Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cant wait to be 'Sikkim'ing

Yes. I cant wait.

I have been researching hard for the last 3 weeks, slaving away to getting my tongue used to all the 'north eastern' names. My friend, my accomplice in travel, has been burried in work all week and until today, when i finally gave her a call to run her through the itenarary - it didnt seem real. There we were running through options for day 1, day 2 etc. and splitting who would take care of what - and suddenly we realised
1. It was not a vague dream
2. And it was really happening
3. And in less than 7 days! Yeay!

This is going to be a different trip ofcourse. For the reason that, two of us elder sisters are dragging our 2 kid sisters with us. Overnight, our responsibilities have increased for this reason, and for once, i am abondaning some of my 'mad-hatter' ideas. And ofcourse, it's our first almost self arranged trip in the great mountains.

So - A little anxious, loads excited, and waiting for 22nd!

Wine Tasting in Sula Wineyards, Nasik...

A lazy saturday ... as we get ready to turn around this year, I am trying to stay ahead of my trips and keep this blog as updated as possible. Ofcourse, not exaactly sure for what, but now that I have embarked on blogging, it feels like it shd record all the events it was meant to record.

While most often its fun to write - sometimes, it does become an effort! Anyway my last few posts have been loaded with words, this one's a photo post. Almost only a photo post.

Never could resist red bougenvillas

Where the wine grows

Vine from the wineyard

Where the wine is made

A toast to ....

Flaming crimson


Sunday, December 02, 2007

I dreamt I went to Pilani

Last night I dreamt I went to Pilani again.

It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to into the campus for a long time, as the way was barred to me. And all of a sudden, with ethereal capabilities possessed in truest of dreams, I floated inside. The road appeared the same, lined with trees on either side, creamy yellow buildings housing students on one side, a huge ground with jogging track on the other. And the famous Gandhi statue on the four road cross section up ahead. The scene magically changed to another - it was a clear night, buzzing with students unlike any other night. There I was seated at the foot of the statue with my friends waiting for the bus - to take us out of this place into the real world. My last day in Pilani.

I was almost losing hope on the Pilani trip, when overnight all my travel arrangements were made. I wasn't sure what my exact role in the whole recruitment process was, but i dare not ask lest they decided i was not needed. We left Delhi around 10 o clock 5 of us in a loaded Tavera. Everyone was already dreading the 6 hour journey. I was looking forward to 6 hours of reminiscing.

I seemed to disapparate from that scene to another place and time. I was in the SUB or the students union block. The place had a charm of its own, the old rooms with slanted asbestos roof arranged along the three sides of a rectangle, facing the grounds. A tree here and there and a couple of broken benches to complete the scene.

It was a warm afternoon with strains of Bryan Adams filling the place. Sounds of excited laughter floated past. I was sitting in a corner indulged in our famous 'paper tearing'. My heart was beating just a little faster... I seemed to be just a little breathless as I lifted my head and my eyes met his. It seemed like we were playing a subliminal game, unnoticed by others. I was surrounded by people with whom i seemed to have established a bond from beyond the ages. Everyone was laughing. Some were recounting the adventures of the passed year. It was a beautiful afternoon when everything was magic.

We landed by 4.30 in the evening. We decided to go around the campus head of our presentation - so we caught 3 cycle rickshaws for the grand tour. At every corner, every bend I kept expecting a friend, an infamous couple, a rival group, a cheeky junior or just another face u noticed in the mess. It was weird.

I left them to the afternoon warmth and flitted along the roads to C'not and the park behind. In that few minutes it took me to walk, the sun seemed to have set replaced by a starry clear night. And then another image slipped in to place. We were sitting on the walls of the C'not park. It had become a routine for me and my friend, to head towards the quieter roads on evenings when time was at our disposal and when we had no things to do. We would walk around discussing the things of passionate importance - the latest department fight, the outcome of certain peoples love lives, why we disliked some one and in general the state of our lives- and then of things of lesser importance, but nevertheless as much passion like why we liked F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Today she was recounting why she liked Chandler the most for the zillionth time. And we were wondering why couples liked to claim that they were'just good friends'. Then we settled into an enigmatic silence absorbing the quiet night and starry sky that enveloped us.

I don't know if it was an attempt to connect to the past or to the present, I had tried to reach some students carrying the torch of our department still. It was there farewell night, and I became the 'special guest' for the night. It was endearing, but not the same all because the people were different. I longed for the old lot to mysteriously appear out of nowhere.

We seemed to have the knack for getting cranky at night especially after a dose of maggi. This night was no different. The three of us were coming up with reasons for why women should be allowed into the mime team. Or we were trying. Everything we said seemed extremely hilarious and all we managed was, was to keep laughing. My eys kept meeting my friend's to dissolve into pools of laughter. By now, there was of course tears streaming down. I stared at the scene of the three of us, struggling to get some words out, but lapsing back into giggles. It was one of our best brain storming sessions ever.

As I headed back to the guest house, where we were staying for the night, my colleagues came out stating that they wanted to explore the campus by night. So we walked by to sky, the huge lawns outside the museum which became a favorite hangout in our final semester, ANC or the all night canteen where we had innumerable samchats, C'not or the happening hangout street on campus. I had always enjoyed the late nights even while on college - there was something very adventurous and liberating about it.

The scene repainted itself once again. I emerged out of my room to see what was the commotion. My fiends were back from the Tamil play organized by PTM which had mocked "girls" to an extent beyond humorous. The mercury was rising in the room as every one let of their steam. I was thinking, so we are angry, and boys will be boys - what can we do. In the end, my friends sat up all night, coming up with charts voicing our protest. Before the break of dawn, they were up on all the hostel messes. And by mid day, every one we knew had see the charts and were all surprised at our reactions. The protest was famous, but no one knew who had put it up. It became one of our best kept secrets.

The next day was busy. Our initial plan had been to spend the second night in Pilani. But everyone else seemed to be in a dying hurry to return and i didn't have much of a choice. I had hoped to take some photos in the evening, but there was no time for that now. I consoled myself saying that what mattered the most was the i got a chance to return. We left for Delhi that afternoon.

We were all assembled in the guest house lawns for the farewell, discussing how 'it is still not sinking in that we are all leaving'. After we were all seated, there was a round of farewell speeches. Farewells were always nice, it gave you those exclsive minutes to run back in time and nestle in moments one most relished. Except this time, it was a farewell for my batch.

I was just starting my speech - there was so much i wanted to say. This department had in a way been the beginning and the end as this was where I had made most of my closest friends. It had been a tumultuous 4 years, nevertheless every minute enjoyable. I had just finished saying so much, and I was choking up. My eyes were blurring as tears welled up in my eyes. I tried to, but couldn't hold back. I started crying in front of a whole group for the first time in four years.


The images kept coming one after the other. Sometimes it was just the feeling of the warm sun, the welcoming cold of the corridor walls, the lightness in the heart at te begining of the summer, the laziness of the evening at night, the fluttering of my heart at the begining of a new love, the feeling of being looked out for with special friends.

Sometimes, I was reliving the scene, and sometime I was an observer looking at an evening or night unfolding itself. I could feel a timelessness as I went through the four years at Pilani. It had been a world unto itself, untouched and un-intruded. And then just as suddenly, with all the cognizance possible in a dream, it struck me that, that was where I was - in a dream. I knew that I was standing on the outside looking into a time that was over. A time that was in the past....

And I knew then I could never go back.

PS: This post was in part inspired by 'Rebecca' with its famous lines 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again'.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A different Picture

And then, i have been travelling. In the truest sense of packing bags and going to a place and coming back. Old places- but nevertheless, a different picture.

A couple of weeks back I was in Delhi on a suit booted official trip. We were taking a few people from the US to meet some companies. As usual, the long travel was an ice breaker topic - they got started on their harrowing flight experiences, new airport rules, security procedures... And then one of them said 'You know the 100ml rule for carrying liquids? So i had to finish with the security and then buy my 6 pack mineral water bottle - plus what a pain carrying it around'. And I was stunned! This person had actually bought mineral water all the way from United States in preparation of a 3 day stay in India. I mean- didn't they think we had mineral water? What was the deal?

From there on it only got worse. Here i was thinking that these people would go all rave about India ( an impression gained from eager travellers) - and all i got was the side effectc of malaria and other injections taken in prep for this trip. The best comments - "This place no longer looks like a third world country". And "This city looks like Shanghai 15 years ago". And this comment was about Delhi after having been put up in the Taj, having lunch in Intercontinental, and cruising around some of the best parts of the city. I dreaded to even wonder about what they would have to say about Mumbai.

Their comments actually got me seeing our country from their eyes (while some of it like the mineral water bottles of course extreme and ridiculous). Maybe when people do rave about this country, its more because its like an incredible freak show they see over here. I mean, who in their sane minds would want to travel in the over crowded Mumbai trains? But that is something that is commented on in almost every travel report in a 'U won't believe it' sort of narration.

And as for all of us, I feel as if we all so bought on the 'India Story' - bought too much into it. We do have a lot of good going for us - but we are so focused on shouting out loud about our new found glory, that we have failed to notice our shortcomings - which could eventually be our undoing. Either that or we have grown complacent. Take for example Mumbai - While every non-mumbaiite acknowledges the pathetic state of this city - not a single mumbaiite will - they have grown so used to the state of the city, that there only excuse is the unmanageable population. And that's their defence for everything that's wrong in this city.

One of the other comments that also caught my attention...
"This is the outcome of being the largest democracy - it is almost impossible to implement any reform. Look at China. People dont have much of a say against the government, but every strata of the economy has grown. Minimum quality of life is much higher. At the end of the day, I don't care for democracy, when I don't have a plate of food on my table for every meal and no place to sleep."

Very true. However I'd hate to think of a dictatorship in the hands of a wrong person in this country - which is what would happen most likely, if it ever were to! While I wonder where the solution lies, I hope it doesn't become too late for our country.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Secret thoughts of travellers revealed

This was an article from NY Times where the author talks about his project 'PostSecret'. After what he terms a serendipitous encounter with a writer sending post cards on the flight, he started this project where he collects post cards from travellers on their musings while on the move.

I found the concept of this book very interesting. I mean - if one were to count the drift of thoughts - weird, funny , sad , nostalgic, philosophical - that cross our head every time we are on a train, waiting for the bus or twiddling our thumbs in the airport. And more often than not they slip away, un-noted and un-shared. What better than scribbling it on a boarding pass or the back of ticket ( assuming u wont need it for re-imbursement of course!) for some one else to find? Then again, there is something surreal about connecting with a nameless, faceless person through comments left on a book on or a postcard.

Not to forget - some of these comments are downright hilarious and beat many one liners I've come across.

One postcard I received had a hilarious picture of two pilots jauntily walking through an airport in crisp suits. We all have seen these people. We have all been annoyed by these people. The secret on the card read, “Stop walking through the airport like you own the place!”

Another secret that arrived on a baggage claim ticket read: “You called me an idiot so I sent your bags to the wrong destination. WHOOPS! I guess you were right.”

And a note from the heart...
On a boarding pass, I read a secret of love lost, “I would have left home and flown 2430 miles with you if only you had asked.”

The author says, "It should be noted that I don’t actually write books; I compose them from the postcards that are mailed to me. I essentially invite strangers to anonymously send me untold secrets written on homemade postcards. So far, I have received more than 150,000 inspiring, remorseful, funny, hopeful and even sexual secrets from around the world on every topic imaginable."

His favorite, and my favorite too is a quote from a pilot:
”When passengers ignore the ‘stay in your seats’ sign, I create my own turbulence.”

So, if you wanted to share a thought, I wonder....... :)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

So close…. Could be so far?

Do you know how it feels to be “thissss” close to something that is like an unimaginable dream come true and yet have it all foiled. That’s how I feel, although my plans aren’t foiled as yet – there is this fatalistic feeling that the plan would certainly fall through. Plans for what I am sure would have been the trip of the year. The trip to Pilani.

It was a team party, a lazy afternoon with no hint of information which was to possess me for the next couple of months. My manager, an ex-Bitsian, tells me that this year we had decided to include BITS in the recruitment roster- and I was thrilled. And then he adds, ‘you should come along. We always take alumni with us when we go recruiting’. And I still remember that almost instantaneous spontaneous stupid smile that filled my face - the feeling of being lifted by a light hearted breeze – and a euphoria which suddenly filled my entire being.

I was being asked to go to BITS. I WAS BEING ASKED TO GO TO BITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just like that! I mean, how many times had I run through this idea with friends, and for some silly reason or the other we never made it. We didn’t even come close to planning it. And out of the blue I was being asked to go to Bits. Yes! Yes! Yes a hundred times over.

I know this trip will be different from what I always envisioned a ‘Return to BITS’ – which would have of course been in the company of my bestest friends – friends with whom I made most of my Bitsian moments and memories. Still – I want to go back to see if the place still holds the same magic through my twenty five years old eyes as it did then.

Of course, following this day I’ve had thousands of nightmares. What if my manager forgot the conversation? Worse what if he forgot I was from BITS. What if I had work and couldn’t make it? What if they chose not to go? Thousand of what if’s. And the fatalistic feeling that it was too good to be true and it wouldn’t happen. Last week, things however picked up some momentum and we are looking to finalize dates – but even then looks like it might clash with a friends wedding I absolutely cannot miss.

Keeping my fingers crossed, and praying hard!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New York Cityscape - A speck of stardust

Everyday as I walked across the street and turned into broadway, I would see this diner and every day I would catch sight of its caption 'singing waitstaff' and everytime I read it I promised to go in someday. After what seemed like a dozen such promises, on a lazy jobless night I dropped in.

Warm lighting, music memorablia, old gramaphone records and waiters and waitress who sing and give you an evening of food and music. It was quite an entertainment to watch their antics and see musicals almost played out in front of you on tables for a stage and anything handy for props. And since, i ended up not seeing a proper musical, this was the closest to Brodaway i got!

Ellen's Stardust with Singing Waitstaff

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New York Cityscape - China Town and Little Italy

As my friend and I stepped off the subway at Grand Street , it was hard to miss the fact that we were the only two non-Chinese or non-south east Asian people around the place. Welcome to China Town!

We were in search - search of the truest Italian cuisine and a feel for Italy. And a search for the best handbag imitations that China has to offer. And a search that was truly rewarded.

New York Cityscape - The ReadingRoom

A lazy saturday afternoon... myriads of people streaming down broadway and 7th avenue as usual... and I was lost once again in the crowds, the clothes, the color and in general the shades of summer in New York... my target destination was the Grand Central... however I was diverted by Bryant Park which I had fleetingly caught sight of from my taxi on the day I landed in New York... And this is what I discovered - "The Reading Room". It was a book lovers ideal afternoon!

Carry your home with you ... and camp

Camping to me always evokes images of roughing it out, living out of backpack, in the wilderness, in the middle of no where, and feels like an activity not suited for the weak hearted. But after a weekend trip to Catskills during my month stay at New York proved, I am ammazed how easy it actually is and can be!

Thanks to my friend from school, who took the initiative to get a group together, we all set out for a weekend at Catskills, close to Albany in upstate New york (New York the state - for a long time i didnt realise that both the city and state were named the same!). Lookedup campsites on the net. Booked a campsite. 3 cars loaded with loads of food. Tents. Sleeping bags. Comforters. We even had a slick looking stove - although we decided to cook food over the fire we built.

The campsite ofcourse almost had everything. Wood for the fire. A grill to cook the burgers over (since we forgot to pack it!). And decently maintained loos. It was almost a home away from home.

Our home for the night. Yippee - I finally got to see that setting up a tent was infact not rocket science.

I really marvel at the extent of organised tourism in the country. While its helpful in a lot of ways, it sort of converts the whole affair to a picnic rather than camping. I still remember the disappointment I felt when I landed in Yosemite with images of a nice long trek and was handed a map with every little detail marked out. But I guess, it just means I need to look harder to find more 'out of the way', 'un mapped' places !

Some photos from canoeing on day 2 @ North Lake

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Back from the big apple

Just back from a month long work trip to NY ( well, truthfully speaking, 'just back' was around a couple of weeks ago). Anyway, the trip was pretty fantastic although feels like a "whirlwindy" blur now - I loved the feel of putting on my neatly pressed suit, snazzy bag shoes and all joining the hordes of people walking to work like I was one of them. Come to think of it, I WAS one of them for those 30 days!

Although there was a good amount of work, I spent most of the time that I did have to spare doing "usual" things that I would do in Mumbai or Chennai - like shopping over the weekend, checking out some "city" actions, taking a long walk in a park or just walking through some nice neighbourhood - all of which was really nice.

And I totally loved the whole stay because time just flew - I was there trying to get a hang of life there, and before I knew it It was time to leave. And the best past was, after some time I felt like I was merging with the city rather than feeling like a complete outsider - dont know how that happened, but I am gald it did.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Californian Summer

It's been two and a half years now, and finally, finally I have the mind and the words to write about it. The relavance being that this was my truly first international trip and resparked my travel desires! While the time for a detailed post has long gone by, I make an attempt to recapture the most important moments...

First Impressions...
I had finally set arrived on the promised land, but for some reason I couldnt seem to feel it - feel that I was in America! Belmont, the place where i spent 5 weeks is a quiet village at best, and seemed to be dominated largely by Oracle. And unless one was at the grocery store complex nearby, it was very difficult to see people. I think I missed seeing people around. 5 weeks in Belmont and I realised what a city girl i was!

San Francisco...
A city to fall in love with... and a total opposite to my initial impressions. Dfinitely a city with attitude. The first sight to greet me was a group of musicians performing to the public, kids on skateborads, graffitied walls, and people. The bay, North Beach, the tall buildings, and such different people! Finally, I seemed to have landed at a place which matched my definition of America.

San Francisco has one of the most beautiful bays - ever! The sight of the vast expanse with the sun setting behind the gloden gate ... heavenly! I have never felt more liberated than i did at that moment looking into the open ocean beyond. It is as if the golden gate bridge were indeed a gate which would open any minute to let you into te beckoning ocean - to cut all those chords that bind you, move beyond the sight of land and get lost amongst its soothing waves and spray.

The gay area in the gay capital of the world ( or so i was told). Never have I felt more dissappointed to walk into a bar and see such cute guys - every one of them out of reach! For the first time i realised that the thought was more disconcerting than reality itself.

On four wheels...
Driven by a mixture of fear and challenge, I rented a car. And it was one of the most exciting things i did in that one month. Till the last week, i refused to acknowledge the presence of a blind spot. I jumped a red and got loads of honks ( possibly because of the ignorance on blind spots). Ironically i got a ticket for parking in a space meant for a truck!

The explorer...
The whole trip to the US seemed to be a quest to get the 'true feel' of the country and to do something different. Castro and Haight was to see the gay culture and the previously popular hippie destinantion. Big Basin Way, 17 mile drive, Rachos San Antonio were all trips to try out destinations different from those on brochures. I was at the wheel, and Tanu my navigator. It was like living some one else's life everytime we set out, lost our way, used our little knowledge to find our way back. One evening we went to find Big Basin Way and got lost and came upon this quaint diner 'Alice's' set truly 'out of the blue'! The happiness and the kick of having 'discovered' it!

As seems to accompany any travel story, a lot of new relationships were struck, old ones tightened and some forgotten ones unearthed. And this was the best part. The trip seemed to set the stage for innumerable shopping trips, ladies nights, dinners, drives and even more trips. The friends friend i imposed myself upon who so kindly took me all around NY and to philly. The friend from my summer classes who housed me for a few days. And not forget long lost school friends and office collegues! For a long time i regretted not making any local fiends, but i think the rest made up for them!

The Lady with the Torch
as I love referring to the statue of liberty. A lady waiting with the book of god and torch to show the way to all those in search of the 'promised land'. I havent seen a monument more appropriate to celebrate a country built on immigrants. And they still continue to pour in, in search of a better world!

A great falls that I refused to be humbled by. I looked at the powerful gush of water surrounding me bliding me with its sheer force. I still remember thinking, "This is nature at its best. I want to be overwhelmed beyond words - but I couldnt!". I suspect that was probably because, Niagara was never the final destination.

Looking back, I think in a way I was afraid I would love the country more than I loved my own. Probably because I see so many of my countrymen who move to the US and actually look down upon the country where they come from. And I was afraid to change into one of them. But then again, every country has a share of people who work that way. And the choice to love and to remember is yours and the land cannot be blamed for that!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The reality of moving

And yet once again, I am back here wondering about how our dreams and visions are so different from reality. The statement seems to say it all requring no further explanation, but yet we expect both to coincide and dream on. The truth is, I think, that we focus so much on the more superficial aspects in our dreams ( atleast I do), while the practicalities till reaching that point can get painful. And you would think that one does learn , but we never do. And maybe that's why dreams are what they are - dreams! (That is why I just love Regina's quote over here!)

The moment I knew I was moving to Mumbai (sadness of leaving Chennai apart), I am already dreaming of this 'neat' place that I will be staying in, the way I would be doing up my flat,partying with friends,and trips that I would make. But reality is so much more about dealing with shady brokers, houses that meet your expectations not fitting your wallet and those that do being very depressing. And reality is very slow, especially if you work long hours and travel 2 hours a day and you have an exam hovering around you!

My usual house hunting experiences are always accompanied by weeks of trauma and tension and until the very last moment, things never fall into place! All the time in Hyderabad, finding roommates used to be the biggest hassle and till the last minute I never knew whether I would have to give up my sprawling 3 bedroom flat or not. It also seemed to me that i kept talking about it so often, I was worried that I would be branded as the 'girl without a roommate'. I think what irritates me even more is that, this house hunting always seems to work out more easily for everyone else but me.

But I think for once I managed to go through this whole phase without 'tension' and 'panic' even if it was very hassled. And also found a roommate on Day 1 of house hunting. Found a brand new place very close to work, ramifications of which are leaks to be fixed, the fan that wont rotate, the furniture that wont arrive. The Half of me wants to scream. Half of me has given up. Wish I could click my fingers to get things done! Bonus morning alarms from the mosque and temple close by. Have decided to convert to a religion which believes in silent prayers. Soon enough!

PS: For all those crying out loud about the conservatism in Chennai, PLEASE LISTEN. The city which is supposed to be twenty years ahead of India does not rent out flats to single women or men! OK, not the entire city, but this is certainly a common woe in Powai!

PS: I have hardly begun to check the city out except for inorbit, and an italian restaurant in bandra 'basilico', the hiranandani area ofcourse and ofcourse a one time trip on the trains.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Day 7@ Mumbai

Yes! I have also joined the bandwagon of multitudes of people migrating to this already overcrowded city. It seems to me that whenever I vow to never go to a place, that place ends up being my next destination. Starting with Hyderabad, moving back to Chennai and now my move to Mumbai! Ok! The only place I really truly vowed not to go was to Hyd. Chennai and Mumbai, I had a lot of doubts. Anyways, I am now an equity research analyst (was for the last year to, the now is for what follows next) within the legal limits of an Investment Bank! (I hope that sounded glitzy, the way it was meant to!)

This was initially meant to be a Day 2 post with the most truthful ranting’s of my inner soul. Not because I am fighting the crowds and running behind trains with the clichéd ‘no time to stand and stare in Mumbai’ stmt. On the contrary, I have probably been one of the very few to have traversed the roads of the least populated area of Mumbai, namely the Aarey Milk colony in E Goregaon where I am temporarily being put up. Apart from a medical shop, which refuses to accept credit cards (my way of life till now), and ofcourse the Park Plaza (where I am staying) there doesn’t seem to be any life in this 240 acre of ‘Prime land’. And the fact that it is a 5-star (or so I think) is an added pain. Any extra request not borne by the company costs a bomb including 250 bucks for 30 minutes web time, which has added to my ‘cut off from the world’ feeling on weekends!

Hiranandani, which is where my office is located is another story altogether. The whole area seems to be done with a European theme with street names like ‘High Street’ and buildings like ‘Fairmont’ and the architecture has been conceived to present an age by gone. Though the area comes as a shock especially when u cross dusty Mumbai roads and get thrown back a few years into history, it doesn’t seem artificial as it ought to! And the fact that a number of companies have moved here has driven up sqfeet rates sky high. Yes, I am still digesting the fact that I will probably be shelling out around 12k a month for anything close to a decent home.

Hard cash has been slipping through my fingers like water, something which always gets me panicky and it did even now until I did some rational thinking. I’ve been enjoying the salad spread both at mornings and dinners. Jogging in my gym. O yea, that’s beautiful. The treadmills are up against the glass and u can see the entire city ablaze in lights sprawled below u (in the evenings). So is the sight in the evening from my office. You can see tall sky scraper buildings all lit up against a backdrop of shadowy mountains. And the office itself is one of the best that I have worked in.(the building and interiors as such) :) And ofcourse, I love the autos!! Otherwise, there seems to be an impression of ‘un-completeness’: the roads that look like they are forever being constructed and not to forget the soot and dirt!

Just a few beginning impressions. More comes later.

PS: I am yet to mail friends, unfortunately i dont have gmail or yahoo access at work! So for now the blog will have to do.

Disclaimer: If I have said anything disparaging Mumbai, its just my impression and initial ones at that! Nothing personal! :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

All that jazz about travelling

So. I am sitting in my aunts living room, surrounded by my relatives who have just recently come from a trip to kaasi-varanasi- gaya-allahabad and I am in a state of revelation. I look around me, and see animated expressions, wild gestures. On one side my aunt is talking about the 'vaatta saatamana security, ana evaalo sehappu' or the fair complexioned, well built security men out there. Then my uncle mentions the 'malai' available or the milk which is constantly on the boil in huge urns and tastes delicious. And then about the "vibrations" of the place, and the devoutness of the saadus.

And about the triveni sangam ( the meeting point of yamuna, ganaga and saraswati) and how when they sacrificed a lock of hair at that point , it did not float away, but actually got sucked in by the hidden currents of saraswati. The yamuna apparently is black shaded while the ganges is in green. About the way the road side vendors make rotis. Apparently, these guys make a thin roti from a ball of dough just slapping in between their two hands without using the roti stick (not sure what the correct name is).

I am amazed. I mean the tales that my otherwise 'un-travle-types' relatives stunned me. They brought back more interesting stories than i probably have on mine, they have tried out their broken hindi, spoken to locals and swamiji's, found a few shastri's from tanjavur living in kaasi.

So what, if they dont call it "travel" and dont try and market their experience as an "experience of a lifetime" ( o - they actually do label it that way, but more for spiritual reasons :) ). And the thing is, I would have normally not even bothered to enquire about it except for mere courtesy maybe, and wow, i just got one of the most vivid and interesting accounts.

There was this thread on travellerspoint once about 'why travel and the jazz' and someone who mentioned that they cant understand how people are seemingly satisfied with their boring routine lives. And it seemed to me then as it does now, that maybe there is this race of people ( myself included?) who are becomming extremely snobbish about this 'travel' hobby.

I mean - isn't travelling as u see it? Shouldnt travel be more for understanding that there does exist people unlike us, but not tag them into a category? Ofcourse, there is always the difference between the passionate traveller and the casual traveller, but that doesnt make one better than the other right?

Sort of like the bunch of us who call ourselves 'cosmopolites' but turn out to be just as racist as the next man , except here the divide is between the 'cosmopolite' vs 'non-cosmopolite' as against 'north indians' vs 'south indians'...

Just a train of thought... or have I become just as judgemental of the judgemental with this post???

Unwinding at Cornucopia

So , yesterday I was in cornucopia with Uma... Its one of those restaurants I got to know because I travel by the road where it is located. A low profile sort of place , a bunglow converted to a restaurant. Dim lighting, a room to yourself, one of the sexiest pasta and slow classic rock unobtrusive in the background ... Its when you take a break from the conversation to take a moment to muse, you catch the strains in the background...Just as Bryan Adams finished telling me that when I was in his arms, he found 'Heaven', Rod Stewart floated in asking me 'Have I told you lately that I love you'... And I smiled.

Armchair travel

I have been doing that for a while now, and i found that no place better than to start on my journeys. The articles are interestingly written, most of the times on a particular theme. For example, this article Making a pilgrimage to the cathedrals of commerce is an entire article just about a shopping arcade (the oldest of its kind) perfectly suited for a serendipity shopper!

I love the focus, the thematic flow and and ofcourse, the lovely pics!

Also, dont miss to see the 'Why we travel' slide show. I specifically love the para gliding guy's explanation : "The paraglider becomes an extension of yourself. You envision where you want to go: up, down, left, right, to that mountain, to that river..."

Now and then... senji

A family trip to Thiruvannamalai and on the way back we were able to halt at Senji fort. Didnt spend beyond an hour or so because of the timing, but this place is as neat as Hampi is except it lacks the "backpacker" atmos that hampi so beautifully built up!

While we are on the topic of Hampi, my mom told me that saint Ramana of the thiruvannamalai fame had in his writings mentioned Hampi. According to that book, Hampi is actually designed along the lines of the Sri chakra but with a slight fault. The sage Vidyaranya who desigend it belongs to the line of adi shankarar. Ramana also mentions that if ever a city is once again built along the sri chakra's line ( flawlessly ) by a descendant of the Adi shankarar, and if there is a country with that city as the capital, they will be the unrivalled rulers of the world! Interesting!!!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The autowallah rant

15 minutes later I was still standing on the road. I had just finished arguing with 3 auto drivers and I was bugged. Just then, another stopped by me - I told him angrily '45 bucks and no more' and for a change he said 'get in'. Wow. All the waiting did pay off. And to my shock, he TURNS THE METER ONNNNNNN!!!! Yep..I am still alive and all for a 15 minute lecture on why I should insist on asking the autowallas to use a meter- Was this guy for real???????????

His rant 'I don't blame you. It is the mistake of autowallahs who will not use the meter. Corrupt buggers. There used to be a time when people asked us 'Sir, can you come to...'; these days its just 'Eyyy' (a derogatory way of addressing). This is what happens if every other person on the road becomes an autowallah - our breed has been permeated by those without class or skill'!

Take away : I pay a 50%- 60% premium on autofares when I was under the belief that I was driving a hard bargain and even autowallah's feel that there occupation is infested with the people of no calibre! :)!

And the moment passed

12:00, Pizza hut, Bangalore

I looked away from the window, through which i had been trying to decipher the shoe models on sale across the road... As I made a sweeping glance around the place, I noticed Him, sitting diagonnally across the room facing me... Another single luncher this afternoon.

Hmmmm... Maybe he was a student ... were there some colleges in bangalore that firangs came to? Or maybe he was doing some volunteering in the town... or maybe a backpacker (thats my favorite) ... or mayyyy bbbeee.... and he looked up from his menu... wrong time !!!! Our eyes met... I was startled... He was startled...

We had an awkward situation on our hands.

Was it just a few seconds? seemed like ages...Finally, my brain seemed to wake up and tell me that I needed to act... I did the 'hey there' nod .... silence... still more startled... had I indicated something else instead of 'hey there'?????? I had just nodded right??????? another epoch of time.... finally He seemed to consider the action harmless enough and smiled...

And the moment passed.

Monday, January 29, 2007


As the scene whizzed by I couldnt help but wonder why I found it so captivating? Rather than why, why suddenly? My eyes were glued to the glass windows marvelling the landscape strethcing out.... the interplay of colours kept me captivated.... innumerable shades of green, contrasting the skies blue, sometimes broken by bright red and pinks of bougenvillas or someother way side flowers. The golden coloured paddy, bright brown leaves of the neem, the blue mountains beyond. Adding to the joy of the trip we also chanced upon sunflower fields, delightful villages and ancient temple structures.

We were on our way from trichy to a picnic spot 'puliyamcholai' or tamarind grove. It had felt the same way the previous day as we had driven to kallanai (the clay dam built by karikala chozhan). I didnt know it then, but the drive the next day from mayavaram to chennai was just as beautiful.

3 days , 1000 kms on the road, and the highlight ( apart from ofcoure seeing my sis and grand mom) was the village side which i had never acknowledged consciously before. The guy in 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintanence' says 'biking' merges you with the landscape through which you are cruising. For once, drving down in a car made us feel that way.

Some of the sights that captivated me....

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Art of Photography

A regular saturday ... a late morning, and after cursing my self over the state of my living mess while enjoying hot cup of filter kaapi, I roused myself to remove cobwebs that have settled aroud me. As I moved around cleaning, clearing and stacking away things, clothes, books, files I came across my camera carelessly tossed around in one corner of my shelf... where it was sitting waiting to be reclaim the almost fanatic love I once possesed for it and for the art of photography.

No, I have not given up on photography... I have not given up on my baby canon Sd 300 , the one for which I spent almost 2 month equivalent of net hours researching. But in a way I haven't advanced with it. I take photos, tons of them actually, take the time to edit some over picassa, but I wonder if I have advanced in my techniques at all.

I always thought that a good photographer is a person who can exactly reproduce what she sees with the naked eye and in her mind on film - the perfect contrast, the correct level of sharpness, highlighting certain objects in the field of view, and ofcourse ensuring every single object in view is presented beautifully. But in my case, many times my mind knows what I want out of a picture I am capturing, but it doesn't translate to the image on my LCD.

Does a pro take thousands of snaps and then filter her One Best? Or does she take one shot and knows that she got a master piece?

Does editing photos on picassa to get the effect add up to cheating?

What makes a photograph a good one - is it were you present a beautiful scene exactly as it is or you make people take a second look at what is actually a normal scene?

How does one look at a photo and exactly make out if it was the object captured or if it was the photographer???

A lot of questions as I dust my tiny equipment...and certainly a long road to tread till i get to pro status...High time I started finding the answers!

Ps: if anyone has any answers, please do let me know!!!

Burnt Sienna

As I walked down the 4th Main Road, Gandhi Nagar on a lazy sunday evening. I noticed this one tree laden with burnt sienna and pink leaves, a stand alone image of beautiful fall colours. By the time, I got around to taking the photo ofcourse, the leaves were more dry than alive. Still, this was the last photo i wanted to captue and post for the year 2006... and now its the first one for this year!