Saturday, 30 May, 2009

The cacophony of silence

The deafening cacophony gets louder
Each passing moment brings the inevitable closer
It started as a whisper
Barely noticeable
Easy to miss
It was always there but never pondered upon
A constant reminder
The noise started getting louder
Till it reached a crescendo
Couldn’t hear anything anymore
Surrounded by it
Drowning, willingly so
And then as suddenly as it had arrived
It was gone
And silence was all around
Not a hush
Air heavy with the unsaid
I wonder now
What’s worse
The deafening crescendo
Or the chilling silence

Thursday, 28 May, 2009

'How NOT to be attacked in Australia’

I couldn’t resist! I apologize to my sister and my entire gang of cousins and friends staying abroad in advance. I know should not have an opinion before trying it for myself but I have often been wary of moving abroad for 3 reasons. Firstly and most importantly, I would hate to be treated like a second class citizen. To have the fear in my head that the laws can change anytime and I would again need to prove myself for merely living there. Secondly, I am spoiled rotten in India. I have a cook, a gardener, a housemaid, a car cleaner, a dhobi blah blah blah. I am unfortunately too used to lying in my bed and ‘managing’ to get work done!! And lastly on a lighter note, I go crazy when anyone comes back to India and go on and on about what is wrong here – the pollution, the poverty, the corruption, the traffic, the heat etc. It’s something that is part of this country and we live with it. India is changing – constantly. It is something that I believe in very strongly and am proud of the visible progress I see around me every passing year. America gained independence 233 years back. It’s just been 62 years for us. Give us time.

I would love to do a stint in another country, live in different cultures. But the urge is just not compelling enough to pack my life here and go blindly in the hope of a better one.

Anyways, what brought on this post actually was this bunch of hilarious inputs I was reading on Rediff on ‘How not to be attacked in Australia’ spurred by the recent gory racist attack on an Indian student in AUS!! And believe it or not, the inputs were from people who have lived in Australia since a long time and are settled there. They all insisted that Racism is just not a ‘very’ common phenomenon but we must be ‘careful not to offend locals’.

Here are my favs:

1.After 7 pm, always travel in the first compartment of the train (Imagine the chaos that would happen in Mumbai trains if people followed this advice)!!

2.Try not to walk alone or travel alone on a Friday or Saturday night (so have a weekend pal to drive with coz driving alone on weekends can get you hurt)!

3.It is even possible that when you are waiting at road intersections people including girls may shout, gesture or thrown beer bottles or foodstuff at you from there cars. My advice is to be relaxed while walking alone. (are you kidding me??? Throw bottles at you?? Did you write this with a straight face?? Let them try that with me in Delhi! )

4.Since, we cannot take matters in our own hand, as we are foreigners here, its better to be vigilant & report anything that may affect me or someone else. (so let us put our heads down and pray!)

5.Most of the brawls in pubs happen either due to excessive drinks or do to matter relating women. So kindly avoid both. (what? Pubs, women or drinks?)

6.Late night fights happen due to money and need for cigarettes. Have $5 in your pocket. If you sense trouble, drop the money before them and run away from them. Most likely they would pick up the money and go away.(don’t blame us for giving money to beggars then. At least they don’t knife you for it)

7.Always remain friendly and converse with them in English. Even if you are with your friends/ peers who share a different/ common language, please converse with each other in English when in public places (This would be crazy to implement in India. Imagine Bengalis, Gujaratis, Punjabis – everyone only allowed to talk in hindi! Why go there, why don’t we shun European tourists when they chat in French or even the Russians or Spanish? Only talk in Hindi please!!)

8.And my absolute fav - The local young generation works on weekly wages and the amount they get on Friday spend on booze and clubs. I have seen them go berserk on Friday and Saturday night and damaging even the national property leave alone attacking Indians. The best way to avoid is to stay away during these timings and stay put in hotel or your room. (ummmm….so please only sit at home and watch TV on weekends!!)

Friday, 22 May, 2009

The Debate on Drunk Driving

Have you read the recent Delhi HC directive to station cops outside bars and pubs to check the drivers for drunken driving? Delhi has gone up in arms over this. Words like moral policing, lack of trust on citizens etc. are being thrown around carelessly by everyone who has a voice.

And I look around completely aghast. What is wrong with the people of my city? The police’s job is to ensure that if you are driving, you have not consumed more than the permissible level of alcohol. And whom are you kidding? A 650ml bottle of beer or 2 small pegs of whiskey (which is the permissible limit) is not too less. If you want to have 4 pegs and prove your skills on the road, go get a race track! I want to reach home safe! The police is merely doing its job. A radio show yesterday had callers being very vocal in their protest. They insisted that they had the intelligence to know whether to drive drunk or not, and after all, they insisted, it IS their life! Ummm excuse me? If you are ramming into my car because you THOUGHT that you are sane, it suddenly affects my life too! And as a matter of fact, I am yet to meet a person who is high on alcohol and doesn’t insist that he/she is perfectly fine and capable of driving. It is some sort of a point to be proven, an ego issue about how can someone say that I am not capable of driving! I’ll show them!!

Like a doctor finally stated on the radio show, when she is sober she is the most careful driver on the road. And the second she has some alcohol inside, she is certain that the bus driving next to her has lesser right on the road than she does!! It is not merely an issue of how well or badly you drive. It is also a medically proven fact that alcohol slows down your reflexes. So you may have been driving perfectly well but if a sudden movement happens or you are faced with an accidental situation, you will not be able to respond as fast as you would have. And these micro-seconds could cost you very dearly!

So, here is my 2 bits. Go out, party, enjoy. But if you can not keep one person in your group sober as a designated driver, then call a radio cab! It’ll also save you the hassle of driving. I hate to sound like a bore….but someone’s waiting for you at home….

PS – on a completely different note, there was an article in Times of India today on how Manmohan Singh’s posture is better than Sonia and Rahul’s. I mean it. They were literally referring to the degree of the straightness of their back!!! Well why not, if Bo Barack can be such a news item then why not this (save me lord)!!!

Wednesday, 13 May, 2009

Water water everywhere....

It’s not for lack of wanting that you haven’t seen a post here for a while. Its just that blogger is incredibly slow and refuses to load on my data card which means that my want to blog remains just that!

The most exciting thing in my life right now is swimming in the evenings. India has a strange cartel system when it comes to swimming pools. Unless you are a member of a club (which are priced crazily high), you can not take a seasonal membership to the pool. Which brings lesser mortals like me back to square one. Which is why I have been elated since we managed to get membership to arguably one of the best pools in Noida and the evening swim is what I look forward to every day! There is a strange sense of calm that water brings with it.

Think back to the last time you were at a beach at sunset. I dont know what it is about the sound of waves that one just wants to sit quietly and listen to them. Its as if they are telling a story in a language that we cant decipher but we feel that if we listen hard enough, perhaps we will understand the secret that they share.

I get the same sense of calm in the swimming pool. When I float in the pool, staring at the sky, my mind clear of thoughts... of deadlines to be met...dinner to be made....bank work to be completed ...the cacophony around me fades away and I am, for once, at peace with myself.

Tuesday, 5 May, 2009

Times Food Guide Book Launch - My One Night of Heaven!!

Well, it’s a tossup (as weekends usually are) between a review of ‘Pride & Glory’ and a post about spending Sunday evening at the book launch of the Times Food Guide. As can be expected, food always wins in my life. So here is an account of what I did on Sunday evening...prepare to be consumed with jealousy.

So, the story goes like this – HT and Times of India both release a food guide every year in all Indian metros in which they rate and evaluate all the restaurants and pubs in the city. As part of this exercise, they also give awards to the best in various categories like Best Pub (Smoke House Grill*), Best Italian (Diva*), Best Russian (Bline*) etc. And what could possibly be better than the fact that the book launch also is a place where these 30 odd winning restaurants have stalls and you can sample the best on their menu.

* Winners of 2009

So we get all dressed up for the event and tried to brainwash our tummies into stuffing in more than it ever had before. The event was held in the gardens of Maurya Sheraton in Delhi. The place was done up in stunning hues of red and silver and could easily have been mistaken for an upscale lounge. The centre of the lawn was the bar with the winners having their own areas. Ricks (Taj) served regular drinks whereas Manre tried to experiment with some signature cocktails. The coup de grace though was the counter for Smoke House Grill. The bartender was whipping up Caprioskas with fresh fruits like Apple, Musk Melon, Orange, Water Melon etc. I tried the watermelon caprioska and was floored!! A brilliant mix of crushed watermelon, brown sugar, lime juice, mint vodka, ice and sprite, it was one I’m dying to recreate at home!

When we looked around, I was convinced I had died and gone to heaven!! I must have done some very good deeds in my past life for god to award me with this one night in heaven!! The food at the venue ranged from the best in Indian (Bukhara, Dum Pukht) to eclectic Indian (Chore Bizzare, Swagath, Oh Calcutta). Fancy some oriental?? There was Sakura, Wasabi (renowned for the best Sushi in Delhi), The Orient Express. Or if its Italian that you prefer, Diva, Grand Café, Threesixty Degrees, La Pizzeria all vied for your attention. Or if you rather try different cuisines, you could have the brilliant Russian food at Bline (a personal favourite) or Lebanese at Mashrabiya or Mediterranean at Sevilla & Shalom and there was even a Korean Restaurant - Kumgang.

It took us two rounds and a lot of rethinking to decide where to start from! We tried something from almost every stall. Some of my favourites: the sushi with tuna was good (I’m not a sushi person myself but it was quite good) at Wasabi; Ritu Dalmia herself was hanging around her table at Diva and suggested we try the Veal (which was outstanding if I say so myself); the soup and the chicken bline at Bline refused to disappoint and made us want more (the owner who is usually so conservative with his words was surprisingly in good spirits and even chatted with us while recommending what to eat); we realized that we were not too fond of seafood when the Husband actually dared to down a baby octopus (with tentacles and all) and even the scallops were too squishy for our taste! The crab butter garlic at Swagath was brilliant though as were the prawns tempura at the orient express. La Pizzeria had some great tree mushroom risotto and a very interesting starter with watermelon and ham put together. I must confess I did not even go near the Indian food stalls so I can’t comment on them but going by past experiences at Dum Pukht, Bukhara, Oh Calcutta and Swagath, I can vouch they would have made the choice much tougher!!

If we could find any tiny corner of our appetite still remaining, we did the deserts full justice with the brownie mounds at Oberoi Patisserie, the mouse at Mocha and the chocolate praline tartlet which was divine!!

I wish the story ended there and we lived happily ever after….but it was not to be! The valet service of Maurya completely broke down and there was almost a stampede to get your card to the counter. A 40 minute wait at the foyer later, we drove back home, happy and content!!

Moral of the story – Next time, carry a bag to take back all those things that you just couldn’t manage to eat….and park your own car!!

For the record (in full Miss India fashion), I would like to thank the Husband for this one evening of heaven. And I would also like to thank P for being such a sport and helping us get the invite!

PS- I haven’t even touched up the celebs who were walking around. You see, I was way too busy hogging to notice the likes of Asin, Payal Rahtogi, Zulfi Syed, the current Miss Indias, Jiggs Kalra, Rahul Dev etc.