-too movie tries to be a Crash II and fails miserably-The beauty of Crash is that its is about people like us, people who err and flounder but never seem to preach. Babel does quite the opposite-aims to address what it thinks are the world’s problems by creating & strengthening stereotypes.
And well, on the case of Realization instigated by Crash vs Yours Truly, sentence is deferred, until further notice. After all, its not easy to judge after having watched Crash!