Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For Hire

....in a small town in Madhya Pradesh are two of the world's most recognizable cartoon characters :) Along with sundry other party supplies.
The Nonchalant Evidence


(Raj Orchestra & DJ- Stage decoration, security guard, mickey and donald are available for hire)

I don't know about you, but I find the lady in the sunglasses, doing some form of "chale chalo" type exercise most distracting and irrelevant.

Of course the vision of some poor guys in vague furry costumes dancing to a shrill orchestra singing 'beedi jalayee le' could also be filed under 'disturbing entertainment'. I'm still trying to fathom why the security guard would mention on that board. I mean yes, I get that his services are available-but why exactly? To control drunken brawls or to ensure that in lieu of the actuals, no one takes Mickey Singh and Donald Kumar home?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crack in the Connection

I’ve loved most animation movies that Pixar and Disney produced for us. The ilk of Finding Nemo, Ice Age (all parts), Shrek, The Lion King, Shark Tale, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, and Ratatouille has always meant more to me than all the Bonds and Joneses put together.
Most of these stories have simple (but not simplistic!) plots with very identifiable characters and great animation. But what makes them really sparkle is the human insight these capture perfectly and effortlessly- be it a father’s endless paranoia about his son; a parent's desperation to be admired by their kids; a kid’s ardent desire to do something different from those around him; the resistance to change; giving a second chance to someone you think is the villain or the eternal dilemma of understanding what success is all about-all these stories connect with us because besides being based on universal themes, they are rooted in thoughts and ideas of real people. That the film makers beautifully weave these into dramatic storylines, magnificent landscapes and likeable characters is an added bonus.
Or so I thought.
The past few weeks have thrown at me animation movies that were ostensibly appealing in the trailers but have turned out to be anything but. I’ve sat through Madagascar 2 and Bolt in the last month and am now even hesitant to say I’m looking forward to Ice Age 3.

When did animation movies become so formulaic and soul-less? When did the special effects guy supersede the script writer? You could almost imagine the check-box approach that these movies & their makers took:
- Goofy but heart of gold character: Check
- Some witty punchlines based on current affairs: Check
- Some cool celebrity voice dubs : Check
- Unlikely characters becoming friends: Check
- One song with populist potential: Check
- Panoramic nature shots: Check
- Journey that leads to self-discovery: Check
- Heart and Soul: With so many checks, this one can be ignored.
- Emotional Connection: What’s that?

There are many things that you can learn to do very effectivly though a manual- there are still others that you can make more efficient through a template. An animation movie is not one of those!
Pixar and Disney- Please do not mix and match modules from what’s worked in the past. Individually beautiful pieces do not a harmonious whole, make! Indulge not in a shallow make-over of old characters and a less than clever rehash of situations. A stale story delivers a still born movie. Infuse fresh breath-Keep the connection raw and alive! It's simple- Tug at the heart and you wont need to tug at the purse strings.
Ice Age 3 will be watched, yes but by a pair of very skeptical eyes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Waded in the Sea of Blue

On 7th Dec,2008, M and I completed 10 km in 67 mins and 74 mins respectively. But since this is my blog, guess who the exclusive bragging rights went to?
The 2008 StanChart Singapore Marathon was hugely inspiring. For there were 7700 women who ran 10 km and the person writing this was a part of that statistic. In total, 47000 people participated and hopefully completed the race in different categories- 10 km was the "fun run", in case you took the part about me bragging seriously. The winner completed the race in a little more than 2 hrs. Yes, that's right- there are human beings who are capable of running 42 km in that time.
I loved the way the event was so well organized- there were very visible and very accurate signs leading to the venue. There were sufficient baggage counters and a 5 seconds waiting time. There were enough and more volunteers to help, in case you suffered from the disease of being able to ignore very visible and very accurate signs. There were plenty of mobile toilets, drinks stations and first aid counters. There was also total respect for order and punctuality.
You can tell by that glowing paragraph that I will run again next year- to wade in the sea of blue yet again. In 2009, I will train better and make an effor to conquer 21 kms. My target is 2 hrs. And my middle name just became determination.
(that sounded better in my head-oh, whatever)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

And I got an award

Compliments in the real world challenge me a bit for I really have not been trained very well in receiving them with grace and good humour. A response becomes either an investigation into the person's motives or vehement disagreement with what he/she said. Please note, this is mostly in a work context. With friends and family, I am more often than not, a petty beggar who fishes for compliments quite blatantly.

With online awards, I haven't had much experience purely because I have not received any. Ahem, save the pity and stock up on the applause- Quack Rites aka Goofy Mumma has bestowed on me, my first blogger award....which tells me my blog is cool.
I'm conveniently ignoring the fact that it is called a Butterfly award (*gulp*). I am most definitely not a social butterfly, nor is there stark evidence of me having emerged all glamorous after a sojoun in a warm cocooon- at this point, I shall suspend logic the same way as I do when I watch Heroes. Since I'm not sure what category this truly represents, I will pass this on to some blogs which are pleasant and add color to my life. Yeah. Kinda.
(This was the urge to find similarities with a butterfly, playing out. It's now retired hurt. It definitely hurt my readership prospects.)
3 Cool Blogs I enjoy reading. Read their posts and discover your own reasons for liking them.
1. Jabberwock- Such unbridled wit and humour. Also preciously good writing.
2. Bohemian Rhapsody-She's unpretentious, balanced and funny. Very refreshing read.
3. Living on a Jet Plane- His sarcasm rocks and he writes in this quasi-Wodehouse style with Indian sensibilities that makes it essential reading.
The tag does need a mention of 10 blogs and some other rules. I'm sticking to 3. I'm in that kind of a mood today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I might as well admit it....

....I'm addicted to:
a) Makeover shows: I watch Style by Jury- have watched Oprah episodes on free makeovers. Heck I even loved movies with a makeover theme or even a makeover scene (Pretty Woman, OSO, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (yeah!), Chaalbaaz (ok, maybe this doesnt strictly fall in this category-but we'll just extend the addiction to make'unders'- Remember, Rohiti Hattangady?), Taal etc. My 2 second pop psycho-analysis tells me that this could be because a) I'm in need of a makeover b) I love magical results without too much stress and hard work, c) Appearance can transform a person and d) just. I'd go with option d). Anyone who thought I'd choose a) doesnt really know egoistic me.
b) Audition rounds of reality shows: It's serious business, this. India seems to be the land of a billion talented people and also the land of a milllion TV channels just falling over themselves to bring this talented mass to the fore through the means of a 1000 odd reality shows. Sing, dance, act, stand on your nose, fart the loudest, have an attitude, - the term talent is loosely defined and the reality is rather un-quietly stage managed. I have come to hate these talent shows that ultimately provide a platform only for out-of-work and hence-on-your-screen judges and publicity hungry film folks who troop in to promote a release and mouth gems such as "two of you all were mind blowing", " you are a good package" etc. But what I don't ever miss are the auditions of these reality shows-Roadies, Indian Idol, American Idol and Saregamapa-you name it and I would have most likely made an effort to catch the auditions. Such precious eye-opening lessons in understanding human behaviour!- Move aside quantitative studies- one episode of Roadies Auditions is enough to make me aware of how people think, feel, react and interact. Even the most moronic episodes are revealing, if not entertaining. So take my advice, skip the shows- watch the auditions.
c) My 'satin'- Faithful companion of countless years, my security blanket, unlike me, is ageing well. No matter how rough my day or how terrible my mood, I just pull it over my head and it soothes my nerves and keeps the cruel world (exclusive of M) at bay. Laugh not, I can manage sleep without it (now), only I don't want to.
d) Pickles- I love pickles and have at least 4-5 jars at my place at any given point in time. Different flavors of course! As a consequence of this addiction, I end up spending the maximum time in Mustafa's Pickles section that has a mouth-watering, slurp-inducing array of pickles.
e) My lull-to-sleep playlist-I love music and on most nights, just before I go to sleep, I play an assortment of songs that are high on melody and low on beats. Currently the playlist comprises- a)"Vellai Pookal" from Kannathil Mutthamital-filled me with hope and peace, even when I didnt know the meaning of the lyrics. b) Chanda Re from Eklavya- it's meant to be a lullaby :) c) O Saathi Re from Omkara- because you can touch the notes of love in the tune and the lyrics d) Scarborough Fair & Bridge over Troubled Waters by Simon & Garfunkel- For lyrics that include "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" and for tunes that refuse to leave me. e) O Re Pakhi from Khoya Khoya Chaand and f) Raat Hamari Toh from Parineeta-To me, these just appear at their best at night.
I was tagged to do this by Goofy Mumma when Lehman was still around, when recession was a word long forgotten and when the media debate was about Obama and Clinton- yeah, the good ol' days when consumer sentiment, the stock market indices and credit ratings were up.
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And since I have not provided any running updates for a long time, here goes:
3 Running attempts in 2 weeks (India): Delhi and Chennai runs were eventful only because I was chased by dogs in the park and on the beach. Very haha not. To ensure I dont tempt fate and dogs in central India, I ran in the gym in Bhopal.
2 runs on the road (yes, I've migrated from the track) with M (make that run behind M!)- 4 km on Monday and 5.5 km today-all in about 30-35 mins. All the coolness will get challenged day after when the goal is to touch 7 km. Till then, adios.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ears on Strike

Sleep deficit was a rather inevitable consequence of a hectic fun and work (notice how the two get separate mentions-the conjunction is deliberate) filled week in India. Loads of experiences to be recounted but that's for later, when I'm back home. (hopefully, it should bear a semblance of home, given that M is managing things on his own.)
For the moment, I leave you with this:
ASR and I were being given a free ride to the outskirts of Bengaluru by a company executive who had volunteered to take us there, when we could have easily taken a cab. That he greeted us with the enthusiasm of a tourist who's glimpsed Taj Mahal for the first time, should have given me an indication of things to follow.
Now most people are not at their best in the morning. Most people understand and respect this unwritten rule of "allow time and space and no converastion" till the person recovers and makes the first move.
Now, this rather enthusiastic and chirpy young executive who I shall dub Duracell Bunny, for it is shorter than saying "enthusiastic and chirpy young executive", did not fall in the category of "most people" and insisted on making conversation.
If you have begun to wonder why we were going to the outskirts of Bengaluru, well-that makes two of us. I think you will wonder a wee bit more when I tell you that the Duracell Bunny chose to drive us in an Omni-yes, the vehicle and spits, shakes and sputters when it reaches the glorious speed of 60 kmph. Which should ideally not make it the vehicle of choice for people suffering from sleep deficit and a natural proclivity towards sleep, when in motion.
So anyway, Duracell Bunny had resolved to emit sound bytes and ignore yawns and all other body language signals that scream " Stop speaking"/ "I'm in no mood to talk"/ "silence is golden". He asked us how we found Bangalore. When we'd arrived in Bangalore. What we did the previous day. What we were doing in the evening. You get the drift?
At one point in time he actually asked us " what happened- are you guys bored- why aren't you talking". Considering that I and ASR can both give each other a tough fight on "who's more asocial", we returned the question with what else, more silence.
Actually no- I did manage an excuse to stay silent- since it was rather stupid, I am choosing to forget it. To avoid any more silly Q&A, I thought I'd pretend that I am asleep- though that turned out to be a bigger effort, what with the Omni rattle, Duracell Bunny's eager & breathless narrative and the Tamil music doing an irritating 'jugalbandi'.
So I opened my eyes, for it was getting too hot for the sleep pretence game, and attempted to participate in the conversation that ASR and Duracell Bunny seemed to be engrossed in.
Duracell Bunny was giving us highlights of the town that we were about to approach. Suddenly, he realized that I was awake and this raised his enthusiasm several notches-he turned back and asked me "Do you like drinking?".
I admit I was a bit taken aback (some people would term it 'shocked'). This did seem like a very bold question but then i put it to my being an NRI and having missed this piece in India's liberalization and evolution of values. I managed to recover with a smile only to be told by Duracell Bunny that the town had great places for drinking and that we could go there.
Now I didn't really fancy going to a local 'tharra' bar with Duracell Bunny, much as that would have reminded me of my earlier sales route (shady bars and theatres that were customers for aerated beverages). Seeing my baffled expression and raised eyebrows, ASR intervened with a hearty laugh and an explanation " He means Trekking, not drinking". I recovered fully now and told Duracell Bunny that since I was wearing sandals I couldn't really go trekking in them.
My ears and mind, I declare, go for a toss when trying to deciphering the thick south Indian accent that makes card and curd, drinking and drayking sound the same.
On a positive note, though, my faith in Good Old Indian Values has been duly restored :)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

4 Movies. 4 Questions

This week was rather movie-heavy, what with the serious looting and plundering of Panda's DVD collection. Could have reviewed but most of these movies have been watched and re-watched by most who watch movies. I leave you with the movies and the first question that came to my mind after watching them. {R= repeat viewing}
1. Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (R)- Who in the world conceptualized and finally painted all that stuff in Genelia's bro's room? Move aside, Imran Khan, I'd like to meet that brilliant person.
2. Welcome to Sajjanpur- Why was this movie made and who was this targeted towards? Was the idea to introduce village life to slick city dwellers or to show the mirror to our country cousins for introspection?
3. Johnny Gaddar (R)- Why can't more movies be like this one, with attention to detail, no hamming, no lip synching to songs, with a tight script and yes, a story?
4. PS I Love You- Could we promise to not lose our tempers so easily and to not squabble about silly issues? That way we could spend more time building happy memories and less time creating situations and scenes to regret.
Lined up for next week are Kismat Konnection, Blue Umbrella, The Prestige and Hazaaron Khwahishein aisi (R). The only question is on the first one-Do I feel brave enough to watch it after all those reviews that labelled it a disaster?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For the Madrasi Mundas. Aaho.

This is my response to the forward that told us what North Indian and South Indian girl stereotypes could read like. Since I have no clue who wrote it, the inspirational forward shall be given a miss due to copyright issues. Leave me a comment and I promise to forward.
Here, all you'll get is my take. If you don't like it, I shall direct you to a better take on North Indian boys. Deal.
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Chennai Boy
Disclaimer: (Any resemblance to the lead character in my life is coincidental- note some of these don’t apply to him :P)
-Grew up on a diet of thair chadam and vatta kozhamba and other unpronounceable names that give no indication of ingredients.
-Sees no utility for a spoon or a fork or a bowl. All he needs is a plate and his right hand. Mind it. - Goes bonkers if while switching channels, he encounters images of fat girls and old men dancing together to a double beat. You hear him mumble ‘classic’ at these times.
- Goes bonkers and makes you go bonkers if by some stroke of luck, he catches Rajni or Kamal on the above channels. He forgets you are in the room at these times.
- Knows no difference between baag (garden), bhaag (run), Bagh (tiger).
- Is sure to spell Shweta as swetha.
- Wakes up to suprabhatam everyday.
- Thinks it’s completely natural for someone to wear a bindi even when she’s not dressed in Indian attire.
- Does not give second thought to slithering on the floor because it’s too hot.
-Thinks girls in sphagetti tops are quite “bold”
-Thinks all girls in north India are fair and hence, beautiful.
- On spotting a fellow Tam (always a machchan), will break into Tamil, unmindful of non-Tam company.
- Drinks more coffee than water
- Genetically wired to make great dosas, great coffee and unfortunately, a great mess at home.
- Hates breakfasts that consist of toast/ muesli/ cornflakes.
Since you've reached this far- go further on your mad rush to absorb more stereotypes.
Over to the queen of hyderabad.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Presenting Daruwala


Our glorious bar cabinet- sirf naam hi kaafi hai.
I'm tired. That was 2014 words.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gondola city : Venezia

(Sept 17th 2007)
For Venice, we'd decided to go off the beaten track and had booked ourselves in a camp (Alba D' Oro)- that this was the cheapest option available, just made the decision easier. At 19 euros per person, an ensuite camp caravan wasn't a bad deal at all! Trust me, sleeping in a room with only one other person (as opposed to the 6-8 in a dorm room) was a welcome change and the sound sleep that we enjoyed was replendent proof.
The camp was about 20 mins away from the main city and the camp runs shuttle buses on the hour. As with most tourist cities, they offered a wide range of passes and cards based on your interest. We bought the Orange card, but that that turned out to be a huge waste of 22.90 Euros as we were hardly in the mood for museums and churches, having nearly exhausted our cultural cravings in Paris and Rome.
We started with San Marco Square (for those of you who'd had the 'fortune' of watching Bachna Ae Haseeno, this is the square where "Khuda Jaane" was shot- and now if you'll stop imagining Ranbir with his arms outstretched, we can move ahead) and then taking pity on our Orange card, went to the Doge museum.
Now the Doge was no ruler- rather a nominal head of Venice. Now, we are Indians and we know our president. So we understand what a nominal head means, yeah? So the Doge museum was some sort of a presidential palace and now it houses artefacts and the likes. In the era gone by, Venice enjoyed the reputation of being a busy trading and merchant port and the lion, its official mascot, represented Venetian dominance over land and sea. The lion also served to underline the differences between Venice and the Roman Church.
Although charming, the Doge museum didn't really hold our interest. What was infinitely more interesting was walking around Venice's ever-fascinating and sometimes-stinking walkways, crossing canals and hearing the gondoliers sing to (and fleece) romance-stricken tourists. Here's a video of the gondoliers.
video
The thumbs down factors were (a) the terribly over-priced and less than delicious food and (b) the crowds. Now, coming from an Indian that might sound slightly weird, but you do feel the magical ambience wearing down a bit when you see more tourists than locals. Also, more hands with maps and more fingers on the flash buttons mean more mouths to be fed and more wallets to be lightened. Really missed the great, cheap food of Rome!
Venice was also the first European destination to leave me lighter by several hundred Euros-I bought a few Murano glass pendants (hold it up to the light and you'll see colorful patterns dancing in front of you :) and.... a Venetian mask, which could easily be the most expensive piece of home decoration that I've bought or plan to buy in the near future. And here it is, my gorgeous Venetian mask, in rose and gold (esp for you Goofy Mumma!). It currently occupies the place of pride in my living room. Though I've realized that it does take some taste to appreciate something as exquisite. I was rather annoyed when a well meaning colleague asked me" tumhe isse raat ko darr nahi lagta" but then chuckled to myself realizing it would be quite funny if I-the scaredy cat, were to ever get up at night and see a gold face with hollow eyes staring back.
And since I've already declared my inability to stop at a single item of purchase, I also bought a charcoal painting- which the artist created from scratch, in a matter of minutes and exclusively for me! Here's the picture of the painting and also a small video of Marco skilfully converting a few strokes of charcoal into a Venetian landscape.
video
This Venetian extravagance also meant that I and G skipped the gondola ride- At 80 euros a ride, we figured we'd save it for a more romantic episode in our lives. All said and done, Venice did turn out to be quite a romantic place- nowhere else, did I miss M as much or as often. Little wonder then, that a lot of people tend to make this a honeymoon destination. (Crowds are the root cause of all evil-refer point (b) above).
The great wine that accompanied dinner, compensated for the mediocre food and we ended the day, singing peppy Hindi film songs while walking to our ferry- we got a few stares and someone even commented on our happy state of being. Though embarassed for a moment, we quickly raised our faces and decibel levels and carried on singing.
The wine and song induced happy daze cleared up rather quickly when we realized that we'd missed our shuttle bus. We ended up taking public transport all the way to the airport and from there to the camp, thereby spending about 1.5 hrs to complete a journey of 20 mins. Another minor tragedy awaited us back at the camp- in our morning hurry to catch the bus, we'd left the caravan window open. It had rained during the day and the casualty of the downpour was my unfortunately located bed. Since I was too tired to protest and it was meaningless to sulk (M wasn't around to pamper), I just pretended it was a second class railway berth and crashed.
Traveller's Tip#1- Please buy your day card with care- we ended up wasting our money!
Traveller's Tip#2- Bargain with the gondoliers. Everybody does it. For a reason.
Traveller's Tip#3- Shop at the stores located at some distance from the main tourist spots. Even a distance of 200 m can save you 2-10 euros, depending on what you buy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Office crimes

Always brought on a smirk.-this sign in my office loo which told visitors to flush the toilet, throw waste in the basket and show courtesy to the next user. I wondered why they'd bothered to put such a stupid sign up. We were all educated grown ups who presumably had been toilet trained and did possess some basic sense of hygiene.
Imagine my shock then when at 8 pm today evening, I walked into a loo that resembled an unkempt public loo which had the tap open, tissue paper strewn on the floor and horror of horrors, the flush signal furiously blinking red!
The smirk has turned into dismay and disgust. Though guilty of hiring some process donkeys, my company has on an average, done a reasonably good job of hiring smart people. No one I know could I associate with such idiotic behavior. This is not an unwilling fart in the lift that you can try and fail to ignore. It just smacks of apathy, for what kind of hurry could induce such wilful neglect and indifference? What excuse could justify this utter lack of regard for others?

Now I'm wondering why that sign isn't in font size 42 because clearly a gentle reminder is not enough for people who work late but whose sense of shame has left early. Or why the instructions aren't more detailed with pictures & bold illustrations because clearly some of us haven't surpassed toddlers in matters of comprehension and propriety. Or why the cleaning staff must bear the brunt of these office crimes while the guilty roam scot free, making presentations to unsuspecting colleagues.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pyaar ke side effects

It's supposed to be a well known and widely acknowledged fact that a boy needs only two belts- brown and black. Since I was on an expedition to another galaxy when they made one and all aware of the above fact, I merrily bought M 3 belts on his birthday. You know, I thought variety would be nice. Also, I have a technical flaw-can't really buy ONE of anything. As far as I can remember, clothes and accessories have always been bought by me in 2's and 3's.
If I thought the ridicule and laughs that followed the unveiling of the gifts was the worst that could happen, I was wrong. You see, M also has a technical flaw- he's a boy. And by definition, that means ridding self of all accessories-wallet, watch, company id, coins, handkerchief- at no fixed spot, each time one comes back home. The dining table, the centre table, the desk, the kitchen counter, the ironing board, the bar counter, the side crockery cabinet, my dressing table, the printer- all have been blessed at some point or the other with his highness' mess.
Now the wallet, company id, watch etc are all essentials and leave with the bearer the next morning- all except the belt because thanks to the generous wife, he proudly owns FIVE of them- 5 belts to strew around the house, as he pleases. So the belts sit pretty in their corners- only to be discovered during the weekly dusting mission. To twist a line from Asian Paints: Har ghar ka kona kuch kehta hai. Ki is konay mein har week ek naya belt rehta hai.
Now I know why boys only need 2 belts. I also know what self inflicted pain means.
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In his mind, M equates the bed to an open cupboard, with the result, that the actual cupboard yearns to be populated with clothes, socks or even belts, while the bed in the guest room resembles a clothes' village after a typhoon. The disarray does not attract M's attention but puts me in distress mode.
So I neatly fold all his clothes and restore the bed to some degree of order only to have M tell me in an excited voice " You know our house has magic elves. They fold clothes!" M also refers to the part time maid as our weekly fairy godmother. Sigh.
Do you know of a fairy tale character who spanks kids who mess up their rooms? M needs to be introduced to that character. Before I become the wicked witch of the north/west.
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We've watched quite a few Hindi movies heavy on Urdu/Punjabi words in the recent past (Khuda Kay Liye, A Wednesday, Singh is King)- enough to have taught M the use of words & phrases such as " fakr hai", "mehfooz", "mehsoos", "ijaazat", "bhootni ke", "kamaal hai", which he uses in the most unlikely situations- e..g instead of how are you, he asks me "sab khairiyat?" on chat! Sounds ever more hilarious in person- the lovely Tam accent accentuates the fun :)
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We watch animal planet quite regularly and he keeps asking me for animals' names in Hindi. And since, I havent yet mastered the art of shoving my foot in my mouth, I tell him.
He's using baby magarmachch (crocodile) , baby gilahari (squirrel) and lakkadbagghi (hyena)as terms of endearment for me.
I quite like gilahari, though.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Roma-15th Sept07

This could very well be a post on the Colosseum- it pretty much captured our imagination and time.
The magnificent structure was built in 72 AD-Nero, Octavian and Dalmatian all played their role in its construction and eventual use. It is likely that you are a pre-historic fossil or that were born on Mars and hence haven't had the chance to watch The Gladiator , if you don't know that games of gladiators and beasts were held at the Colosseum. For 400 long years.
The structure was built with limestone, bricks, volcanic rock and marble in an intricate but highly evolved fashion- for instance, there were underground rooms that stored weapons, equipment and housed the animals in cages- the animals were later brought to the arena through a pulley system.
The seating in this torture theatre was strictly as per social class and profession- closest to the arena were the Editor and the senators, then came the priests, followed by professionals such as teachers. Plebians were to plonk themselves in the upper sections.
Cruelty kept a schedule. In the morning, beasts such as hippos and lions were tortured to death. Afternoons were reserved for the duels between gladiators and beasts. The duels were proceeded by a gladitorial procession which began from the Arch of Constantine ( if the name sounds familiar, it's because he was the founder of Constantinople and also the emperor who stopped the persecution of Christians and who converted to Catholicism). In the event, a gladiator could ask the Editor (usually the emperor) for pardon. As a glorious example of letting populism guide decision making, the Editor would then look to the crowd. Mass sentiment controlled life and death.
The church put an end to the savage and brutal games in 523 AD, after which the Colosseum became nothing more than a source of building material for the Romans-this is the reason why one wing of the Colloseum is almost gone. The pillaging stopped only after the church started using the amphitheatre for religious purposes.
Walking through those ancient corridors, listening to the commentary of the audio guide and conjuring up those images in front of me- I felt I was reliving the scenes from my favorite movie (no points for guessing!). After a while, my imagination resorted to pleas of mercy , but the sun was relentless- we literally baked in an open oven and finally when brain threatened to turn into gooey mass, we made way to the Roman forum.
It was something else. Oh, to take in the same view that 2700 years ago, was the most magnificent view for the Romans. Scenes of ordinary life and commerce played out here. History was created here. Hell, Ceaser walked along the same path. The path that was paved with betrayal and death. History lessons came alive in the midst of the famous Roman ruins.
Again, had the weather been kinder, we'd have lingered on but since we didnt want to turn into historic shrivels ourselves, we kept moving. (in retrospect, a very wise decision as the series "Rome" recreated history better than us, and in a manner that could be enjoyed in the comfort of our air-conditioned room!)
The evening was spent visiting the Pantheon, which was earlier a pagan temple and ironically, is now a church!; the tomb of the unknown soldier; Giolitti for gelato and finally the Trevi Fountain- a beautiful and majestic, (what else but a) fountain. A very cash rich fountain at that, for tourist after tourist pops in coins-this ritual is supposed to get you back to Rome one day. Yes, the stingy desis (G and I) also rummaged through the bags and found the coins of the smallest denomination to throw, in the hope of return.
We are hoping the legend does come true. Since we parted with only petty coins, I won't be surprised if we have to make the trip back on a budget airline!
Traveller's tip #1-Take the train to Colloseo- MRT station is right outside the building.
Traveller's tip#2- Be very careful of your bags etc especially in & around tourist spots and trains- we were witness to a pickpocketing scene that happened before we could blink and register what was happening. What made it worse was that it was done by a band of gypsy girls who were pretending to be pregnant. I recommend sling bags or a waist pouch!
Traveller's tip#3- Right opposite the Pantheon is a souvenir shop, run by an old couple. You'll find really nice postcards and knick knacks there. I don't remember the name of the shop but look for the adorable senior citizens- you won't go wrong!
Traveller's tip #4- If you can make this the first day of your itinerary, you'd really allow the eternal city to make its best and everlasting impression on you! That's the only thing we'd have done differently.
Traveller's tip #5- Audio guide for Colloseum is a must!
Traveller's Tip #6- Carry sunglasses, enough bottled water and some asprin. The sun can be harsher than you think and beverages around Colloseum, more expensive that you'd care to find out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Roma-14th Sept 07- Part 2

From the Basilica we moved on to the Vatican Museum, the highlight of the day- The only cribworthy factor was the linear progression scheme which meant that we had to spend time in the boring sections of modern religious art, in order to get to the Sistine Chapel.
In those days, most Art was commissioned by the church and was used to depict scenes of significance from the Bible, to impart lessons in divinity and the power of Jesus. Once such work of art that was entrusted to Michelangelo in the 16th Century was the decoration for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And from an uninspiring brief, (Decoration for the Pope's residence) and a reluctant artist (who really thought he worked his best as a sculptor) emerged this famous fresco- which means that it was painted while the plaster was still fresh, so that the paint got integrated into the wall. And this was no ordinary side wall either- but the ceiling itself, thereby making this complex process even tougher.
Standing at the centre of the room, staring at the vast canvas above you, you just can't help saluting Michelangelo and his phenomenal brain- For someone to have conceptualized and executed this fresco with no modern aids at his disposal is simply astounding. (He even created the scaffolding on which he stood and made this fresco!)
The popularity of the Sistine Chapel and it's famed ceiling also meant that we got limited gawking time. So by early afternoon, we beat an unwilling retreat to the hostel.
The quiet afternoon was spent doing groceries and cooking-buying veggies was actually the most eventful activity of the afternoon- G got ticked off at a wet market, when trying to buy tomatoes. We just thought the fat bald stall owner was being rude & racist by not letting us touch the tomatoes (!) -but then when I faced the same ticking off in a supermarket, it occured to me that there was something bigger at play here than the color card. The helper at the supermarket lived upto her job designation- she helped by directing me to the plastic gloves and it's only then that I realized that in Rome, you need to put on a plastic glove before touching fresh produce! Since we were in Rome, we did what Romans do- wore gloves and bought Pomodoro for pasta :)
Food and nap later, we walked to Piazza del Popolo, where we met a couple of G's friends, who took us to this authentic Italian restaurant. We had starters (veggie in tempura style and best mozarella cheese I've had so far) and good pasta. The real dish, though, turned out to be the owner of the restaurant!! But alas- the looker's girlfriend exuded too much hotness and the dish never made it to our table.
A post dinner walk to the Spanish Steps followed. The nice and festive atmosphere seemed so much like India-something that you'd see on a summer evening at India Gate, perhaps. We drove around and then went to Old Bridge Gelateria, which I was assured, serves the best Gelato in town. And i'd have to agree- the Bacio & Chocolate Gelato was yummy. So yeah, the day ended with good food and drink and with the promise of the Colloseum and the Roman Forum the next day. Slept giddy happy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rome-14th Sept 07- Part 1

The Day started with Basilica Di San Pietro- the world's largest church. Grand and opulent. The power and the wealth of the church left me awe-struck, but frankly, I felt it lacked the spiritual intimacy of St. Chapel or Notre Dame. The grandeur just felt...distracting.
For me religion amounts to a matter of personal faith and belief systems. I don't really think the architecture of the place of worship is going to play a tremendous role in how or how well I exercise my faith. And no-this isn't about churches. I'd say the same thing for big temples or huge mosques- the smaller and the more sparsely done up places just seem more inviting. I'd any day, choose a small corner temple over a thoroughly decked up temple with loudspeakers and light; the low key satya-narayan puja at home over a noisy display of devotion at a "jaagran"; or even a visit to local church on anyday except Sunday! I have nothing against a place being popular & crowded-The Lotus Temple in Delhi and the Golden Temple at Amritsar they do emit that precious feeling of tranquility,inspite of being on the tourist map.) I'm just against the pomp and show, the in-your-face demonstration of faith and the hyper activity of commercialization that grand places of worship tend to encourage, directly or indirectly. In some cases, scale is an advantage- in this case, it just distorts and distracts- the same way that a beautiful melody turns into an irritant if played at too loud a volume.

The other thing that made me frown was this prominent sign that informed visitors of the earlier held notion, that the Pope was answerable to no one except God. That didnt go down well with me. At the very least, each individual is accountable first to his or her own self- his/her conscience, his/her sense of right & wrong and then to others, who have played a role in shaping those thoughts and actions or bear the consequences of those thoughts/actions. Human beings are just congenitally imperfect and error prone. With time, rigour and experience, one can train to be of six-sigma quality, that too on a particular skill or task, but there's only so far that you can go. "Tends to" perfection can never equal flawless.
And I guess that's a lesson I'm learning in my life as well- I've always put up certain people on a pedestal-to me, they represent the sum total of all aspirational qualities with the benefit of experience and good judgement. Now that's a silly and a rather impractical expectation to begin with and needless to say, even a minor slip or lapse on their part had the potential to make me lose heart, feel disappointed and even, cheated. It's only off late that I've come to realize that they are not infallible-only as human and a little less error prone than me. So I expect and judge a little less and allow for more room to breathe.
So no matter how old or how revered, let humans be humans- with accountability- just don't expect them to live upto an impossibly exalted ideal.
To be continued...........................................
Bear with me...I know this hardly sounds like a merry travelogue but then it's no longer the singular heady rush of the travel memoirs-the experiences of the year that's passed between the trip and now, have also crept in. Uninvited but not unwelcome :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The day of the Sun is good for a Run.

Just when I thought I am beginning to show some promise in the fitness department....I go all out and deliver on that promise!! :) Woohoo ^10
Day 7-6 kms. 15 laps. 40 mins. followed by 1 km of walking.
Heck, this was my goal for 15th October. I love this feeling of surpassing a goal . All by myself. M's encouragement did play a minor role, I admit.

Now I don't mean to dissect my own "achievement" but since I have been accused of being overly introspective and compulsively connecting dots (by M, no less!) I will carry on in that vein. I've realized that I run best when I'm the only one on the track. When it happens to be a Sunday. And when the sun has set. All 3 conditions were fulfilled when I did 4 km previously.
I am fully cognizant of the fact that out of these, only one will remain valid for the Marathon- that of the calendar showing a Sunday!

Now, I'm a believer in equal opportunity and I don't really have the heart to disqualify the other 5000 odd earnest runners who deserve a "fun run" as much as yours truly. Nor can I sufficiently impress on the marathon organizers, the need to emulate the Singapore F1 (world's first night race) or the logic that a run without the sun can indeed be fun.
Oh well.
And you thought I was influential.
You didn't?
Just as well. Proves that you can be right once in a while.
Look what this blog does for your self esteem.
Now that smirk doesn't look very grateful to me!
Coming back to the my Sunday runs...(yeah, inspite of your smirks and dismissive head shakes, it does remain my blog and I can come back to the topic. just like that.)...The small sweaty selfish milestones that I miraculously touch on Sunday evenings are beginning to serve as the perfect antidote to the ultra-mild depression that used to let itself in , in anticipation of the Monday morning and the work week. My song for the week:
"Bhaagna meri jaan meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday
Jisse hanste gaante you can kick the butt of every Monday"
Let the week begin!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keeping Track

Error of omission. Forgot to update my running chart. This is just a running log. Go away. Actually, since you are 1 of the 10 people who read this blog, stay! :) I promise to not bore you too much.
Day 3- 10 laps. 4 kms.28 mins. My fledgling career best. I surprised myself. And the expression on M's face was somewhere betweeen delight and shock. I do realize I mentioned this in my earlier post, but what the heck- it's a glossy achievement as far as I'm concerned. Better be prepared to put up with it. For the next 10 years, at least.
Day4- 2.4 kms ( i was so disappointed with my horrible performance, i didnt even bother with the time)- though to my credit- it was blazing hot at 5 pm!! And the running track way too crowded. You could think of it as an excuse. But then what an excuse- look at what it inspired me to do!!
Day5- 11 laps. 4.4 kms. 28 mins 30s.+ 1.2 km of walking- So proud of myself. Though my family is a bit horrified at my registration at the marathon- they are very used to the idea of a seemingly "kamzor" creature who doesnt have the stamina to do a thing. (that I have become a fat blob escapes their notice. I love my family!) My mom was quite concerned and told me to take it easy or i'd be discovered "pada hua" on some road. My bro asked me whether i could manage 2 km and snorted off a very disbelieving "achcha" when i bragged about doing double the distance. But well, it's to be expected. Because it follows years of disinclination towards any physical activity. The cynicism actually makes me feels nice coz I'm doing something that's not expected from me. The rebel without a cause in me is most pleased.
Day6- 10 laps. 4 kms. 27 mins. + 1 km of walking. I'm glad about the consistency. Though a tad worried. Hope I havent reached a plateau. October shall have to give me the strength to run 15 laps at bare minimum!

Meanwhile, the boy who I live with has gone bonkers. He insists on taking protein supplements, popping vitamins, reading stuff on how to get a flat stomach by eating fibre and salads & pasta (for the record, he detested eating raw veggies and hated pasta) and brace yourself, is determined to cut down on coffee (which he easily guzzles litres of) and horror of horrors and has declared that he will have rice on rare occasions!! Yikes.
I'm finding it hard to recognize this person who is shedding all the traits that made him a Tam-brahm. The delicious irony is that he told me of his rice abandonment program just after I'd polished off a serving of sambhar rice!
How in the world am I going to explain these changes to my MIL? Gulp. Yelp. I mean, Help!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thrilled/Thumped

Thrilled
....with the fact that I too can make good filter coffee (if the decoction has already been made).
....by my 4 km run (10 laps. nonstop.28 mins)
....by the new age Hindi movies that are so real- characters are not outlandish, no one's larger than life, the situations are something you can identify with and the issues gritty, thought-provoking and controversial. ( I watched Jaane Tu, Rock On, A wednesday, Khuda Kay Liye over the past few weeks). 
....by how last weekend totally revived lacklustre life- Danced till 4 am after a really long time and the company made it all worthwhile. Good friends, I've figured are the effortless panacea to all problems....they might not be able to solve a lot of the problems but they do end up making you feel as though those issues dont really matter in the larger scheme of things.
....with the evolution of tourism boards in des- try the Kerela Tourism's tour planner. I was completely enamored by the beautiful images and the ease with which I could plan a Kerela trip (that's saying something coz I've never been there). The Tour Planner feature even recommends improvements on your travel plan and has accomodation+ayurveda centres listings depending on which locations you selected. 
....with Mint- I never knew HT could produce such a superb newspaper. 
....by my new bar cabinet- it's gorgeous and at the throwaway price we got it, it just became even more endearing.
....by finally being able to redeem miles for an SQ ticket to Delhi. I feel quite accomplished now.
....with my new pulley system clothesline that helped kick the earlier grotesque eye level clothesline out of business. Boley toh, ekdum neat and clean.
....by Singapore's efficiency in delivering what you need, when you need it- gas cylinder delivered in 20 minutes flat. How do they do it?

Thumped.....
......by how stupid & sans-common sense people at work can be. Do they not realize when things dont make sense and border on the plain ridiculous or do they realize and care not, simply because they have become conditioned to respect process and system more than simple logic?
....by existential angst that is surfacing a lot more and making me restless and uncomfortable. How long can escapism be my weapon of choice?
....by terrorism and how pointless this loss of lives is. I understand the kidnap and ransom mechanic-but dont quite get the objective being served by bringing death to ordinary people going about their daily lives?Yeah, okay maybe they want attention to their cause- but what the hell is the cause? Do they want land, money, moral supremacy...what? They are holding our security and sanity to ransom but havent really told us what they want. Or is the untimely snuffing out of lives, the price of misguided ideology and individual vendetta that ballooned into something monstrous? Is co-existence so tough? Restraint and tolerance so rare? Intelligent debates in living rooms are not the solution-but what is? I hate the vilification of one particular community or complete nonchalance, the standard response of people around us but know that merely having a strong opinion on this makes my response no better. Sigh. 

****Resuming the Europe diaries over this weeekend. Heck, it's time for the first anniversary of that trip :) Inertia needs to die.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sliver linings aren't always nice and shiny.

The intent to run was all there today morning. Any thought of action was washed away by the rain. But thanks to the glorious weather, masala chai and poha made perfect sense. So far so good. Silver lining and me-we understand each other.
But then the maid ditched us today and M took it upon himself to do all the piled up dishes. Which was quite a sacrifice as opportunity cost comprised precious X-box time and saving the world. Knight in silver shining armour to the rescue.
Doing the dishes ain't as easy as it seems (it tops my list of least preferred tasks). Dishwash foam flies.Water sprays here and there. washed vessels just seem to take up all visible kitchen space. All ordinary occurences which demand no particular attention.
But when it sounds like a cup has been dropped, I need to sit up and take notice. Oh, but the cup is fine..but it seems the stuff it was dropped on, is not quite. The smile vanishes abruptly when a chipped off bowl is put up for examination with a feeble "didn't it always have this crack?". Heck, no! Probing eyes hurriedly look for any other signs of damage. Only to find another glass bowl which used to be a bowl, but now laments the loss of its right hand side.
Ok. so the set of 6 gets reduced to a set of 4. I shrug. These things happen.
And then I heard something on the lines of " Oh good. 2 glass bowls broken means two bowls less to wash. Yay!"
I'm switching to steel and plastic now!
Or begging my maid never ever to ditch me.
I'm guessing the first is a lot easier.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And the base keeps runnin runnin

A new passion has been discovered.
Home and work have contributed in equal measure- Peer pressure (& spouse pressure) has succeeded like never before.
I've started running.
I have also signed up for the 10 km run (Stanchart Marathon-Dec7).
This is no meagre achievement for someone who is clearly not the athletic type and can possibly not count any sport, save for badminton that has been played at some competitive level.
I kid you not.The passion has truly been ignited. New shoes bought. Running track 5 mins away from home discovered. In the mood to crack the track :)
Day 2: 5+4 laps (running), 1 lap (walking). 30 mins. avg speed 8 km/hr.
On my mark. Ready to run.
ps-the daily/weekly update on how I'm shaping up vs my goal is by no means an attempt to brag (actually, you could be quizzed for substance abuse if you think running 10 kms gives bragging rights!)..Only want to keep track, with the hope that I get to gloat in Dec at how pitiably unfit i was in August! I could have maintained a chart at home-but let's say this is another form of pressure! The online escape route is now officially closed. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Humour among Thieves

Now, losing something-irrespective of how much money or time you associate with that possession, really annoys the hell out of most of us. What really adds a thick coat of frustration, though, is the discovery of theft-someone wilfully and malevolently parting you with what you call your own. It's more than a sense of violation- to know that a stranger gained access without permission and merrily took away what was loot worthy without really knowing how much the memory associated with that physical object was worth.
So yeah, if something gets stolen, you end up getting depressed, grumpy and maybe a little paranoid. But the 3 times I've had something stolen from me have just led to more complex emotions. Look, I'm normal and do mourn even the most minor of losses but dont know why these incidents seem like a feeble attempt at comic relief for whoever's writing my life's script.
Incident 1. Innocent college girl, barely 18, treasures the glitzy wallet gifted by boyfriend but knows not the pitfalls of using open cloth bags in crowded DTC buses. She encounters pushes and shoves by dirty looking gypsy lady with a kid. Waves of sympathy keep her temper in check. Stoic girl changes buses- boards an auto and arrives at her destination, only to realize that stoicism equalled stupidity and that gypsy auntie had polished off wallet and contents quite smoothly. College girl panics-cancels credit cards (yeah-she had a generous father), applies for duplicate id, library pass, club membership, license etc and sulks all week long. A week later, she receives a courier with all contents of the wallet(cards+license+college id), save for the Rs.50 & the wallet itself. With the net effect that she can't mourn the only thing which she truly misses.
Type of humour: Irony: as used in Alanis' Ironic?
Incident 2- Brave 22 yr old stays alone in a 9th storey flat (with terrace) in Baroda. Parents are not that brave and have ensured that this flat is just 4 flats on top of the relatives' apartment. Hard working girl comes back at 11 in the night to discover things strewn about in a very unseemly way. Shrugging off doubts of nephews' mischief, she runs to the 5th floor and is apprised of the day's events-An unhinged sort of character had entered another flat on the 9th floor and had demanded food from the 10 year old boy who, not knowing any better, had simply given him something to eat. And guess what that freak did with the fresh dose of energy!! Burgled the brave, hardworking girl's apartment- at considerable risk to life!! And what did his exploits cost the girl? 3 bottles of expensive perfume, her specs, a silver pendant and NOTHING ELSE. The fool left behind a laptop (presumably because he knew not what it was? maybe it was too heavy?), gold earrings (maybe he just preferred silver?maybe he didn't like the design?) and cash (this part has never been fathomed by any listeners of the tale). The police report of the loss was met with incredulous amounts of laughter and weak suggestions of a psycho admirer. The girl's angry glares were punctuated by her exasperated shrugs. The girl was later, amused at her contribution towards making an unhinged male see and smell better!
Type of humour: Dark: as used in "Jaane bhi do Yaaron"
Incident 3-Well travelled 26 year old (let's keep calling her girl, shall we?) is most excited about a girlie trip to Bali. The most stressful part of the trip for her is over by the time she's at the Singapore airport- she's managed to pack real light, you see! The arrival at the Denpasar airport proves how wrong she was. On the conveyor belt she meets her bag, which looks sullen and lock-broken. Her anxiety at this violation soon gives way to relief and idle annoyance as nothing of value is missing-her perfumes, specs and silver earrings are also very much there. Peace. Narration of this weird tale to eager audience of one is followed by a declaration of making self beach-worthy in the morning, by good use of prized epilator. Morning arrives with a scream and the realization that the epilator is missing, thanks to the glamorous silver case in which it rested. Angry 26 year old showers choicest abuses on the hirsute thief who thought of stealing nothing else but the epilator and wonders how many more unhinged thieves she'll encounter in the 60 odd years ahead. Yes, she hopes to live long. If anything, the laughter induced by the funny thieves will help longevity.
Type of humour: Slapstick, "C" grade: Think "No Entry"/ "Adam Sandler"
Potential Thieves of Humour to note: If you have any sense of dignity, shame or even some trace of logic, thou shalt not a) steal items that can never hope to get you any return commensurate with the risk involved in the theft and b) pick the writer of this blog because 1)She's been the target of your kind sufficient number of times and 2) she now stays in Safe Singapore. Hah!! Try being funny now?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Touchin Wood and all other lucky materials

Life's good.
After the hectic pace of the last couple of weeks, it was good to have this nice and slow weekend. Warm and fuzzy feelings abound-feelings akin to hugging a fluffy cloud- and they were brought on by the most trivial of reasons. But hey, there never was a rule for happy moments to be ushered in only by the grandest of causes or the most enormous events. I digress from my never ending travelogue to record the 10 happiness inducing moments-if only, for the fear that a few years down the line, when I'm old and haggard or just plain stupid, I might forget that it doesnt take too much to be happy and content and that bucking the popular theory of judgement by comparison, happiness exists as an absolute, with no need for damn benchmarks.
1. Waking up to perfect filter coffee made by the boyfriend who's now husband but will forever be boyfriend first :)
2. Losing my phone in a cab but gaining a gorgeous E66 as a replacement. I know what a silver lining is-I carry one in my bag.
3. Lying down on a bench in East coast park, staring at the sky & the palm trees, while the ipod belted out my favorite melodies, even on random "shuffle" mode.
4. Taking a leap of faith and straightening my hair-only to realize that I dont really miss my curls and that change can be good.
5. Interacting with the smartest 2 yr old I've ever met and getting about 10,000 unconditional smiles from him :)
6. Receiving an unexpected pay hike.
7. Getting free candy from cabbie uncle, who told us it was part of his daily routine and that he spends 50 dollars a month distributing candy to his passengers-If this ain't Santa, who is?
8. The prospect of a YKY-II in Mumbai, with girlie time, gossip, wine, good food and full attendance.
9. Buying groceries and getting order into my kitchen- well, something on this list had to be about better control, right? Even something as mundane as a 10 compartment spice tray counts.
10. Catching an old snap of me and M and sighing in a moony-eyed way about how he continues to be my best friend. A best friend with benefits :) (sorry for stealing words, Alanis)
So nett, I'm as happy as the babies that you see in Anne whatzername's calendar or closer home, in the J&J commercials. And since I'm heading to be as fat & chubby as those adorable younguns-now's the time to move the "tashreef" and let exercise give me a biological reason to be happier.
*To happiness-may the pursuit keep my feet on the ground even while the spirit's soaring sky high *
ps-Gving myself only 2 more weeks to wrap up the 2007 Europe trip. Hope to honour the commitment. Whack me if you sense a lack of inclination. Conditions apply.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Roma-13th Sept 2007

FIFO. (For those who've been lying in the dungeons of acronym land-First In, First Out)
Am applying this to restore order and to finally finish what I started last year- My Europe travel diary. Other interesting and life altering events have since, taken place but knowing that my memory is only marginally better than Dory, I will keep that narration for later.
*********************************************************************************
And so, G and I headed to the eternal city of Rome. The train journey was pretty uneventful-of course, there was the unkempt artist who sneaked in a portrait of G and the cheeky steward who spared me a knife and fork and also a kiss on my hand- but then this was Europe and we had heard enough about the Italian penchant for flamboyance. Any gents attempting this in a train in India would have said hello to my heels.
The start was less than perfect- after a 3 hour delay, I realized my body clock had gone cuckoo at the wrong time and to add to the misery, we lost our way- we spent about 15 mins walking in the wrong direction! A heavy bag and cramps can really alter your perception of time and space!!
Help came in the form of two charming Italian guys who directed us to Via Boezio- where stood our abode for the next 3 days.
Colors hostel (http://www.colorshotel.com/) lives upto its name and reputation- It was bright, cheery and well, colorful. The rooms are huge and airy; the bath/toilets-clean and very well maintained. I might sound a little senile raving about hygeine factors but trust me, the privacy of an attached loo and bath was a welcome change after the very tiny and very open Paris bathroom.
G did the groceries and whipped us a delicious salad and pasta. (Colors has a well stocked kitchen and a lovely dining area). That was followed by a walk to Castle St. Angelo, a rather dilapidated building which is now a museum and then along the Tiber.
The phenomenon of generosity from absolute strangers was to become a common theme for this trip-the Bangladeshi porter who refused to charge us for the internet joined the Generous strangers club. He also plied us with his own story and other sordid tales of Italy. He described Italy as a the dustbin of Europe!- something which shocked us when he said it, but gradually struck us a near-truth- the place is full of grafitti, pick pocketing and corruption (there are touts outside the Vatican Museum who let you cut the queue for 40 euros when the standard admission fees is 13 euros). The first impression led me to despair- was this another country ready to neglect everything in the present and content in resting on past laurels? Though not ready to write off Rome- admittedly, my first impression of Rome wasn't all that great. The place seemed to have neither the charm of Paris nor the dynamism of London....And then, we had Italian food and all the above was promptly forgiven and forgotten.
This was G's day-News about the Pasricha Index (http://www.financialexpress.com/news/How-financially-open-is-India/216177/0) travelled far and wide and gave us a superb reason to celebrate. We went to a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a marvellous dinner- Pizza, white wine and Tiramisu. Both the pizza and the dessert were top-notch, melt-in-the-mouth fare. I must rave about the pizza- it had just the right flavors, a divinely thin crust and enough and more veggies to keep me happy-in short, it was, what pizza should aspire to be-definitely not the overdone mass of cheese, maida and ketchup that usual pizza companies serve their sorry customers.
Mood was sufficiently uplifted by the dinner and yes, the wine also played a role. The after-dinner course was an hour of peppy Hindi numbers (baadal pe paon hain etc..), before finally hitting the sack at 1 am.
The Roman holiday had begun.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Teaser

Open Letter to Sheen
Yes.
I will update my blog.
Will surmount the problem of plenty.
Of abundant thoughts and events.
That I simply can't sort or rank.
And if I tell it all in one go.
It will resemble this lumpy mess of a post.
So wait, dear Sheen while I gather my thoughts
and brew something more palatable.
The potion will be bittersweet, even if the wait isn't.

Much love,

QQ

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Birthday month tribute

You know you are in your late 20's when:
  • You read about someone who's 16 and won a gold medal or invented something cool, and curse under your breath because it's been 10 goddamn years and you are nowhere closer to winning a medal or inventing something cool.
  • The only question you ever get asked is "so when are you giving us the good news", which depending on whether you are single or not, could be interpreted as "when are you getting married"/ "when are you producing babies"/"tell us you are confident of your sexuality".
  • Everyone around you seems to be questioning their purpose in life-surely it's not to be a best friend to excel sheets or the master proponet of jargon or to sell stuff to people who are doing perfectly well without it.
  • Parents, relatives or sundry other do-gooders try pulling off stunts on shaadi.com to "help you settle you down" once and for all.
  • Life emerges from the cubicle to pay a fleeting visit during weekends and vacations.
  • You find your general likes and dislikes in life have really changed-it could be with the decade or less that's passed by when you discovered and froze opinions in your brain and now.
  • Your nieces and nephews are on orkut and facebook or whatever the latest networking site is and say stuff like "wassup, coolio and adios" that totally freaks you out.
  • Strangers with kids always make it a point to address you as "auntie/ uncle" and you cringe because two years back, "didi/bhaiya" would not have been totally out of question.
  • Your body metabolism ain't what it used to be and a gym membership seems worth it.
  • Health in general, begins to establish itself as a matter that needs attention.
  • You suffer from intermittent neck/back/muscle pain and have been told your posture needs to improve. Damn the desk job.
  • You yearn to study more or change your line of work or if not, emit anxious cribs about assignments and bosses that suck.
  • Your hair line is either receding or you have lost count of grey hair. Either ways, a hair stylist occupies the place next to God.
  • There are clothes in your wardrobe that you deem "too young"/ "fit for a teenybopper" but yet dont' want to let go of. Not until you turn 30 anyway.
  • You have at least one fixed commitment (house/education loan or the likes) that binds you to your desk and your cribs.
  • You wonder whether hostels in Europe will admit you. (They will, btw)
  • The clock on your wrist isn't the only one ticking away.
  • You click on the drop down menu on registration forms and it takes a while to scroll up to the year of your birth.
  • More than half your country's population is younger than you. (Not if you are Japanese, though!)
  • You regret both the time you spent growing up in a hurry and pretending to be a mature and responsible adult and the time when you yelled at your parents or stormed off in your ugly teens.
  • You have at least one "what was I thinking" moment/ incident/ relationship that evokes regret and shudder and acts like an effective block against nostalgia.
  • You realize there's so much more to life that you haven't a clue about and yet, that it's okay to discover answers one day a time.
  • You joke about getting old and acting senile because you feel safe and invincible in the halo of the "twenty-something" tag.
  • You write posts which do little to hide your underlying reluctance to turn older and your gross inability to turn wiser.

(I do think I will like this post when I turn 30. Yikes.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Glorious 50-Time for a classic

At long last.
The 50th post.
I can't make it about the Bose ipod deck, though I would really like to.
*showing off comes naturally to Dahli wallahs*
Instead, I'll mark the milestone with a link to the song that I adored as a kid. I think I saw the video in 1988/89 as part of some Grammy awards special. Love at first sight. People remember this video for MJ's moves (actually, the gazillion times MJ does the Mithun thrust :P) My associations are a little different and as it turned out a little differently remembered too.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEU9Q8NlOiY
I saw the video a few minutes back and couldn't help smiling-only the smile had precious little to do with benevolent nostalgia!! I forced myself to remember some reasons on why I remembered loving the video.......
I liked the rhythm of the song and the interlude (ta-da-da-daa-daa)
To the untrained ears & eyes (mine) and the untainted mind (also, mine), it seemed like a cheeky song about high heels & loneliness, set to some really good music. (have noted childhood error in registering loveliness as loneliness-Stupid kid (me, not mine).
I liked MJ and his "aouuuhs". (I still like crazy people.)
I liked people dancing on the streets for no reason.
I liked that the ruffian gang danced so well and that their moves were so synchronized. ( I was proudly learning Bharatnatyam at that point in time.)
To say nothing of the curly haired chick (it was really reassuring to see a curly haired girl being shown as a (gulp)..."product of loveliness"- even back then I hated the fascination, that all people responsible for putting anything on TV, had for the straight hair brigade. I also liked the fact that the curly haired women outnumbered the girl with straight hair who wasn't much to look at anyway. 100 points to you for guessing that I have curly hair.
I was also fairly oblivious to the not-so-subtle hints to her profession given in the video. Not that it would have mattered. But it only seemed fair to list an omission in association. I also did forget to notice MJ's curly locks. Maybe I wasnt a stupid kid after all.

Ayway, don't pay attention to the cynic. It's a classic and you must go watch.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEU9Q8NlOiY
Dont miss MJ's white belt; the psycho oldie who appears out of nowhere to give a thumbs up to him (for what-chasing a hooker down the street with a war cry?)and how Tatiana (curly haired chick) gets convinced that it's easier to deal with one "aoouuh crying weirdo" than 5 body slapping mutts. The music's good too.
And hey, before you go- this would be a nice time to wipe your shoes on the welcome mat and knock :) Good to know who's visiting.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Have you ever?

Have you ever felt like running away from it all because it seems so futile?
Have you ever run away from things only to realize that the reason for your escape is trivial?
Have you ever turned back and returned to the point when you threw in the towel?
Have you ever looked at that point with disdainful eyes, wondering how you got there in the first place?
Have you ever traced your steps back to the beginning of the journey and kicked yourself for getting the directions wrong?
Have you ever got the directions to your destination all jumbled up coz there are so many ways in which you thought and still think you could steer your life ?
Have you ever wondered why life can't just be about curling up in your bed and reading a book while the ipod deck hums out a gorgeous melody?
I sure am wondering exactly that right now. The rest was just to ensure this sounds like some nice philosophical turn of thoughts, without showing off my new ipod deck or without stating in simple terms that I really couldn't care less.
Have you ever said " I couldn't care less" and realized that's about the only truthful thing you said today? :P

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Preacher Practises

I strongly believe in the fact that if you ain't got anything worthwhile to say, then you're better off not saying it. Not unless you want some negative re-affirmation.
Hence the break from blogging. Or I'd feel like a TV news channel covering the story of some boy who jumped into a ditch.
Sorry & Guilty.
Vaccuum is prettier than senseless drivel.
So ta-da. I'll be back when I discover inclination & thoughts/events worth recording.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mute Speech

I think I'd be really rich, if I got a diamond for every tag that I pick up from Mystic Pizza! This time she wants me to put down 10 things that I wish I could say right now(but didn't/ haven't/won't?) and I need to do this without naming people.
What I've written below is not a work of fiction and bears a very close resemblance to my true feelings. For anyone who, through vague suspicion and uncommon intelligence, traces the following retorts/questions/statements to himself/herself, well, good for you- Now you know and I didn't even say it :) Without further ado:
1. Why do you have to make things so complicated? I wish you'd tell me what's really on your mind.
2. I won't know what to do, if not for you. Nonetheless, you are the Chief of Pain :P
3. You make me choke with your kindness and affection.
4. Since how long have you been suffering from verbal diarrhoea?
5. Can you stop assuming things about me and try getting to know me? You don't know me and I can't go on pretending like you do. Get real-you full-of-fluff baboon! Don't make me hate you.
6. You've got really pull-worthy cheeks :)
7. Oh. I really really wish you'd be able to make it. The tentative list is not for you. Please don't disappoint me?
8. I think we are going to have a blast-now that you've learnt how to swear :)
9. Opportunist Bitch.
10. I think you are the brainiest amongst all my friends. And I really like it when you find my jokes funny.

I tag anybody who's feeling jobless or tongue-tied. In the next post, I shall resume my Europe trip journal-almost forgot about it!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Time, the Ravager.

Okay, another tag from the Mystic Pizza- baby pic time!
Deciding which one to put was tough-I'm not very objective when it comes to myself, even less so, when it comes to my baby self. Limiting myself to the glorious number of 3. Was less than a year old in the above snap- obviously being propped up by a helping hand.I learnt standing up for my rights early on. Actually, i think i'm offering the chair to someone. What kindness.
And this of course is at the time of Rakshabandhan- and that of course is Delighted Me tied a rakhi to my brother :)
I tag Sheen and Saumil coz those are the only friends of mine who blog! The others can take this up as a facebook/email/'whatever mode they are comfortable with' tag.
p.s.- I dont quite like the mirror after looking at the baby snaps. Time is so cruel.
Also, Thanks to M for scanning these-how'd you know this tag was coming up?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pass me the chill pill

I've been on the edge this week- So much so that people that I work with, are calling me nasty and fierce! Who would've thought. (And to think, some others in my previous company had ranked me "not aggressive enough". Tee Hee.)
M's asking me to relax and loosen up and for a change, I agree with him. Have become so high-strung and reactive-a very distorted version of what I used to be. Ugh :(
I think a bit of the stress is because my misplaced sense of hope & possibility on a major issue is in a cruel contest with foregone conclusions. The restlessness & the dismay at the silly futility of it all just doesn't go away, no matter how hard I try.
Making peace with an undesirable but certain consequence of my decisions and actions is sapping more positivity and energy out of me than I'd imagined possible.
Life's being the meaner bitch. Snap, snap, snap. I have to get out of this state of mind. Two things you can do to help:
- Distract me by saying something funny and irreverent.
- Slap me the next time you see me brooding.
(Don't wince if I slap back. After all, I do have a nasty reputation to live upto.)
I'll be back when I'm feeling better or sufficiently distracted.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tags are not effort intensive.

After the partially intentional and utterly unavoidable break of almost a month, she returns to strike the keys and punch the space bar. Only to realize that there is so much pent up that wants to be told. Since no thought can lay singular claim to being first and foremost, preference is being given to an external stimulus which suits the lazy mind perfectly :) Tagged by Mystic Pizza to do the following:
Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given (family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like). Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better. Now don’t forget to read the archived posts and leave comments.
Post on family-umm, none! Don't really use this space to talk about them. Hmm. maybe I will. So this will be linked to a post in future. Moving on....
Friend- The inimitable G, with whom I spent 20 glorious days in Europe- it won't have been half as much fun and adventurous, if not for her!
Myself- Well, couple of things here- my quirks and the stuff I can't stand.
My love- Since no mush permeates this space, this and that is what I wrote. I'm just not allowed to be romantic-Honest :P
Stuff I like- Funny experience, A movie that made me think and something I really liked doing.
5 Friends that I'd like to tag: Meravalablog, Sheen, Makdee, Saumil, Journeying through the within.
2 People I interact with, on & off the blog frequency: Mahogany, Footnotes on page 4.
Phew.
Catch you on the other side of the commercial and habitual break called the weekend.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Before & After

Name: Neo

Family Name: Ikea

Color: Dark Brown (mahogany, maybe?)



So.
This is what a bookshelf with two doors looks like.
Complete.
Now we know.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Send me to Rehab

The thing about blogging is that it’s rather addictive- in both active and passive forms.
If you’ve cared to notice, my blogging frequency for this month has surpassed the number of posts I wrote in all of 2006. Earlier the question was umm, should I blog this month? Now, there are times when during a regular day I catch myself framing a sentence for my blog or thinking whether what I just said or did was blog-worthy. Waste of time-not really. Evolution of expression- arguably. Addiction- most definitely.

I like reading a few blogs and sometimes when I over-do it (read 5-6 posts one after the other), it wreaks havoc-I can hear stray phrases and sentences- incoherent little devils that float in my mind-it’s almost as exhausting as having long conversations with people, till your phone battery gives up and as addictive as multiple doses of caffeine! (Would have compared it to smoking-but nah..passive smoking isn’t addictive-esp not when smoke makes me sneeze. A lot.).

I do think I’ll have to trim the habit down a bit because these are not the only things I read. The mainstay still remains the world of books, newspapers and magazines. Those I shall definitely not give up or cut back on. And since my day job teaches me that my basket is finite and that for whatever I put in, something needs to go out- I’m wondering whether my greedy self can give up anything at all.
This year giving up exercise is not an option-fatness makes me banish the thought. Sleep defies all restraint & will power .Shopping is a necessary evil. Cooking-a cathartic timepass. TV is hardly visible behind the nine yard sarees & the 2 cm radius bindis that dominate the screen most of the time. What then do I sacrifice at the altar..who shall be the (blog)ificial lamb?
Aha, I think it will have to be Facebook-the connector to all acquaintances. I think I can save about 15 minutes a day if I don’t respond to any requests, do not take any mindless quizzes and ignore all application requests which ask me if my friends think I’m a hottie; what type of a stuffed animal I am and whether I think I am a bookshelf.
Now…which blog should I read in those 15 mins??

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hello Vice-How Nice (Last Day in Paris-12th Sept)

The last day in the French capital served us some measures of vice and some of virtue-won't really call them equal but well, it was a fairly palatable mix.
Of Sloth & slumber
Because we had the laziest start to a day
Of Sleepless charity
Because I spent a near sleepless night, sneezing but smothering most of my sneezes for fear that I might wake up the other 5 people in the room.
Of Expensive Expression of love
Because we sent postcards to our nears & dears (& later, discovered that we had reached home before they did!)
Of Spectacular views & God's glory
Because we preferred the view of the mortal kingdom (Paris from Sacre Coeur hill top) than the gateway to the heavenly one (the Basilica of the Sacred Heart)
Of gluttony and greed
Because I consumed in excess- the 3 C's I love- coffee, crepe & caramel custard.
Of lust on sale
Because we took the train around Montmartre and went through Pigalle- the red light district of Paris and because I found the openness of the "business" conduct shocking.
Of the prudish image in the mirror
Because I found myself wondering how I'd react to Amsterdam if and when I visit.
Of kindness & kinship
Because the Indian guy who asked us our nationality was not making a pass at us, but rather trying to warn us because his bag got stolen in a bus and he didn't want us meeting a similar fate.
Of moving on , yet not moving away
Because though I left Bercy, Paris in the fall of 2007-I know this is not the last we've seen of each other.
Au Revoir, Paris- Phir Milenge.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Power Of One

M and I added excitement to our lives by welcoming two glass showcases into the living room There’s a bookshelf too- wait till you hear the story on that one….
Just to be clear, this is all Ikea furniture- cheap, functional etc- where you pick up doors, shelves, cabinets etc on your own and wait 2 weeks for them to get delivered. (don’t worry, these facts are relevant to the story).
So, there were these two delivery guys who came and started assembling the showcases. After they finished, they turned their attention to the book shelf- while they were assembling that one, one of them had an a-ha moment and he asked us “where do you want me to put the door”- I found that absurd..surely there was only one place for a door to be put, esp. since we weren’t asking him to plug it any room, but on a bookshelf with had grooves for the door and that sort of a thing.
And then it became clear- they had got only 1 door with them (one door for a twin door book shelf!!) And then he came up with the most hilarious thing I’ve heard in a long time- “Should I put it on the left side or right side”) Who orders a bookshelf with one door?? Apparently M did!!
Ooh M. He assumed that being the door package for the "twin door bookshelf", it would be a set of two- which it wasn't.
With the result, that now I have a one door bookshelf, which looks like a “kaana” pirate, right there in my living room!! I have named him Neo-the One. Why do I say "him"- well, just that I haven't heard of any fair maidens who answer to the call of Neo.
Coming back to Neo- neo, we can’t let it be that way-as much as it amuses us. We did go back to Ikea, where we bought another door, which will arrive in 2 weeks.
Please don’t judge me for naming bookshelves. I’m not psychotic. Just plain bored.
************************************************************************************
All in good fun. Is there any other kind of fun?
Exhibit 1 Good friend D's response to my status message "on a protest march against boredom"
D: ghar pe bhi boredom? why dont u chat with x:P
QQ: oh then that would mean i have to make another entry on my anon blog...won't it?:P
D: ur anon blog link doesnt work
QQ: LOL LOL LOL you dumbass...it wont be an anon blog if i post the link there..would it?
D: :-( haan
Exhibit 2 Random request on Facebook:
ABC sent a request using What does your birth date mean?:ABC wants you to find out what your birth date means.
Hmm. Let me think. It means I was on born on that day. It means that there is proof that there is life on this planet that started on that day. It means that if you let people make useless applications, there's a good chance they'll do just that. It also means that I will twist your neck silly if you send me these random requests again.

Look who's back

Lasted all of a day.
I don't think the anonymous blogging was for me.
I've always been an advocate for owning actions and thoughts & the repurcussions that follow. No, being anonymous was an out of character sojourn- which incidentally, I might resort to, under extreme pressure, absolute lethargy, intellectual depravation or unadulterated malice-The Gollum avataar, I'd like to call it, with your permission.

But for now, I shall go have dinner & come back. To my senses. To my identity. To my inhibitions.

Did I happen to mention, humble pie's on the menu tonite?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wondering if I should take cover....

When I started this blog-it was anonymous and for most part of its existence, it's seen little activity-both from me, who posted sporadically and from the reader, who never came :P So the question of cloaking identity never really came up.
Gradually, I started giving out the blog address; dropping it shamelessly on my profile pages on social networking sites etc; even posting my life's scenes out here. But now, I wonder if that was a big mistake-whether this very act of telling the world upfront who this blog belongs to, doesnt actually make measured words and uncontroversial topics a mandate-I don't feel this blog can take the no-holds barred type of writing I want to indulge in.
Too many people I know have either read this in the recent past or will do so in the near future. And weird as it may sound-I'm not really willing to put up all aspects of my life for scrutiny and judgement, especially to those who know some of those aspects! Am I afraid of the judgement? Oh I don't know.
I am thinking of taking cover and just blasting off my thoughts without weighing in the nuances and reining the flight. I dont know whether I'll do that. just yet. As standard response to any decision, I'll procrastinate.
Ho hum.

Update
All I needed to unleash the bitchiness was a trigger and it was so readily provided. By whom? For that you'll have to read the blog where I officially let my dark side run wild. For a preview, click here: youhavetobeadumdumtoclickthis.blogspot.com :P Lovin' it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Elegant Eloquence

Minimalistic-yes! Product is the hero-yes! Grabs attention-yes! Will I buy the Audi-if you lend me the money, yes!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Happiness Knockin'

This year has started on a good note. Turning thought into action is satisfying-more so, when the action is not purely selfish and could make a difference to someone else's life in a little way.

Go to http://www.nanhikali.org/ and make that difference. For as little as Rs.1940 (~75 SGD), you can sponsor a girl's education for a year. Just think about it, instead of buying yourself a fancy meal, you can gift her 12 months of hope, determination and ambition. You can help a young mind learn new things; make new resolves ; view the world in a different way- small steps in ultimately, deciding for herself-for better or worse.

And if that's not enough-photographs of your "nanhi kali" and her progress report cards will make those happy steps transcend the borders-right upto your doorstep! Happiness is coming knockin'- usher in the change-Click on that website now :)