Wednesday, February 25, 2009

City Quirks: First Impressions

Ok - finally, I get to click the publish button on my first impressions. These were penned down after my first couple of days itself, and I have more to add. But all those in another post!

- I love the ‘green’ look that the city has got going. Not just trees, there are also stretches of grass lawns here and there and everywhere. Lends the right mix of picturesque and laidback sub-urban air.

- There is a feel of ‘space’ all around the city (excluding my hotel room of course :) ). Even in areas with tall buildings on both sides of the road, I didn't feel as towered in. I think it has to do with the pretty wide roads and broad walkways for pedestrians. Or may be, they just don’t have that many floors on their buildings!

- This one I love. I love the ‘informal’ and 'unorthodox' style of work wear. No ties. No blazers. (Well, you can if you want to). All around me (by the way, I am in Raffle's Place, which seems like the financial center), people are in what I think is the widest variety and COLORFUL of western wear. Who cares if you are an i-banker? (Ok – may be ALL the people hovering around aren’t i-bankers. Still). It is so hard to predict what you will see on the next woman - fancy swishy skirts, dresses and blouses in satin that would be considered party wear in lots of places, a range of colors and prints... Obviously, even in all the informalness, men have only so many choices.

Last friday, people wore jeans to work. Can you beat that? We don't do that even in Mumbai!!!!

Not that I mind going the formal way - I still love 'dressing up' for my job (adds a bit glitz, if i can say so). But with just a pair of suits, I always felt a little under dressed in a place like NY city! Singapore takes off that pressure a little bit.

- And oh the shoes!!!! it has to be the highest of heeled ones. While there is nothing new about fancy high heels, what catches my attention is that these women don't exchange them for flats while on the roads or on the train or making that long walk to the bus stop. Impressive!

- A lot of shorts and skirts going around the place. And definitely tinier ones that what I've seen in other places :).

- And the crowds!! I was pleasantly surprised to see people all over the place during my first lunch. Every single restaurant was buzzing with people and long queues. Lunchtime also seems to be a good time to check out a shop or two. And at night, standing at start of Boat Quay (close to work), you can see heads of people, all the way till the end. People grabbing a drink, people catching up. Quite a lively after-work scene.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In the Lion City, Singapore

My fourth day in Singapore. Though the city lost its sunny disposition within hours of my arrival, I was impressed and loved what I saw. I like it and am liking it more.

A rainy afternoon greets me on day one at Singapore. The smudges on the right are probably rain drops on my lens. Not a great pic, but doesn't look too bad in this size!

The drive from Changi Airport to the YMCA clinched my first impressions. For the first 5-10 minutes of leaving the departure terminal, the road was all tree-lined and incredibly pretty, even though if in a landscaped way. the road trails along some pretty beaches, bay-side restaurants and golf courses until hitting some flyovers (which appear to be the equivalents of the highways). Even on these flyovers, I could get a lovely spread of the city! Quite a contrast to most other places, where usually the drive from the airport to the main city is through highways in somewhat un-inhabited surroundings and one needs to keep their expectations at bay till you can actually get out!

I am being put up in the YMCA Hotel – definitely not corporate style living accommodation. I suppose one who was drowning should not ask for a yacht and just be happy for a trip on a tug boat. (:))I have gotten over most of my cribs, but cannot forgive this one – they do not have a full length mirror in the room!

The location – 1, Orchard Road however is perfect. More on this soon.

PS: Waking up at six is taking its toll on me. Goodnight!

The Singapore Museum of History from my room window

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Puppy Love

Well, I am just back from a weekend in good old Hyderabad filled with a whole dose of puppy love. My friend R with whom I stayed has this incredibly adorable Lhasa Apso ‘Tipu’ and I just can’t get over him. The way he stands poised, waiting at the door when he hears someone coming in, the way he sniffs and prances around you, gauging and measuring a new-comer, the way he keeps running up and down the house checking to make sure every one if ok, the way he was relishing his single cube of panneer, the way his front locks falls over his eyes – the list of his ‘adorable ways’ is endless.

Darling Tipu

Sunday morning, as I drowsily woke up to answer the maid on my tea preference, I could feel a cuddly ball of fur sitting on my bed and nosing around me; I reached out and gave him a huge bear hug and may have scarred him of (:)) in return – but it was one of the best wakeup calls I’ve had in a really long time!

Tipu looking out of the car on his way to his walk

I confess – I am not one of those ardent dog-people, who seem to have their way with even the scariest beasts. I am easily scared by a dog that barks a ton at me or just looks daunting in many cases. But still, there is that idealization of the simplistic yet unconditional love and faithfulness of a four legged friend. (All selfish, but nevertheless there :)).

As they say in Marley and Me, “A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.”

On the travel front, a couple of days of re-discovering Hyderabad and some photos, my first sleeper bus travel, a few thoughts on a recent trip to Vasai fort, a still pending 2009 resolution and an upcoming Singapore trip. Lots to write about – I hope they will all make it to the blog!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Kanheri Caves

In the heart of Sanjay Gandhi National Park are the Kanheri caves. According to the good old Wiki, the caves were used by Buddhist monks as places for meditation and prayer and apparently date back to 1st to the 9th century BC. This location must have been an ideal retreat for those seeking solitude and peace. The large meditation hall is the first piece of construction that one comes across. The hall is lined with pillars on the inside, and is quite unadorned otherwise while the walls of the outside veranda carry Buddhist sculptures.

The main meditation hall

This shot of the meditation hall and the Buddha below are fairly common. The pillars not so much! :)

Pillars in the small veranda outside the meditation hall

Buddha on the side walls in the veranda

Although this place is a Buddhist relic, our good friend S pointed out other influences - a sculpture of the Hindu snake god and a sculpture of common people (we think) of those periods.

Beyond the main meditation hall, there are smaller dwellings all around the place. If you hike across and slightly beyond the main lay of the caves, you come to the spot where we clicked the ghost trees (previous post) and the view of Mumbai.

When we landed at the caves, there was a huge group of 40-50 college kids at the Kanheri caves – flooding the place, and acting silly that we immediately sought out a quieter parts to explore. When we were leaving, the caves were packed with people –families and groups of friends on a weekend outing. Were we glad to have had an early start!