Thursday, 20 December, 2007

Growing up...

If you know me, or know someone who knows me, you will be privy to the fact that I am a sucker for festivals! I love them…the lights of Diwali, the colors of Holi, the cheer of Christmas, the biryani of Eid….all of them. Regardless of which faith they belong to, I love the fact that they are a reason for people to celebrate. To feel special and get a chance to do things to make others feel special. The same is the reason that I am crazy about birthdays / anniversaries and the like. Mine or someone else’s. I’m the sort of person who would go and tell everyone I know that my birthday is coming up a month beforehand…on the other hand, I am also the kind of person who would plan something special…a surprise …a gift…a single flower in the most unexpected of places…for people close to me. And I’ll let you in on a secret. I still have my stocking under my pillow every Christmas eve and without fail, Santa has delighted me with goodies year after year.

But as time passes by, I am forced to wonder if this forced cheer is foolish. Am I refusing to stop being a child? Does the innocence of magic and snowflakes and birthday excitement suit only children? Perhaps it’s time I should leave all this behind. The joy of giving gifts is paled when the person getting it is half as excited as you are….ofcourse because your childish excitement is difficult to match! Perhaps this New Year I won’t make a fuss about sitting at home and reading a book….and this Christmas I won’t go with friends to distribute sweets to children like we always did in college…sitting pretty with a glass of wine would be more fitting….and perhaps after all these years, Santa wont find my stocking under my pillow…coz perhaps it’s time I grew up…..

Tuesday, 27 November, 2007

Gujarat and Me....

Life is strange....however accomplished or 'arrived' we think we are, it brings us back to reality with one swipe of the wand....

A couple of years back, I was giving my interview for entrance to MICA. I was surrounded by engineers all giving the perfect interview answers....and then my turn came. The interviewer asked me, "what has had the maximum impact on you as a person?". In all my candor I gave him the only answer that came to my mind. I saw the worst of Gujarat....I went through the trauma of the Bhuj earthquake and an year later, saw Ahmedabad burn in the aftermaths of Godhra.

How did this affect me as an individual? It made me realise that nothing is permanent. People spilled out on the streets of Ahmedabad to help the injured after the quake. They stayed up all night trying to give hope to the ones who were burried in the rubble. There was no caste or religious was all for humanity. All this goodness came shattering to the earth when the same people an year later took up arms to kill their neighbours, friends and strangers. I saw mobs running on roads with fire 'mashaals' trying to find a person belonging to the other religion so that they could make a spectacle of his death.

It made me realise, that however big you become, when the moment of truth comes...god's children are all the same. Rich and poor alike slept on pavements, in cars, in gardens and just about anyplace they could find after the earthquake for fear of their cracked houses coming tumbling down. They helped each other, cooked food in community kitchens and joined hands in a bid to come out of this tragedy together.

I also understood the real meaning of fear. Fear was not about losing your job or something as mindless. Fear was standing on the 10th floor of a building watching it sway like a pendulum....looking out of the window and seeing buildings crumble like matchboxes...driving through roads where on either sides, people were stuck in rubble - shouting for mercy from the pain....Fear was sitting on the terrace of your building watching the mob below, wondering where you will hide if they come upstairs. It made me stronger...and helped me understand how the things we give importance in life are actually worthless.

For someone who was not there, all this may be over-exaggerated drama. For someone who was, a reflection of their truth and for me, a way of life. On the on-side, the interviewer surprisingly thought similarly and I did make it through to MICA...the only candidate selected from all of Gujarat. Some answers after all may not be perfect...but as long as they are heart-felt, perfection doesn't matter....

Wednesday, 14 November, 2007

Egypt Explored - 1

My series on my trip to Egypt .... there are so many aspects to this crazy country that a travelogue will not do it justice! So I decided to pick up pieces of my experience and pen them down separately....

Egypt for the uninitiated is not a vacation! So all those people who want to go to a foreign location and kick off their shoes, do NOT go will tear your hair out and by the time you come back, you will probably need a vacation to get over this one!

Having said that, I'll tell you about the kind of people who 'should' go here. If you love to experience new cultures...if you love history and architecture....if you are game to open your mind and heart to this land of wonder, then my friend, you can't miss Egypt!

It is a pandora's box. You will have people trying to sell you clothes, souveniers, taxi rides, camel rides, the camel itself, and just about anything they can think of...they will follow you and say "You are Indian?? Very good India....Maharajas...Amitabh Bachchan" and flash a toothy smile before trying to make their sales pitch...the scorching heat of the day sun will drive you nuts and you will go beserk when the book seller sells you an English newspaper for Rs.200....

But Egypt is more than that. If you can deal with all of this, then they embrace you with open arms and surprise you with their warmth. Taxi drivers offer you cigarettes, they are apologetic about the hassle you go through, educated professionals on the road are more than happy to haggle in arabic with a shopkeeper for something you want when you hit the language barrier....and the sights of Egypt are all ready to astound you! Standing in front of the Pyramids of Giza, one can not help but be awed by the 455ft giant structure made with rocks each weighing 1.5 tonnes put together at a time when they had no wheels, pulleys or iron tools...add to that all this has withstood earthquakes, invasions and all unimaginable exploitation! Every ruin in Egypt takes your breath it the Luxor Temple, the Karnak Temple or the Valley of Kings for the sole reason that these dont appear to be ruins. These structures are 4000-5000 years old but stand straight and proud, displaying their mesmerizing writings engraved in the stone and hold their own....

All in all, go to Egypt if all this excites you....if you like standing in the middle of history and absorbing the experience. Egypt leaves you gasping....ironically, gasping for breath...for water...and for some more....

Sunday, 21 October, 2007

Dussehra time!!

Happy Dussehra!! I can shamelessly admit, I am a sucker for festivals. I love them! Festivals of any religion...any geography and absolutely any motivation get me smiling. There is a spark in the air, strangers smile warmly when crossing each other...everyone is dressed up in their fineries...there is a certain magic around these occasions that you and I can't really explain.

And the mother of all festivals in India has to be the Dussehra-Diwali month! I was crossing a Ramlila ground last night and they were getting all ready for the famous Ravana burning act. And it got me thinking....the story of Ravana as told in India makes us see things in black and white. There is no scope for grey. He was evil. Ram was good. Good kills evil. End of story. But I see contemporary India moving away from this school of thought. I see us questioning things. What motivated Ravana to act like he did? Was he justified in doing so? Was he really all that evil?

JK Rowling got Dumbledore to say a very thought provoking statement in one of the books. Dumbledore told Harry - "There is no good or evil. All of us have a little evil in us. It is our choice which voice we choose to act on."

This is the grey that we recognise today. All of us have skeletons in the closet....some words said, some acts done that we wish in retrospect that we had not. But that doesn't make us evil. We can choose to bury them and select a different path...and the beauty of this moment in time is that there is a chance we will not be crucified for our thoughts and we won't be burned in full glory to signify the victory of good over evil....

Monday, 15 October, 2007

What NEXT??

Cinema theater visits are becoming more and more addictive by the day. One after another, well made movies are coming in and sweeping us off our feet...ofcourse that does not pertain to every movie in the market. A Laga chunri mein daag or similar are best avoided...but movies like NEXT are a must watch!

Starring Nicholas Cage and Julianne Moore, the theme of the movie is that Cage can see 2 minutes into the future - the catch being that he can only see into his own future. A fast paced, no nonsense movie, it keeps taking the audience into a spin of events and their consequences.

Besides impeccable acting that can be expected from these actors, the movie wins because it refuses to play on drama or unimportant action. The action itself is of a sort that we have not seen before owing to the unique concept of the movie. 'Next' manages to make us gasp in surprise and shake our heads in bewilderment...

A must watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Saturday, 29 September, 2007

Johnny Gaddar all the way!!!

What a movie!! My opening line would have given my game away, but I couldn't hold myself back. Its been ages that I have been to a movie where I sat at the edge of my seat for the entire duration of 3 hours! Quick, impulsive and honest, this movie is a slick thriller that does not depend on cheap bollywood tricks like dead people not actually being dead or unnecessary drama like an extra marital affair being found out. The movie plays on a slippery edge between the old cinema of yester years and editing to rival hollywood films and does it with panache.

Neil Mukesh is a find. His good looks don't distract you from his character. He plays the innocent guilty so well that you come out of the movie not even hating the man though he plays a villain and not really a hero.

The music, like the movie, is fast and brilliantly done by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. There is an element of freshness and at no point in the movie do you feel that you have to go through a song sequence. Neither has the director resorted to popular antics ala Gangster/ Omkara etc. to have all of them get drunk and start singing songs together.

The women are really quite inconsequential. They are around but you dont notice them much! The 5 characters are able to hold your attention all along. Dharmender keeps resorting to broken english which seems forced but its probably an attempt to keep him away from slipping back into popular 'kutte kamine' mode. Shartul is as grimy as they get and Prakash keeps urging you to sympathise with his circumstances.

All in all, a movie that does not happen too often. Full paisa vasool.

Rating - 4 on 5

Tuesday, 25 September, 2007

Tanha - Javed Akhtar....

Dekhiye to lagta hai,
Zindagi ki raahon mein,
Ek bheed chalti hai...

Sochiye to lagta hai..
Bheed mein hain sab tanha.

Jitne bhi yeh rishte hain,
Kaanch ke khilone hain,
Pal mein toot sakte hain..

Ek pal mein ho jaaye...
Koi jaane kab tanha.

Dekhiye to lagta hai,
Jaise yeh jo duniya hai,
Kitni rangeen mehfil hai...

Sochiye to lagta hai...
Kitna gam hai duniya mein,
Kitna zakhmi har dil hai..

Woh jo muskuraate the,
Jo kisi ko khwaabon mein,
Apne pass paate the..

Unki neend tooti hai..
Aur hain woh ab tanha.

Tuesday, 18 September, 2007

Basant Lok - Explored

We often succumb to the monotony of the familiar. We don't venture far into the unknown and take sanctuary in the comfort of the known. It is to avoid this pitfall of human nature that we decided not to visit our regular haunts for our Saturday night evening but go find something new.

We zeroed in on Basant Lok Complex for the variety it offers. Though a good half an hour drive from our house on Janpath, we were sure we would not be disappointed. We started our survey by walking all around (which doesn't take long as its a small complex). For our first experiment, we entered the lounge and bar- Barcode. A 3 storey high building, the bar has been divided basis audiences. Ground floor seats those on a business outing. The first floor is more of couples or groups. The second and third floor house the dance floors. They have tried to give it an urban classy look but in a few places, the decor trades comfort for looks. A bit on the pricey side, a pint of kingfisher beer costs Rs.200 with taxes. The snacks menu is also quite basic with the regular chilly chicken types listed. Not too impressed and a little tired of reading the menu with our mobile phone lights (thanks to the dingy lighting), we decided to make a move and find something more exciting.

By chance, my gaze fell on a non-descript sign on the first floor on the opposite building that suggested of a place called 'Haze'. Curious to see what this place had to offer, we found the entrance behind the market and climbed to the first floor. As we entered, we realised that we had found one of those hidden alcoves that you only hear about by word of mouth. A smallish place with tables seating around 30 people, a portion of the floor is dedicated to bands that perform on weekends. The music here is mostly rock and regulars are a mix of foreign tourists and young rock fans. The menu has a flat rate of Rs.200 for IMFL and Rs.100 for all snacks. All in all, a place where one can let your hair down and drink to the night without making too much of a dent in your pocket.

On this note, we moved on from Haze and decided to have our dinner at Hookah. Hookah is a quaint lebanese and moroccan restaurant in a corner of the market. The decor is very Arabian with bright red wall papers and low seating allowing you to enjoy a hookah in a group. It almost reminds you of the excellent ambience of Cafe Mocha. The menu is a mix of Lebanese, Moroccan and Italian food. We chose the Chicken Caesar Salad (If you read my blogs, you will know why) and on their recommendation, decided to go for the Chicken in Lemon and Carrot sauce. A little sceptical about the 2nd dish, we were pleasantly surprised. The sauce had a tangy taste and was flavored well to titillate the palate. A meal for 2 costs a comfortable Rs.600 here.

So next time the bug bites and you feel like doing something adventurous, just pick up the car and go explore a new never know what you may find!!

Wednesday, 29 August, 2007

Hunt for the perfect Caesar Salad

Sometimes the simplest of recipes is the most elusive in the quest for perfection. The ever popular Caesar Salad may seem like an easy one to toss for even the uninitiated, but as I found out, is so easy to mess up too!

In my quest for the best Caesar Salad in Delhi, I searched far and wide (Trust me, when you travel in NCR - everything is far). On a friend's recommendation, we went to my favourite Italian cafe - The Big Chill Cafe. Their version of the salad was tossed with bacon. It pleased....but it failed to go that extra mile. We walked away, though not hungry anymore, not victorious either.

Then, a cousin took us to Pizza Express in Ansals Plaza. Their Caesar Salad was renowned to satiate even the most finicky foodies. Alas, their chicken version of the salad did not even rate 2 on my scale of 5. The lettuce was not crispy enough, the chicken was too less and the cheese suspiciously did not resemble parmesan.

It's next door neighbour - Geoffreys, though, came close to meeting our standards. On weekends, Geoffreys does a lovely lunch buffet that thankfully not too many people know about. Their selection of salads, entrees, main course and deserts are true value for money. Coming back to the salad, their chef tosses the same live for the guests. You may customize it with olives, sweet corn or sun dried tomatoes as per your taste. The lettuce was fresh, the salad well flavored and the cheese true parmesan. It rated a 4 on my scale of 5 and we thought this would be the closest we would ever come to the perfect salad.

And then it the great Julius Caesar (After whom the salad was NOT named) said, I came, I saw, I conquered! Or rather, I came, I ordered and it conquered me! The perfect Caesar Salad is made in a fabulous restaurant in CP called Picadelhi. The salad is such that the moment you put a fork-full in your mouth, you can not help but close your eyes and savour the burst of flavors that take over your senses. The lettuce is crisp, the smoked chicken perfect and the dressing just could not get better! The salad gets a full 5 on 5 on all accounts including consistency. It has become a sort of a weekly ritual for me and my husband to go pay our respects to Picadelhi and allow ourselves to drown in this ecstasy. And it has not disappointed us even once....

But dont take my word for it....go check it out for yourself!!

Tuesday, 21 August, 2007

Of gentle streams and white drapes

Birthdays are usually happy go lucky affairs. But I am quite stupidly sentimental about mine. Add to it that it was my first birthday after marriage and it was enough to almost drive my husband over the edge. The pressure of doing that something special was looming over him like a dark cloud...

The day finally arrived. For our evening out, he asked me to dress formal and hurried me out of the house saying we couldnt arrive late. To my delight, as he pulled into the driveway of Claridges hotel, I realised that he had done the impossible. He had booked us for dinner in what is slated as the most romantic restaurant in Delhi - Sevilla.

Sevilla is a tiny fairyland in the middle of Lutyen's Delhi. A wooden pathway leads you in, twisting and turning along, lined with lanterns on the side. A tiny stream is crossed with the help of a glass bridge and you can almost feel your heart stop. White drapes fluttering in the wind, gentle music in the background and the only other sound,the gentle tumble of the stream. Reminds me of Robert Frost's poem "The only other sound's the sweep, Of easy wind and downy flake". As you stand there and just marvel at the stillness, it is not hard to imagine why this is voted by HT CITY food guide and many others as the most romantic restaurant in Delhi.

We were seated in a cozy alcove and introduced to our waiter for the meal. A tad bit surprised when he announced that they only served mineral water, we could only choose between Himalaya and Evian. The choice was but obvious. Skipping the alcoholic drinks, we scanned the menu for starters. Our host suggested that we go for the day's special grills(Rs.450+tax) and we willingly agreed. The platter, when arrived looked a tad bit small but did not disappoint. 2 pieces of pepper encrusted salmon, 2 pieces of chicken and 2 prawns skewered and grilled to perfection with garlic. The chicken was uncharacteristically soft and seasoned delicately. Each tiny bite would fill the senses with a wonderous flavor.

As we moved on to the main course, and not being too hungry, we decided to go for the chicken breast stuffed with ham and chirozo (Rs.700+tax). The dish arrived in a platter with some sauteed baby potatoes and aubergine by the side. It was also accompanied by a thin crisy relative of garlic bread. The chicken itself was brushed with a light barbeque sauce. It did not sweep us off our feet but in its defense was above average.

All in all, Sevilla is the place you should go to for the ambience. The menu is exorbitantly priced though the food is good. But with so many choices in the city for good food, this is the place to go when you want to cut yourself away from the bustling life of Delhi. As for me, I had a great birthday and a wonderful surprise to thank my husband for.... but dont take my word for it, go check it out yourself.

Location: Claridges Hotel, Aurangzeb Road
Meal for 2: Rs.3,000 without drinks (starter + 2 dishes + 1 desert)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, 16 August, 2007

Chak De India!!

Ladies and gentlemen, the verdict is out - Chak de ROCKS!!! It is a huge ask to make a movie with Shahrukh Khan and not make him larger than life. For the first time, it has been done and done oh so well! When you walk out of that hall, you dont only remember Kabir Khan, actually you barely remember him. You remember Chautala and Preeti and all those other brilliant characters. But let me not jump the gun.

The movie in my opinion wins on three counts. Firstly, a sports movie if made well has the power to incite the audience. Chak de was fast paced, had all the ingredients of a sports match - the adreline rush, the fouls, team dynamics...Each match had the audience at the edge of their seats egging the team on! Even though every person in the hall knew the outcome of the World Cup even before they went for the movie, you could not help but keep your fingers crossed before the whistle would blow for the end of each match.

Secondly, each character was so well defined that you had no time to stare at King Khan. Cliches were brought to life with each state representative. But in their defence, who said that we dont believe in these cliches anyways? How many people really know where Jharkhand lies...or think that anyone from Punjab is not out to beat up the world...know the difference between someone from Manipur or from Nepal...its all true! We are prey to generalization in our daily lives and should awake to the cultural nuances of our vast country before we expect foreigners to treat all races with equality. Coming back to the characters, my personal favourite is ofcourse Komal Chautala. This little 2 footer is so power packed that you can not but like her! Preeti as expected is quite a hit with the guys around and surprisingly, Bindiya's arrogance also seems to work for many. Its amazing how you can get a bunch of names no one knows about and get them to give a performance rivaling the likes of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.

Lastly, what I liked about the movie was that it brought to face realities of women in India across society segments. Komal's father grudgingly letting her play so that she can 'get it out of her system' and come home to cook food may seem extreme but frankly is not a rare picture. Preeti's cricket star fiancee assuming that all she can be at the end of the day is his pretty wife was a slap in the face of the picture media portrays of the modern woman today. Vidya being called home by her in-laws to play 'bahu' instead of prancing around a field and her husband not having the guts to stand up to them is for many a reality.

Chak De is a winner through and through! Its a movie I can sit and discuss with my friends over a cup of coffee for hours altogether and not get bored with....but dont take my word for it...go check it out for yourself!!

Tuesday, 14 August, 2007

I, me, myself

I wonder if our lives at any given point of time belong to us. Not in theory. Really BELONG to us. To do with as we wish, when and how we wish. A child's clothes, food, time and everything else is decided by parents. When you grow older and meet someone, you dont do half the things you want to so as not to create discord. Later on, as you get married, you have others to think about...families, society...every decision has variables attached and the outcome is usually far from what you had imagined.

I wonder how it will feel if you were to wake up one morning and do all the things you as you desire, not think of what should be done and what shouldn't. An extremely selfish thought...but luring nevertheless.

The world would ofcourse go into chaos. Probably what keeps us going in a line is the thought of how others will be affected by our actions. It is what helps us keep the balance of life. But only if you are not the one doing the balancing all the time...

Sunday, 12 August, 2007

Glorious Leos

I usually dont succumb to the world of predictions basis sun signs. Even with my belief in fate and in things that we can't explain, this goes against my basic sense of logic. How can one - twelfth of the world have exactly the same fate any given day? Or similar behavior patterns? And how can that be decided upon the date on which you are born? Does that mean that socialization, cultural environment and experiences as one grows up do not contribute significantly towards who we shape up to be? But this is not a blog about innate versus aquired behavior. This is about the one thing that a friend of mine once said that is strangely true.

During my post graduation, I was sitting with a friend and she was chatting about a guy, who like me was a leo by sun sign. And she said something very interesting. She said, leos follow a strangely similar pattern. They get up in the morning feeling like the king of the world, purring at the glory of being born with a golden spoon. As they hum off towards the rest of the day, the hard reality hits them gradually. And by the end of the day, they come home completely deflated and dejected at how life treated them. And lo behiold....when they wake up again in the morning, its back to their glorious self!!

Perhaps too much of a generalization, but the snippet above does sound familiar for some days of my week. Strange but true...

Tuesday, 31 July, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Disclaimer: For those who haven’t yet got their hands on the latest (for reasons, I do not call it the last) Harry Potter book, do NOT read on. This blog will act as a spoiler.

For those who have…go right ahead!

J.K.Rowling has finally proven herself. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is just pure brilliant. This one book has transformed the series from a set of individual stories into one long interwoven spell. Like a true Hindi film, the book has all the elements of success – drama, love, sacrifice, friendship, betrayal and the one constant of good wins over evil.

Probably one of the few books which evoke emotions (Like the melancholy ending of Love story or the humor of Inscrutable Amricans), I would have been the saddest person if Harry had died in this book. Not for any other reason, but it would have proven that he was the boy who lived merely out of luck. But thankfully it is not to be. The boy lives on…and with him lives our hope of a better tomorrow.

Not revealing too much of the plot, I believe that the best part of this book versus its predecessors are the twists and turns in the story that Rowling managed to weave. You never know where the plot is leading to. Its also interesting how she portrayed the shades of dark in the greatest wizard – Dumbledore, defying the fairy tale logic of black and white. There is a little dark in all of us. The difference, as Dumbledore says, is what part of us we choose to follow.

And as I recently told a friend of mine, this book has done the impossible. It actually made me fall in love with Severus Snape. He emerges out of this book as the hero of all times. The one who lost his love but yet dedicated his life to protect her son. His story, seen in the pensieve was heart wrenching. Somehow, he doesn’t evoke sympathy or pity at the end of all this. He evokes empathy and love and awe. A moment of silence to honor a man who lived and died with dignity!

Slightly disappointing was how Voldemort died quite an uneventful death in the end. One would have expected the greatest dark wizard to go down dramatically, but it was not so. But Rowling, never failing to please, added the twist about the wands in the final duel, over-shadowing any lack of drama.

As most Potter fans, I wait with bated breath for the next one.. and hope like hell that there is a next one. Perhaps it’s little Albus Severus who takes on the role… who knows what Rowling has in store for us in the future.

Kudos to a woman who imagined this world of magic, a world that seems more real than ours and makes us ache to be a part of it. A world which shall for years to come, be talked about with the same awe that before only Enid Blyton deserved.

Monday, 16 July, 2007

The boy who lived - Order of the Phoenix

The world as I see it is divided into two kinds of people - Potter believers and then there's the rest of the world. Harry Potter came into my (and millions of others') life when he was merely a clueless young kid. And he never left!

The latest motion picture, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is by far the closest depiction of the world of Harry Potter that Rowling created. The earlier movies merely managed to narate the story, but failed to capture all the nuances of the book. The wonder of the wizarding world, the awe of walking into a tiny ordinary tent and entering a palace. Harry's dread of the Dursleys, his ache to belong somewhere, his confusion of being the boy who lived and his thrill at being the youngest seeker.

The Order of the Phoenix scored on various counts. It managed to bring together the world of muggles and that of the wizards as two co-existing worlds. The order flying over river Thames on their brooms was not only visually appealing, but also finally brought the books in geographical perspective. The special effects were dazzling and befitting a series dedicated to wonder and awe. The scene where Dumbledore vanishes with a flash of light with his Phoenix fawkes was shot beautifully.

One of the best played characters was that of Dolores Jane Umbridge, the hogwarts spy sent by the Ministry of Magic. Her irritating giggle, the purse of her lips and her evil taunts almost make you want to reach out and give her a piece of your mind. Cho-Chang was a disappointment but surprisingly, Luna was a delight. She played her role to the hilt and you could do nothing else but like the little girl. Even Sirius Black was brilliant. Every time he would give that crooked smile and wink, i could swear that i heard a few hearts skip a beat!!

The movie also had a great sequence where good clashed with evil. Dubmledore fighting Voldermort was an awe-inspiring sequence. The two greatest wizards clashed their powers leaving everyone spellbound.

Why I love the Harry Potter series is something I will share another day. But for those like me who do too, one piece of advise - go and catch the movie. For once, you wont be disappointed.

Tuesday, 10 July, 2007

The click of a mouse...

“The time taken to travel across the world is now equal to the click of a mouse…”

So said a not-so wise person…me! The net is a fascinating thing. It manages to collapse geographies, cultures … seen and unseen boundaries.

I went to a hostel when I was 13 years old. In all the years since then, there have been times that I have been in and out of home….but mostly they never coincided with my sister’s plans. We started living in different cities since that summer. It was an age of self discovery…a time to find out who I was and what I wanted to be. Perhaps the distance between us grew larger as time passed and we became concepts to each other. We loved each other because…well, we were sisters and we were supposed to. But, if you had asked me her favorite book or what she liked to eat, I just may have been dumbfounded.

Time passed. Distances grew larger. She moved oversees and I got immersed in the buzz of university life. It was perhaps then that we started understanding of what we stood to lose by silence. And then we discovered the internet. The world was flat once more. We could bounce off thoughts, ideas, moods and just about anything off each other with a click of a mouse.

And I discovered my sister once again. I saw her for the person she was and the things that made her unique. We saw each other as friends for the first time, as two people with conflicting opinions but no conflict.

If you ask me today, I’m not sure that I can still tell you the name of her favorite book. But I can tell you what can make her shout with glee….or cry at the drop of a hat (trust me, she will when she reads this).

An ode to my sister….for being what she is to me and much more.

Sunday, 1 July, 2007

One of my fav songs...

One of my favourite songs....something about it always manages to touch some chord...

Thank you - Dido

My tea's gone cold,
I'm wondering why I got out of bed at all
the morning rain clouds up my window and
I can't see at all
And even if I could it'd all be grey,
but your picture on my wall
it reminds me that it's not so bad
it's not so bad

I drank too much last night,
got bills to pay
my head just feels in pain
I missed the bus
and there'll be hell today
I'm late for work again
and even if I'm there,
they'll all imply that I might not last the day
and then you call me and it's not so bad
it's not so bad

andI want to thank you
for giving me the best day of my life
Oh just to be with you
is having the best day of my life

Push the door,
I'm home at last
and I'm soaking through and through
then you handed me a towel
and all I see is you
and even if my house falls down now,
I wouldn't have a clue
because you're near me
andI want to thank you
for giving me the best day of my life

Oh just to be with you is having the best day of my life

Wednesday, 27 June, 2007


I read a recent interview by Gregory David Roberts - perhaps you would know him better as the ever popular Shantaram - in which he quoted that the most overused word in literature is 'magic'. I was somehow taken aback when I read that. If magic is so talked about in the world of words, then why is our belief in it so sparce in our lives? Why do most of us instinctively get defensive whenever we are faced with attributing anything to magic? Who is not skeptical of astrology, of alternate methods of treatments, of love at first sight and of premonitions.

Magic to me is something that does not have a logical explanation....something that has so much beauty in it that it would be marred if we tried to find an explanation. Magic is in the myriad of colors in the sky, in the smile of a street child. It is believing in the goodness of people and not being proven wrong. Magic is that one soul-mate who will live through life knowing that you are thinking of him/ her somewhere in the world even if you never meet again. I wonder how many of us still believe in it? I am in this tiny minority I fear. But how does one explain the 'knowing that this is right' when we meet someone for the 1st time.

Magic is what helps me go on, almost like the air I breathe. It gives me a reason to wake up everyday with a smile on my lips. If I could gift anything to the people I love, I would gift them a little bit of magic in their lives....

Monday, 25 June, 2007

In the search for contentment

Sometimes I wonder why we seek our happiness in others. One too many philosophers have reinstated that the only true happiness is being content with yourself. Then why do we look at the world for filling spaces in our hearts....

And what does it take to be content with oneself? Often I do small things that I believe will make a difference to someone in this world...give a hungry child food, smile at a stranger, help an ailing in need...but if I speak my heart, the truth is that somewhere deep inside, I perhaps do these to feel better about myself. To avenge the wrongs I may have done somewhere along the way...and to reinforce to myself that I am, in truth, a nice person.

Does it work? I'm not sure. Its too early to say. Life is long....what goes around, comes around...

Matheran and the sound of the wind

Travel for a large proportion of us refers to a luxurious hotel, room service, dinner in formals in the classy restaurant downstairs and a short walk around the resort thrown in. I must confess I am a sucker for luxury too. When I went camping to Mashobra near Simla for the first time, I thought there would be beds and ACs in the tents…regardless to say, I was a tad bit surprised to find stark bare tents in the middle of a forest with sleeping bags as beds and a fire for protection against wild-life. But then that’s another travelogue.

So as one can imagine, I was quite wary when I heard that Matheran, a tiny hillstation in Maharashtra was known for scenic beauty and wilderness alone. Yet, this time I was pleasantly surprised.

In my opinion, Matheran is a popular hill station largely for 2 reasons : its proximity to Mumbai and the popular toy train that leads you to the town. Though the train was out of service, the rash taxi driver on unbelievably steep roads was a distant second in terms of a comfortable ride. Yet, we made it in one piece to Matheran. The Taxi dropped us at Dasturi (the place till where vehicles are allowed). Somehow we managed to find our way through the mob of touts selling hotels, horse rides and just about anything and found our way to the ticket counter. One needs to purchase a pass to enter Matheran. This is valid throughout your visit.

A few facts that no travelogue is complete without:
It is the smallest hill station in the world
It is also the cleanest hill station
No vehicles are allowed inside the town. None whatsoever

Wildlife includes monkeys(lots of them) and horses trotting along the path as the local means of transport. Jokes apart, Matheran is known as being an abode for various exotic birds. I would probably attribute that to the pollution free air and lack of vehicle sound.

I call these facts because the first three are displayed on posters at the entrance to the MTDC resort by the government of Maharashtra. The MTDC resort was another good find. The deluxe cottages at a double accommodation rate of Rs1,100 were quite reasonable. The resort itself is built on a large expanse of land surrounded by forests. One does not even mind the 2 hour powercut everyday as it gives you the opportunity to sit on the swing in the veranda and just absorb the entire experience. It is also the most convenient resort as it is located at Dasturi, right next to where the taxi drops you. one can make bookings locally in Mumbai at their office in Nariman Point (# 022-22026713)

Leaving my dainty image behind in Mumbai, I did what one should do in a hill station – trek. Take any path and start walking along it, here is where the beauty of Matheran lies. The quiet paths with tall trees on both sides – invariably leading to some “point” or another are a wonder in themselves. Right after breakfast, we set off trekking towards Sunset point. Being 1o’clock in the afternoon, we were obviously ill timed for the beauty of this point but it did offer us a spectacular view of the valley. Monkey point on our way back was –as can be guessed- full of monkeys and little else. For lunch, there was a tiny eatery behind the mosque in the main bazaar that seemed to be well known for its non-veg dishes but we opted for Diwakar – a garden restaurant that the locals recommended. I’ve often found that one should ask locals about the best places to eat in a new town; they are the best judge and a reasonable sample of people you ask takes away the element of promotion or bias. Diwakar has surprisingly great food and also offered chilled beer. The Chicken Biryani and the chicken lollypops left us licking our fingers.
The experience of trekking in Matheran is not like the usual treks in hill stations in Himachal and others. For one, the town is not too high above sea level. And more importantly, the fun of trekking here is not climbing difficult rock trails but in walking along narrow paths with a green canopy above you. Another interesting opportunity is walking on the unused track of the toy train. It’s a beautiful walk from Dasturi to Matheran market (around 2.5 kms). Locals have also realized this and at regular intervals you will find them selling refreshing lime water or cucumber to munch.

Some travel related info:

How to get there: Take the local train from Dadar to Neral and take a taxi from Neral station to Dasturi (The entrance to Matheran)
Money involved: Not more than 1,000 per person per day on a twin sharing basis
What to buy: Fudge and Chikki (Try the chocolate walnut fudge)
So whenever the travel bug bites next, and you are ready to leave the city behind just for a while, here is where you should head. Don’t take my word for it – go try it out for yourself.

A Slice of Nature, A Sip of Wine!

The best part about India is that there are so many breathtaking nooks and crannies in this country that are still unexplored and unexploited. My idea of a hill station is not exactly a commercial hub like Shimla or Mussourie. I rather travel to smaller towns hidden in the heart of the hills, known for nothing but the warmth of the people and the clean fresh air.

One such place, I discovered, is Palampur. Most of us wouldn’t even have heard of it, and those who have would attribute it to the military cantt area there. For others like me, Palampur is an unexplored jewel.

A six hour drive from Chandigarh and a long 12 hour drive from Delhi with stops, Palampur is a little out of reach for the quick getaway seekers. Yet, I would recommend one taking out the time and making this trip. We did the wise thing and stopped over at Chandigarh for the night. We set off for Palampur the next morning at 6am and were on our way. The drive is beautiful- Long winding roads with the typical lush green fields of Punjab on both sides and barely any traffic. On our way, we stopped at a dhabba near Anadpur Sahib (A famous gurudwara where Khalsa was started) and had mouth watering Aalu paranthas. The best part of dhabbas in the north is that you spend a total of around Rs.100 for delicious food for 4 people and leave feeling completely satisfied. Finally we moved on and crossing Nangal (Of the Bhakra Nangal dam fame), we entered the ghats. The gradual climb suited even a person like me, being one of those who always gets vertigo in hills. Finally, right in time for lunch, we reached the beautiful town of Palampur.

We had the good fortune of knowing people in CSIR, a renowned research institute there and got ourselves booked in the guest house. Lovely big suites with windows opening towards the mountains, it was an experience. The only way of getting a room here is if you know anybody in CSIR. At Rs.150 per night, the rooms are not open to the general public. There is also a Hotel Yamini that is supposed to be the best here for others. The tariffs average around Rs.3000 per night for a double. The first day, we just decided to relax and take long walks. The one thing about Palampur that people don’t know is that there are large expanses of tea estates here. Acres of land growing leaf tea not only perfume the environment, they really are a feast for the eyes too. My 3 days in Palampur left me addicted to this tea!

During our walk, we discovered a Naturotherapy centre called “Kaya Kalp”. Excited at our new find, we returned there the next day to be pampered and rejuvenated. I went in for their full body massage and steam bath (At a total of Rs 100 per person). I must confess, those 50 minutes were nothing less than pure bliss. When we stepped out of there, I truly felt lighter and more beautiful!! The centre is relatively new and does not have internet presence yet. The best way to contact them is to walk in, you don’t really need prior appointments. The evening was spent by visiting the museum of Sobha Singh, a famous artist who is best known for his paintings of Guru Nanak. In a room within his own house, now run by his niece, it was a lovely collection. The sunset in Palampur was worth dying for. Snowcapped peaks, pine forests and the sky ablaze – it was a moment of pure silence and beauty.

Another thing to take back from here is the fruit wines they make in this region. You can get beautifully presented and lovely to taste Kiwi wines, Peach wines, Apple wines etc. They range from Rs.150 a bottle to Rs.400 for a 750ml bottle, quite a steal even in comparison to Indian wines like Sula. A perfect evening in Palampur is about putting up your feet, sipping wine and watching the sunset between snow capped mountains. It makes one realize that this is what life is about!

Finally, on our last day, we packed our bags and looked back at this quaint little town one last time. It was with a heavy heart but rejuvenated mind that we started on our journey back to the hustle bustle of city life. What we carried with us though, besides the famous tea and wines, was almost a sort of humble gratitude towards nature that she allowed us to witness her in all her glory.

As simple or as complicated as that

I believe, somewhere along the way, we all forgot that our careers are a means to an end. The reasons one worked used to be money, power or at the best – fame. Slowly, there is a change being observed and these reasons are being overshadowed by reasons like personal gratification and a sense of achievement. What is fading away is the concept of “shared goals”. It is more “I” versus the previous “We”. Ayn Rand finally has the world dancing to her tunes.

The ends of the whole ‘work’ exercise have now become the ‘means’. The big car that was once a milestone, is now often just a faster way to reach office. The ‘vacation’ that the family used to save for has now been transformed into a quick ‘getaway’ to re-energize oneself for next month’s targets. Birthdays, anniversaries and occasions are often sidelined due to late hours, pressing deadlines and numerous tours.

I often wonder if it all is worth it. What will one get by living her/his life as a self-sustaining island and only reach out if they need momentary reassurance. Marriages are breaking up by the dozen, people are putting off having children, women are as much in the workplace as men - leaving home just an empty house to sleep in. It concerns me that we increasingly don’t give enough importance to taking time out for people we love, that we don’t sit and gaze at the stars anymore….that we just always seem to be in a tearing hurry.

Sure, I like my job and I love the money I make. But somewhere deep inside my heart, lives a woman who almost wishes that times were different. Sometimes, we need to slow down…stop for a moment and look around. We may find that the important milestones in our life are not necessarily paydays or the first promotion…but rather the first hug, the sound of a baby’s heartbeat or as simple as a rose on a special day. It is in these simple joys of life that we fine the true meaning of life and if we look hard enough - ultimately find ourselves.

Why I chose a residential B-School

It is often debated whether B-schools are actually an effective platform to build future leaders. That is an entire controversy in itself. Yet, one debate left untouched is the difference between a day boarding B-School and a residential one.

A day boarding B-school allows one the opportunity to lead a dual life- To be a part of the ‘college’ life as well as have a life beyond that. For most, it allows the opportunity to live with their families and continue with the pampered lifestyle that they have grown up with. Having spent half of my undergraduate years as staying in a PG and half staying at home, I made a conscious decision to opt for a residential B-school. Though, a day boarding in my hometown Delhi would have allowed me to stay with my family, have my friends nearby and eat wholesome meals at home, why did i decide otherwise, you ask?

Me, I prefer the concept of a residential institute. They often say in their pitch that it is only in the wholesome experience of staying 24 hours in the campus, that one does learn the skills required as a manager. Though I am person who compulsively argues with any stated fact, I have no choice but to agree this time. The true education a B-school lends is not in the classroom. The days are filled with endlessly long lectures interspersed with yet another presentation given by the students themselves. But the true take-away of B-schools is not knowledge of Maslow’s theory or the Ps of Marketing (Whether they are 4…or 17 as I think last argued). The true take away is the spirit of team-work. It is the art of managing and understanding other people and at the same time, getting your work done.

Some may argue that projects are a part of the life in day-colleges too. But there is a difference that I have noted in my interactions with others. In a residential college, making presentations often took us into the wee hours of the morning. Not only did we need to manage schedules, we also needed to juggle moods, appetites and priorities of every one in the group. My learning was not in the books I read to make that presentation, but rather in the making of those long presentations in the library at 1am and grumbling about that at the canteen at 2. Living with all those people was not easy, there was a lot of cut throat competition and associations were often for interior motives only, but it was a sense of kinship that developed in little things like waking the entire hostel if you are the first to get up or being woken everyday if you are the last; in attendance proxies (and getting caught), in controversies and in friendships. It was in the understanding that everyone needs their space but no one minds a smile either.

To every coin there are 2 sides. Campus life was not exactly hunky-dory. There were days when the cafeteria food was so bad that we would rather venture out to the nearest dhaba 20 kms away. Also, as I have grown older, I have noticed that friendships have gotten more artificial and this hit me in my post-grad. Most of one’s batchmates would take the 1st opportunity to side-step you and move forward even if it takes underhand means. There were a few people I thought to be good friends, but they turned around and betrayed my trust. Friends turned enemies and enemies turned harmless. All these instances and more may be generic to all B-schools or particular to mine. But MICA was a unique experience for traits that are particular only to it. It is the only B-School (we often argue that it is a C-School: Communication School) that has an equal proportion of both genders. Thus, not only was the equality discussion thrown up in all classes, but on a lighter note, we also attracted the maximum number of attendees for fests and sports matches too. IIM A with its meager population of women was always a ready contender be it cricket, volleyball or even basketball despite being defeated more often than not. Also, largely due to the Director Prof. Atul Tandan, MICA viewed its students as grown up individuals and did not impose overt rules like hostel wardens, no-smoking, hostels cut off for the other gender etc. It recognized that the individuals moving into the MICA campus were capable of making their own decisions responsibly. Responsibility was handed out for those who wished to take it and students managed everything from contractors for the cafeteria to being allowed to choose their professors on the basis of feedback.

My 2 years in a Management school taught me more than I had bargained for. School had taught me the importance of friends, of unconditional relationships and that there could be nothing worse in life than getting caught by the teacher bunking class. Then came college where I learnt that it takes all sorts to make this world; where for the first time, I could choose to study what interested me and I learnt that learning can be fun too. But my real education happened during post-graduation. Not because of what the faculty taught me. Frankly, very little of what was taught in those 4 walls has been used by me at my workplace. But for the fact that it geared me for the real world, a world where you have to compete to stay afloat, one where the person who helps you out of a tight spot turns out to be the last person you expected. When I look back, I do not see the projects I made, but instead remember the preparation of those projects-working day and night in a group, taking it for a fact that everyone is not going to give it as much priority as you will, and yet getting them to do the best they can. I have also found that brainstorm sessions are much more effective when they are over a cup of hot tea in the middle of a cold night than they are in lazy afternoons. I don’t remember the people who cut my path for their own good, but instead recall how I learnt to deal with them-and eventually rise above petty retaliation. I do not think about the few sleepless nights I spent pining for home or the grumbling about the cafĂ© food. Instead, what comes to my mind are friends who dropped in for a chat-just like that, and those who brought back goodies for me from their outing for no apparent reason. All this and much more I learnt only because I chose to live with those 68 people day in and day out.

Education, to me, is not about classrooms and grades. In terms of my CGPA, I would probably have done just as well if I was a day scholar. Education, I believe, is about gaining a mature outlook towards life. About understanding human relationships and in the process, getting to understand oneself too. For it is in these 2 years, that I truly grew up. But for the bird to learn to spread its wings and fly, there is one thing it must do--it must step out of its mother’s nest.. and take those first steps towards uncertainty..and that, it must do on its own.