Thursday, 31 July, 2008

Delhi on high alert...

Apparently there is a threat mail sent to the Japanese Embassy on about how Delhi is going to be the next target for the bombs after Bangalore and Ahmedabad according to the story here

I dont believe in these sort of things usually. When someone bothers to threaten, rarely is it ever carried out. Who has to do does. When the Met department says its going to rain, it rarely ever does.

Having said that, please be safe....if you are in Delhi or any place in India for that matter, do be safe and vigillant.

Tuesday, 29 July, 2008

Mindless futility....

7 blasts in Bangalore.....16 in Ahmedabad....2 car bombs found and diffused in Surat. Well planned and perfectly coordinated to create panic and chaos. A letter sent to a media company claiming responsibility for the same. Achievement - zilch.

After I got through the first few minutes of worry and contacted the few I know in the respective cities, the futility of it all hit me. 40 odd dead....200 injured. And what gained? The chaos that the culprits wanted did not reign. The effort was full - the mail claiming responsibility also said that this was a revenge for Gujarat (presumably the 2002 riots). Must have hoped that people will suddenly turn to their illogical evil sides and take to the streets creating mayhem. What happened? People went home and slept. Gujarat riots are a topic I avoid for fear of rambling on with sentimentality stuffed in. But I truly think that people are just sick of this crap. They dont really care about politics and are becoming immune to the voilence that tries to stir such emotions. At least I hope so.

For all who were there in those times, hope your families are well. This too shall pass.

Monday, 28 July, 2008

Kung Fu Panda Reviewed....

We really should stop watching those Jackie Chan types Kung Fu movies! In a day and age when animation is no longer for kids but more real and entertaining than reality is (If you don’t believe me, go check out ‘The Curse of the Golden Flower’) , it is not a wonder that Kung Fu Panda has a huge adult fan base. This weekend, it was this movie that we checked out and we couldn’t have been happier.



Kung Fu Panda is the story of a bungling panda, Po, who has always dreamt of being a kung fu warrior. Unfortunately his father (who happens to be a goose) does not encourage the same and wishes to hand over his noodle shop business to him. By a stroke of luck and a lot of clumsiness, Po finds himself in the middle of the Kung Fu scene much to the disappointment of the master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) — a quintet of supremely skilled martial artists trained by Shifu.

Extremely entertaining, the movie is not only hilarious in parts, but also has fabulous action and theatrics. Tiny parts of the movie like Po getting completely out of breath every time he has to climb the zillion steps up to the hall are a delight. The action scenes like when the Furious Five fight Tai Lung, beat any Kung Fu movie hands down.

The movie also managed to have a lesson to be learnt unlike movies these days. “There is no secret”, which means that if you believe you can do it and the other person perceives you as one who can, then anything is attainable.

A movie to be thoroughly enjoyed…..as proven by the VERY loud strangers sitting next to us and guffawing at every second dialogue. So, don’t take my word for it, go check it out yourself. And no, you are not too old for this one….

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Friday, 25 July, 2008

Of random thoughts...and yummy munchies

So here I am, finally got a new haircut to beat the boredom (much to the despair of the Husband), planned a trip to meet his grandparents at their place in Shahdol (Madhya Pradesh) in August and waiting for the Friday evening to dawn. Life is not too bad I would say! So as you would have guessed by now, I don’t have a new story to tell or a review to share today but the random ramblings of my thoughts. Which, I guess, is the point of Thought Express (duh!!)…

I have also discovered a new snack to patronize and I have been dying to share it. Top Breads in Noida Sector 18 has come up with a thing called “Chicken Pocket”. It is essentially a quarter of a Pita bread, halved in the middle and filled with coleslaw and chicken with lettuce. Divine!!!!! Somehow most roads go via Top Breads these days ;)!!

Ofcourse, if you rather just sit in front of the TV and munch on some chips, here’s the secret behind a great dip I make sometimes:



Ingredients:
Mayonnaise – 2 tbsp
Hung curd – 3 tbsp
Mustard sauce – A dash
Maggie chicken masala cube- ½ cube (I don’t know the substitute for this in other countries…Ras, pl suggest)
Chilli Flakes – ½ tsp

Method:
Mix all ingredients and blend into a smooth paste. Enjoy as a dip with chips, nachos, chicken nuggets and almost anything!!! To alter the flavor, you can substitute the chilli flakes with oregano or other herbs. Do not mix flavors though, stick to one.

Tuesday, 22 July, 2008

Monsoon Styles

Monsoons pulling you down? Check out my article on Rediff about how to dress smart this monsoon.

Get the complete article here.

Some of the snaps I had saved for this and really liked but didn't make it:


Photograph: Loleia

Monday, 21 July, 2008

Batman....this one's forever!



What happens when comic books don’t remain for kids anymore? They become cults! And that is what “The Dark Knight” has promised to make Batman into. No theatrics of animated characters like the Riddler. No perfectly painted faces. No fancy random gadgetry a la 007. Just pure superhero versus villain.

And what a villain. Before I went and saw the movie, I had already read reviews that raved about Heath Ledger’s performance and how he had immortalized himself. It all seemed like one of those “He’s gone so let’s just say something nice about him” sort of tales. And then I watched the movie. The man is so talented that he did not just immortalize himself, rather went ahead and immortalized the Joker. It wasn’t just his chalky make up or his brilliant lines “I won’t kill you coz you are just too much fun”. It was his persona, his being. He sent shivers down your spine, made you wish you didn’t leave the kids alone at home. He made batman look inept. And that is no mean feat.

Batman himself was alright. Nothing great, I especially failed to understand why his voice suddenly became raspy the second he donned his suit. But the effects were fab! Don’t miss the scene when the batmobile transforms into a super bike (sorry for the spoiler…couldn’t hold myself back). The girl was not really required, but then it’s a superhero movie, what did you expect?

Harvey Dent was another character played brilliantly. The make up in the second half left me cringing which was the point I guess!

All in all, I wouldn’t call myself an authority on Superhero flicks, but in my modest opinion, this one beats them all. The best superhero film ever made. 152 minutes that leave you wanting for more. The Dark Knight reigns supreme.

Rating: 5 on 5 (4 for the movie and 1 in tribute to the best Joker there ever was).

Thursday, 17 July, 2008

Jaane Tu...ya jaane na...

With my faithful friends grumbling about the delay of my review on Jaane Tu (Neha the Deva’s grudges can be very daunting!), I decided it was but time I wrote about it. On our crazy Movie Saturday last week, we started the day with Jaane Tu – the film people can’t stop gushing about.

Actually it’s wrong to call it ‘gushing’. Jaane Tu leaves you with a feeling like you are floating on air. None of the awe on direction that Johnny Gaddar demanded or the acting poweress shown in Omkara. But you leave the hall with a silly smile on your face. And that is the beauty of this movie. You enter the hall knowing EXACTLY what the story is going to be …. Boy and girl are friends….everyone else thinks they should be together….they date different people but finally realize they really should be together. And that’s it. No twist in the tale, no random fight scenes…..just pure predictable entertainment. The script writer made a brilliant move introducing this age old sequence of events in a fresh look without any jazz. And all this in an age where we are surrounded by cinema trying too hard….with people flying around and having talking pink teddy bears on their back (I mean what was Priyanka Chopra thinking???). Never underestimate the power of simplicity and the judgment of the audience.



To do a quick run-down on why I think the movie worked:
1.Simple story. No twists that can fall flat
2.New faces that don’t carry baggage of expectations
3.Variety of relationships ranging from brother-sister, best friends, parents-child, cousins, each one interesting in its own right.
4.A brilliant Naseeruddin Shah who can make you laugh even if he is stuck standing in a frame on the wall.
5.Peppy music that doesn’t bore the hell out of you a la AR Rehman

When I walked out of the hall with that silly smile on my face that I mentioned before, I turned to the Husband and the first thing I said was “They are so smart. They actually made a movie that is difficult to dislike”. And that’s the crux of this review. You may not love the movie or coo “soooooo cute” like some people have been heard to have said….but you will just find it so bloody difficult to dislike the film!!

Rating: 3.5 on 5

Tuesday, 15 July, 2008

Where time stands still....

The Husband on top of the world ... literally...

Location: Leh and around

















Photographs: Rohan Tiwary

Monday, 14 July, 2008

Hancock....

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The Husband returning from Leh (yes, yes – I will put up snaps in the next blog) called for celebrations and the weekend begged to be packed with more excitement than usual. So we deviated from our usual one movie per day on weekends to have a movie marathon and went ahead and saw 2 movies on Saturday in the hall. We started with Jaane Tu and ended with Hancock though I wish in retrospect we had done it the other way around. So, I will review them in reverse order. This one is for Hancock.



I must admit, it’s a movie I had been looking forward to for very long. To start with, it starred Will Smith. He has a way of making the worst roles look good in his crazy-I-don’t-give-a-damn style. Add to that, he plays a superhero! I mean, what else can a girl ask for?? And with Halle Berry winning Oscars and Obama being slated for President, who says we aren’t ready for an African American Superhero (trying to be as politically correct as possible)??

The movie starts off on a good enough premise. He has supernatural powers but is careless about using them. He’s quite amusing in his abusive nonchalant role. Not too sure why he would prefer to sleep on a bench on a Washington DC street when he can transport himself just about anywhere, but then let’s not nitpick here. The public though, doesn’t appreciate his gestures much and choose to harp on the damage he causes with his carelessness. Enter Jason Bateman, who is saved by Smith from coming under a train. Bateman happens to be a PR guru and helps clean up the latter’s image.

The movie unfortunately starts going downhill hereon. The twisted story about the truth behind Bateman’s wife Charlize Theron and the drama that unfolds seems like a forced attempt to bring in twists in the story. Unfortunately, it ends up killing the plot and one is less than impressed with the theatrics.

All in all, not a bad flick. Will Smith is worth a watch and will justify an evening in front of the TV. But do yourself a favor and watch it on DVD….the trip to the hall just doesn’t seem worth it!!

Rating: 2.5 on 5

Thursday, 10 July, 2008

The Pyramids of Giza - Twice Over!!

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I was trying to lull myself to sleep yesterday night and it was proving extremely difficult. Viral fever, sore throat, common cold and Delhi humidity make a potent combination and do not leave much leeway for a good night’s sleep. So I allowed my mind to wander towards pleasant thoughts hoping they would help. And then I remembered this anecdote from our trip to Egypt last November leading me to admonish myself for not sharing it here!!

So here we were, in Cairo, the capital of the land of Pharaohs. The city itself was a concrete dump, one which made the smallest towns in India look majestic. But we were staying in a nice part of town near the Nile where the Diplomats reside so no complaints! Ofcourse when you hit Cairo and have only 24 hours there, the first thing on your agenda is to visit the Pyramids of Giza. The famous pyramids are 3 of the many such structures strewn around the country but have gained popularity as being the only surviving monument of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The others, namely Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria have all since succumbed to the forces of nature and do not exist anymore.

We set off early next morning, to beat the crowds at Giza. A 45 minute Taxi ride and two 100 Egyptian Pounds (which was HUGE as we could have a lovely meal for 2 for around 40 EP) tickets later, we were gazing at this symbol of power and stability. The pyramids are not particularly beautiful or artistic. What is special about them is that they are built using boulders almost as tall as a man, each weighing a ton and a half, in an age when no machinery existed. How those workers got these stones to the top is truly a wonder!

We took lots of photographs, the typical touristy ones and even the artisty ones with the sunlight playing on the hues of the desert. The Husband also managed to take a couple within the tomb which was a strict no photography area. Finally, by 3pm we were exhausted with the desert sun and famished as well. We said goodbye to the Pyramids and the Sphinx and hailed a cab to take us to the Egyptian Museum, next on our list and home to famous mummies. Barely 2 minutes after we had exited the cab, The Husband gave a start and started frantically searching his rucksack. After much cajoling, I figured out that we had left our precious camera which had our very precious Pyramid snaps in the cab! 30 minutes of pure despair followed and the conclusion was that if we went back to India and did not have any snaps of Pyramids to show, it would be touted as the tragedy of the year and we would never live it down. So I took the only decision I could and told him that we would go back. We would sacrifice our entire itinerary in Cairo for this little trip but I couldn’t see the look of anguish on his face. And luckily we had our second camera safe and sound.

So dear friends, back we sat in a cab for the 1 hour drive to Giza. Luckily we convinced the ticket guy to allow us on our old tickets. What we had achieved in 4 hours in the morning, we achieved in 30 minutes, posing at the very same spots as we had in the morning. People wondered why were rushing from pillar to post taking snaps and not admiring the Pyramids but how could I tell them!!

So every time anyone mentions the Giza Pyramids now, I find myself jumping into the conversation with gusto. It was after all, practically our second home in Egypt!!!

Now you know the truth behind these snaps:







Monday, 7 July, 2008

Digital Signatures

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Technology!!! Hrrmmppphh....besides the fact that the industry is responsible for putting food on my table, technology has to be the single most frustrating thing ever created!

Figure this out - the Indian Government finally decides to allow online submission of Income Tax Returns. The website works perfectly and I had no problem until I had to upload the filled in form. The instructions say clearly that I have 2 options: Either I can upload a digital signature and print out my acknowledgement or I can print a verification form, take it to the crowded Income Tax office, wait for acknowledgement etc etc.

So I uploaded the form and tried to upload a .pfx file that I created through Acrobat Reader according to instructions I read on the net (Document - Security Settings - Add ID). But when I upload the same, I unfortunately get the message below:



So if anyone has ANY clue on how I can fix this...please help!!

Wednesday, 2 July, 2008

Kiran Bedi's 2 bits..

I was over at my sister-in-law's place last weekend. A drive from Noida to Gurgaon is more like a cross country rally so by the time we reached, we were quite famished. But this is not about the awesome food she served. She is in that stage in life where the day seems to have too few hours. With two kids, one 3 years old and the other just a little younger and a full time successful marketing career, she's often caught juggling between her pririties. It's at these times in life that you feel that if you stop for a moment, all the balls in the air will come crashing down.

So, in the course of our conversation, she narrated a very interesting incidence. Her company is very aggressive in pursuits like recognising women's issues etc. and had organised a closed group discussion of the women employees with some personalities like Kiran Bedi. While everyone was constantly wailing about how the system doesn't understand their problems, Kiran Bedi finally lost her patience and intervened. Below is what I understood of what she said:

"We can go on and on for hours about women's issues but there is one fundamental thing that the management needs to recognise. A person has x amount of energy. The man gets up in the morning, plays with the kids, gets ready, goes to work, comes back and lies down to watch TV as he's tired with the day. A woman wakes up, oversees the domestic help, gets breakfast made, wakes the kids, manages their morning routine, orgnises tiffin, gets ready, goes to work, calls home 10 times a day to check on the kids, comes back, supervises the cook for dinner, gets the house in shape and on and on. By the time she hits the bed, her energy is completely sapped. This is not an attempt to take credit away from husbands who help around the house but the fact in India remains that it is her responsibility to see that it all gets done. If the management takes steps to take some of these responsibilities off her shoulders, she will readily divert her energies to office."

Having heard this outburst, the head of the company sitting there rose to the occassion and announced that every office of the company will have a creche for young mothers! They also as a policy allow work-from-home option and flexi hours. Bravo!