Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Party Planner

New year is just around the corner!!! Haven't made plans yet? Here's help...

The Quick Checklist to Help You Plan The Perfect Party - Click here.


Sunday 23 December 2012

Exploring Madhya Pradesh




My recent trip to Bhedaghat in Madhya Pradesh inspired me to suggest little known parts of this beautiful state to travelers.

You can read the article here.

Friday 21 December 2012

Recent Rape 'Incident' in Delhi and Tips on Safety


If India/ Delhi bashing was a sport, it may deserve its own personal Olympics! I am usually non-confrontational in nature and unless something REALLY irks me, I don't get into it. The Mayans were right. The world is ending. If it weren't would a person walk into a place of worship or an elementary school and gun down innocent people? If it weren't would heinous crimes still be committed against women? But they are. What the psychologist in me fails to understand is why when an incident happens in a 'developed' country, it is seen as an incident and the perpetrator or at most, the laws are blamed. When an incident happens in India, the same people blame the entire country! They blame the government, the police, the public, the laws, the culture, the mindset and just everything. It is not an incident anymore, it is a way of life. Which it isn't and I will explain it in the most rational way possible using statistics which are unbiased.

This is going to be a long post. The first half I need to deal with this India bashing and put the concept of violence in global perspective. If you're still hanging around till the end of the post, I will be enumerating some stuff on how one can try to be safer (tips that are useful).

These are per 1L population which is the logical way to look at because statistically that is the probability of something happening to you. But even if you want absolute numbers, USA had 85,000 rape cases in the year, smaller countries with much smaller population like UK (16,500) and Australia (18,000) fare no better. India had 22,000 with a population of 1.2 billion. The murder statistics reflect similar numbers but I think you get the picture. Yes, we can also argue that perhaps the number of reported cases is much lower in India. Ok, double the number then, it still won't change this picture. Definitions of rape also differ in some countries, but on an overall average, these numbers taken from United Nations are a decent enough reference point.

In the US, in 2010 the arrest rate for rape was 24%. In Sweden, conviction rate was as low as 10%. India has a rape conviction of 26%. The relevance of a conviction rate is that the victims feel more confident to report the crime. 

What is my point? My point is that we all know India has issues. We have poverty and gender bias and corruption amongst others. But so does every country. They have their own issues. They grapple with gun law controversies, racism, rape, mugging and countless other issues. Every country like every person, has its own baggage. So when an incident happens, let us try to see it as that. I have traveled a little. Much in my own country and a little outside it. The 2 times I felt most unsafe as a woman recently were in supposedly safe places like Bangalore (where I walked on the prime MG Road with a girl friend at 7pm) and in Spain (where we had 2 guys with us yet we felt like we were being followed and looked back at every turn of a lane).

The point is that let us not digress from the issue. The issue is that a young girl was brutalized and her offenders (whom the police caught within 12 hours) must be punished. Hard. 

My 3 point agenda on how we can provide deterrents to reduce rape incidents (anywhere in the world):
1) Fast track courts. Do not elongate the victim's suffering. Close the case and convict within a month.
2) Non-bailable warrants for offences like rape.
3) Harsher convictions than the current 8 years sentence. Rigorous imprisonment for life (I don't mind a little torture thrown in) or solitary life confinement.  

Having said all this, it is always a good idea to be safe and aware. I wrote an article a while back that may help. You can read it here. Here are some tips which are floating on the net and I do believe some of them are good.   

FYI - Through a rapist's eyes! A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts:

1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle.
They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun! , braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common
targets.
2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who's clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.
3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.
4] The number one place women are abducted from/attacked at is grocery store parking lots.
5] Number two is office parking lots/garages.
6] Number three is public restrooms.
7] The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don't have to worry about getting caught.
8] If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn't worth it because it will be time-consuming.
9] These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas,or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands. Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you're not worth it.

POINTS THAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER:

1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk:
Can't believe it is so cold out here, we're in for a bad winter. Now that you've seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.
2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they'd leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.
3] If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.
4] If someone grabs you, you can't beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh - HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching
yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.
5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy's parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you'll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he's out of there.
6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible.
7] Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don't dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you'd feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.
8] Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.
9] Learned this from a tourist guide to New Orleans : if a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you, chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE CRAZY IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!
10] If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.
11] Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping,eating, working, etc., and just sit.
(Doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON'T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side,put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE the DOORS , LEAVE.
12] A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:
a. Be aware: look around your car as someone may be
hiding at the passenger side , peek into your car, inside the
passenger side floor, and in the back seat. ( DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB) .
b. If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
c. Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)
13] ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).
14] If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!
15] As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked "for help" into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

Delhi Police Anti-stalking helpline. (Obscene calls, threats, abuses) 011-27894455. I would suggest sharing this and saving this in your phones. If you could look up similar helpline numbers for your city, you'd be doing everyone a favour. 


Thursday 20 December 2012

No medals here

Today I heard that I didn't make it to the shortlist of something I thought I was quite good at. I gave it my best shot, which is what should feel good. Except that it doesn't. It's not that I wanted it so badly that my world has shattered. I didn't. But I gave it my best shot. And my self judgement told me (and its usually correct) I did well. Yet I didn't.

Maybe I need to return to the competitive world. Maybe I'm losing the edge.

Not a happy day.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Dear Pen Pal

I know every generation says this, but the world these days has really gone to the dogs! When I was growing up (said in a deep saintly voice), there was a concept of pen pals. And the beauty of the thing was that they were actually pen pals- two likeminded people who wrote to each other about innocuous and innocent things like how their day was and what their favourite book is.

Then came the internet and there was a wave of 'chatting'. Some losers joined the scene but still there remained people there who just wanted to talk.

Today unfortunately, the world of pen pals has deteriorated into a grimy underworld where perverts scout out other perverts. There is no concern about who the other person is, what do they have to share. Add to this the very real fear of cyber stalking and this is a door that remains shut in the lives of normal people just wanting to have a conversation.

Human nature couldn't have changed this fast. I am sure, people like this still existed 20years back. But then where did the simple ones migrate to? And with this muck flying around, will they ever learn to trust again?

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The lioness





Stuck in her cage
Longing to break free
She stands and she stares
Wondering if it ever will be

The trainer comes and goes
They take care of her food and sleep
But no one sees in her eyes
The longing to break free

She roars when they want
Struts tall and proud
She plays the part well
Always playing to the crowd

But the shackles of the cage
Stifle her to the core
She struggles to keep afloat
Even that seems like a chore

Monday 19 November 2012

Freedom (??!) of speech

When are we going to respect freedom of speech and individual opinions? I should be terrified of writing this post. After all, the reason for this post, a college kid who dared question why there was a bandh in Mumbai was arrested and put in jail. Along with the girl who liked the comment.


Ofcourse, 'appropriate' action had already been taken by 2000 party workers who stormed her uncle's hospital. That wasn't enough.

And as we talk, on a side note, Julian Assange still hides in a room in London.

In countries that boast of being democracies and of respecting individual opinions, I see a gross disregard for the same. I see fear and autocracy. I see whispers in closets and fake bravado.

I feel suffocated that I feel the need to write a cryptic post. A post without naming people or incidents lest I bare the brunt like that young girl. And I feel confused. The last I checked, my tricolor wasn't turning into a bright red and the chakra into stars of oppression.

Appalling.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Thursday 1 November 2012

Fifty Shades Trilogy - Life is not black or white


When I read that the Fifty Shades trilogy had outsold Harry Potter, I felt a wave of revulsion ride through me. Hah, no wonder they say porn is the largest industry in the world, I thought. What do people know about literature and the art of storytelling. I did not really know what the books were about, just that they involved some weird sex stuff. So, here I was happily ignoring their existence when V suggested I give it a read. She insisted that the books were actually interesting from a story build up point of view and that I was jumping to conclusions. She even loaned me her copy. And I am glad she did.

I have wrestled with the idea of doing a review of the series and more often than not, decided to steer clear of it. For starters, in India, sex is a taboo subject and I will probably be judged morally for writing this. Also, I know that my blog is followed by some of my family and this may embarrass them. But the writer in me fought back. If I am true to my art, I can be unbiased about this and I should be able to write about subjects that make me or other people uncomfortable.

Disclaimer: Dad, you may want to stop reading here :)! Got the stomach for it? Well, here goes.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey on a flight from Bangalore to Delhi, all the time trying to hide the cover from roving eyes of my co-passengers. By the time I was halfway through, I couldn't care less who saw me. And the first thing I did when I got home was to order the next book in the trilogy from my library. I haven't read Fifty Shades Freed yet so this is just a review of the first 2 books (but they are now following a predictable path and thus can be extrapolated).

The trilogy traces a few weeks in the lives of an ordinary young girl Anastasia and a super hot billionaire Christian Grey. So, lets get the bad stuff out of the way. Christian Grey was adopted by his kind parents when he was a young boy but prior to that he had a traumatic childhood. His birth mother was a drug addict and a prostitute and he was repeatedly assaulted by her pimp which leaves physical and mental scars on him. His psyche was so terribly affected that his personality was shaped into being a control freak, afraid of emotional attachment and deviant sexual preferences.

Contrary to the hype, this book is not about the sex. After the initial pages, you may even find yourself flipping over those pages to get on with the story. Which is where I believe that the trilogy scores. The books are about two individuals. Each perfect and imperfect in their own ways. The story builds on how these two find each other and help the other accept and love their own selves. The story at the end of the day, is about love. And it doesn't take a genius to figure that out, just someone with an open mind.

The hero of the books to me, is the characterization. The author (a first time author that too) has done such a phenomenal job with the characters that once you are through with the books, you feel like you know them personally. You know how they will react to situations and what really moves them. And having tried a bit of fiction myself (and failed miserably), I can vouch for this being the toughest part of writing a book.

Yes, the editing leaves much to be desired. After a point one gets tired of how many times they gasp or bite their lower lip or roll their eyes. But lets not get all literary puritanical on that. Especially when we applaud people like Rushdie and Roy when they write 3 pages on how green the tree was!!

All in all, the trilogy may not be the masterpiece of the century. But it is definitely not the trash that it has been made out to be. What you take out from it, really is a function of your own mind. I quite liked it. So sue me.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE - I read the final part of the trilogy, 'Fifty Shades Freed'. and almost detested it. She should have stopped at 2. 

Monday 29 October 2012

Security blanket

There is no one who can make you feel more special than your baby. And no one else who can bring you crashing to earth but her either!!

If my Sonu's tiny little world was a stage, I am pretty sure I would play a pivotal role. Pivotal, actually, is a great way to describe it. Perhaps because I spend all my time with her, bathe her, feed her, take her out, hold her, cajole her, play with her (yes I can go on and on, this is good for my ego), she seems to be pretty attached to me. I wouldn't be presumptuous to even say her world revolves around me. So, when we're together, she bullies me and teases me. We have a good time, she and me.

Scene 2. Act 1.
If you introduce another character into this scene, her father for example, she transforms completely. Move aside mom, this is fresh meat! She ignores me and couldn't care less if I were the furniture. She'll try to rebel, make a fuss of eating and blatantly break rules that she follows religiously all day like no entry to the kitchen. All the while keeping track of me from the corner of her eye, making sure her security blanket is around.

But if my ego needs a little boost, all I have to do is extricate myself from the scene. I am, so as to say her safety net. If and when she realises that I am no longer in the vicinity, she loses her bearings. Completely. She bleats for me like a little lamb lost in the woods. And it is the most beautiful sound in the world. I may not be her butter chicken but her chapati I am!!



Monday 15 October 2012

Kitne (un)cool hain hum!!



I think I'm getting too old. Or maybe I was born old! Yesterday we went to this thing called the NH7 Weekender. A fabulous concept, if you may. 2 days long, 5 stages set up in the F1 Buddh Circuit area. Different bands playing different slots. If you don't like the music of one band, walk over to the next stage. Food stalls by the likes of Olive and Smoke House. Multiple bars. Even a mobile ATM in case you run out of your money! One big party.

So I reach there at 7pm on the final day (it ended at 10pm) and the first half an hour was great. We ran from the stage with Megadeath playing (could NEVER like hard rock) and swayed a little at the stage with afro reggae. But slowly and surely, we realised we weren't made for this scene.

I spent more time appreciating the flawless event management and innovative branding ideas there than the music itself. Don't blame me.. Put me in a Mohit Chauhan or Kailash Kher concert and I can spend hours. Ghazals, Sufi music.. Even blues by (god forbid) the likes of Bryan Adams or rap by Eminem is up my alley. But rock? I guess besides a few months in high school where I pretended to like it to be 'cool', it was really never my poison!

So a yum burger and a few Mojitos later, the clock barely striking 9, we made a quick exit- back to my baby and my inviting bed. Leaving the head bangers and the tattooed behind. It was a cool concept, but perhaps I am just not cool enough for it!!!

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday 8 October 2012

Hold my hand

There was an article a couple of days back in the Times Of India about how uncool it is to call your loved one by an endearment like jaan or hon. The author also went on to say that she despises public displays of affection like holding hands.

Hmmm. Thank god I'm not in the race to be cool. I would cringe if he called me Hanu or (god forbid) Harnoor. I find it impersonal and cold. There are enough people in the world who use my name, it makes me feel special to have him not use it.

And don't get me started about holding hands. Call me immature or weird but I find holding hands the greatest expression of love. It signifies that I want to protect you.. And that I can not imagine letting go of your hand for a moment. Reaching out in a movie, on a drive.. Or just while strolling, there is such sweet innocence about holding hands. Such warmth.

So don't beat me up for being childish.Hold my hand, my love, and tell me once more that you love me. Coz I can never hear it enough times..

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday 4 October 2012

The Lost World - Bhutan

Bhutan, a travel destination that doesn't feature too often in the Top 10 Travel List of people yet was always a dream of mine to visit. Second only to Florence and Rome in Italy, Bhutan for me spelt mysticism and beauty. My fascination with Tibet only helped this cause as Bhutan is the Last Shangri La, the only Buddhist country left in the world.



Bhutan is a contradiction. If you do take out time to read the article, I mention that often. It watches the world from behind a thin veil and yet doesn't yearn to join the rat race. It is not backward from any angle, just not commercially exploited, which can be such a refreshing change. The people are better read, more confident of themselves and far more at peace with who they are than people I have met elsewhere. 



My latest article on Rediff only touches upon the piece of heaven that this country is. If you want to feel it in your soul, you need to book your ticket and go visit it yourself. And do it soon...before the ugly monster called commercialization dulls the vibrant hues of this nation into a monotonous grey. 

Read the article here.  


Monday 1 October 2012

Jean Sasson writes to me!!!!!!

I have to repost this or I will just die of excitement. Jean Sasson....THE Jean Sasson who wrote tales untold of women in the Middle East like Princess and Mayada actually stumbled on my blog and read my review of her book Mayada. AND commented!


After William Dalrymple, this is the second author I have had the honor of write to me. It fills me with pride and joy to know that she liked my review and more so that she would also ask Mayada herself to read it. Life is so surreal.

You can read the review and the comments here.  

Saturday 29 September 2012

"Just one glance" - My entry for the Get Published contest

She watched the ants slowly crawl past on the pavement. A lone rat would peep in from a crack in the stones every now and then and dive back in as she would shoo it away. If it wasn't sad, it might even have been funny, this little tryst with the fauna of city life. A drop trickled down her face. She looked up at the sky and let the rain drops fall on her face and wash away the tears. It was getting dark now. But she sat there on the pavement across the road, with her eyes never wandering from that staircase that she hoped he would come down from.

If you asked her what she was doing there, she probably wouldn't have an answer. It was quite pointless, waiting for hours in the dark, drenched to the bone, just to get a glimpse of his face. It seemed silly, yet never for a moment did it seem wrong. Passerbys wondered about this girl sitting under the tree, seemingly muttering a prayer under her breath. A few even offered her help if she needed any, but she just smiled benignly shaking her head. No one could help her now. Not them, not him. No one.

She could feel her legs ache from sitting in the same position for so long. But it seemed like too much of an effort to stretch. People had started to come out. She kept praying, hoping that he would too. Just once. It was pitch dark now. She gave a little shiver, from the cold or the thought of sitting alone on a dark alley, she didn't know. But it was too late now. Perhaps he wasn't there today. Perhaps it wasn't fated to be. She slowly got up, her legs almost giving way under her as she did so, still praying under her breath. And just as she was about to turn back, like a vision she saw him. He looked happy. As he turned his head towards where she sat, she jumped behind the tree, not wanting to put him in a spot. She watched him put the car in gear and slowly ease into the traffic as he drove away.

And she smiled as she walked away in the other direction. It didn't seem so dark anymore.


This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.



Monday 24 September 2012

Cinema at its best–Barfi

There are some films that there is no point in reviewing. It is because they are just so superlatively fabulous that a film critic runs the risk of sounding redundant. Taare Zameen Par was one of them. As were the Dark Knight or Forrest Gump. But  Barfi takes this redundancy to whole new level. Barfi, in its own simplistic way redefines cinema, whether Indian or not.

images

There are times when you look at a dish that looks deceptively simple, yet you know from the burst of flavour in your mouth that there is a huge amount of complexity that went behind making it. Barfi is that dish. A beautiful story, told in a simple narrative and brought together to a touching conclusion.

I still am not sure what I love most about the film. Could it be the parts played by the 3 protagonists to perfection? Ranbir doing a Chaplin perhaps better than Charlie himself, bringing humour to highlight tragedy and serious issues. Priyanka who helped you forget the superstar that she is in an act as believable as it was endearing. Or the narrator, a new comer who makes you feel for her as she pines for her love all her life.

Or maybe I liked the direction best. The way the film runs between stories. How it moves from a detective novel to a love story to a family drama. Perhaps it was the editing. Or the cinematography. Or maybe even the background score which lifted the film where it needed to and sailed it along.

I don’t think we need to have award ceremonies this year. All categories should be automatically gifted to this film. If this film can not win an Oscar, the Oscar’s should shut shop.

In a day and age where one struggles to find the meaning of love and perhaps the very existence of it, Barfi tells the tale of love so pure and so true that you can not help but believe. Love, whether it be unrequited or reciprocated, lost or found, is the true hero of this film.

A standing ovation.

Rating: Off the charts

 

 

Friday 21 September 2012

Words

One word can start a tale
'Coffee?' he asks one day.

Three words can be the balm
Of a heart gone astray.

Two hard words can shatter a soul
'I don't' is hard to believe

Four words can herald dawn
'There is always tomorrow' you see.

Five words still dare to hope
'Tell me it's not true'

Foolish life. Naive heart
Don't see what's in front of you?

Six words, finally wise
'It was never meant to be'

With all the happiness life bestows
May you always pine for me.
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday 16 September 2012

Karma

Buddhists believe very strongly in the concept of Karma. They believe that every single action of yours, whether good or bad, helpful or hurtful, earns you merits or demerits. And life has a way of settling scores. If you have done something that hurt someone, even if that wasn't your intention, you will pay back by suffering a hundred times over.

This concept was explained to us by our guide Sonam while we were travelling in Bhutan, when asked about what he felt about the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Over time, I have realised that I believe very strongly in Karma. That life comes a full circle. That good things eventually happen to good people. And vice versa. The only catch is, who decides whether you're good or bad??

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Food trip in Amritsar


My quick weekend trip to Amritsar this month was probably one of the most gluttonous ones. We ate SO much...and such amazing stuff that I haven't found anywhere else in India.


My latest article on Rediff is a quick travel guide for a weekend trip to the city. What to do and ofcourse, what to EAT!!!


Read the article here.



Tuesday 11 September 2012

Getting wiser..unfortunately

A realisation, slowly has been creeping up on me. That I had it figured out all wrong till now. I never could do things for appearances sake or because it would look good. I only do things when I mean it. So every single action of mine has emotion behind it, not routine. And I felt that the people who truly love me or know me, will know that. I spend all my time trying to balance things, balance people. So that I can do whatever is in my capability for people that I love equally and not play favourites. Somewhere down the line that got translated into me being misunderstood as being selfish and doing things when they suited me.

It's unsettling to realise that there is probably only one person in this world who understands me. Maybe my theory was wrong all along. Maybe it pays to look good. I never bothered to get credit for most things I do because I thought that if the person I'm doing it for is happy, then its payback enough.

I may not be the perfect person in your eyes, maybe far from it. But I try to be the best I can. I wish a handful of people that I spent my life loving saw that in me.

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday 31 August 2012

The last Shangri La

People travel to distant lands to find themselves.

Me? I travel, near and far...to lose a bit of myself.. A small bit.. everytime.

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. Following the mountains, reaching for the stars.

The dawn tomorrow shall see me off towards Bhutan. Home to my very old and very close friends. A land, hopefully as untouched and as breathtaking as Lakshadweep.

Adios amigos. Until later...

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Food Trail in Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad, my home for 5 years and a city that embraced some of my craziness. I recently returned back to Ahmedabad after 7 years, and realised that like me, much had changed here. But the one thing that did not change was the love the locals have for food. They eat out with their family, with friends, with friends' families and if no one else is around then even alone! I was also happy to see that though my favourite food joints in the city are still there and still serve exactly the same food (you listening Upper Crust??), many new and interesting joints have also opened up.

Ambika Dalvada - Little bites of monsoon heaven!
Opening an eatery is a sureshot business idea in the city, which is actually what a friend of mine from college did. I kid you not. If you are ever in the Prahladpur area, do drop in at Jassi de Paranthe and savour a little taste of Punjab in this Guju land. And do say hi to Jassi from me.

My latest article on Rediff is a celebration of the food scene in Ahmedabad. Thankfully, most names (actually all) are legends and have been around for longer than one cares to remember.

Read the article here.


Wednesday 22 August 2012

I don't remember...

Poet - Ash L Bennett
 · Feb 9, 2011


I don't remember, any more, 
The exact shape of your hands
As I held them in mine, 
Caressed them, 
Memorized the length of your fingers,
The depth of your calluses. 

I don't remember, any more,
Exactly your height, how much
Taller than me
You were, where
My head rested on your chest
When you held me tightly close.

I don't remember, any more, 
Your scent,
Your breath,
Or the beat of your heart.

I don't remember, any more, 
The sound of your voice, calling 
My name as though
It were a song 
Within itself, a precious treasure 
You valued with all your being. 

And I don't remember, any more, 
The color of your eyes, the shape
Of your lips, 
Only...
How your eyes crinkled at the corners
And my laugh, as you told me, 

"I love you."

Copyright by Ash L. Bennett, 2011

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Is political Independence enough??

India - my home, a country I love very passionately. Yet, like most of us, one with many internal issues to sort out.

My latest article on Rediff talks about some of the things we would like to see India rid of...things we want Independence from this 15th August.

Read the article here.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Back in time

I woke up this morning in a place that seems far too familiar albeit in different surroundings - MICA, my Alma Mater. Returning to give a lecture instead of attending one seems almost surreal. MICA hasn't changed. Yes a few extra buildings here and there and the audi and cafeteria are actually air conditioned now (!!!) but it seems like this place has been stuck in time.

Its too early in the morning to ramble on but it just feels fabulous to be back. And more so to share thoughts and opinions with sharp younger minds. The world of Social Media changes so fast that there is so much more that these students can teach me than what I can. Thank you all, I had a great time talking to you.

Now please excuse me as I make my way to chota for my morning cuppa!

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Shooting at the Wisconsin Gurudwara



The recent shooting incident in US at a Sikh Gurudwara leaves me saddened. Not enraged, saddened. And what hurts me more is the reaction from pockets of the Sikh community post the incidence. People seem more upset that this was a case of misunderstanding and that the gunman actually was looking to kill a few Muslims.

Uh okkk. So its a sin to kill our kind but ok to kill others? What sort of tolerant religion are you boasting of being a part of? I know that post 9/11, the Sikh beard and turban has been targeted by more ignorant groups of fascist westerners. And yes it is wrong. But it is as wrong as targeting every single Muslim in the country for what a small group sitting in Afghanistan did.

I don't know how many times I will shout this from the rooftops and I wonder if I am the only one who feels so. It is NOT alright to kill innocent people. I don't care what religion or country or ethnicity they belong to. I don't care what a group of people from their community did to a group of yours. If you retaliate like this, there is no difference between you and that gunman. Both of you are being ignorant. Ignorant and intolerant.

I am not a religious person. But I am a sensitive one. The batman tragedy last month was as shocking to me as this one. I am no saint either. I am sure there are many layers of discrimination that I practice without even being aware of them. But I'll tell you one thing for sure. I will not stand by your side when you act like an extremist. Regardless of who you are.

I prefer not to propagate any religion but now that we are on this topic, let me make an exception. Sikhism was created by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the 15th century as a reaction against discrimination within the religions of Islam and Hinduism. The basic tenets of Sikhism preach that there will be no caste/ class system in this religion, that all men are equal and to be respected and that ritualism is not to be followed but one should meditate to find inner peace and god. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Guru Nanak in these words: "Realization of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living. Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender". All of these tenets are now polluted with time and with the interpretation of a few extremists who claim to own the religion. Unfortunately, as in every religion, what we see today is a mere shadow of what Guru Nanak had created.

When will we all learn?


Sunday 5 August 2012

Turning 30 makes me philosophical

When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But darlin' when I hold you
Don't you know I feel the same
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it's hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain

We've been through this such a long long time
Just tryin' to kill the pain
But lovers always come and lovers always go
An no one's really sure who's lettin' go today
Walking away
If we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head
just knowin' that you were mine
All mine

So if you want to love me
then darlin' don't refrain
Or I'll just end up walkin'
in the cold November rain

Do you need some time.. on your own
Do you need some time.. all alone
Everybody needs some time.. on their own
Don't you know you need some time.. all alone

I know it's hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn't time be out to charm you
Sometimes I need some time.. on my own
Sometimes I need some time.. all alone
Everybody needs some time.. on their own
Don't you know you need some time.. all alone

And when your fears subside
and shadows still remain
I know that you can love me
when there's no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
we still can find a way

'Cause nothin' lasts forever
even cold November rain


posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday 31 July 2012

The truth about YOU

A lovely post I read recently. If you're truly honest with yourself while answering these (in a way that you may not want to say the answers aloud), you may realise a few truths about yourself and your heart that you have become so good at hiding:

  1. If you could make a 30 second speech to the entire world, what would you say?
  2. If you were going to die at midnight, what would you be doing at 11:45pm?
  3. How do you really KNOW anything for sure?
  4. If you had all the money in the world but still had to have some kind of job, what would you choose to do?
  5. When you’re 90 years old, what will matter most to you?
  6. What do you regret most so far in life?
  7. How can you apply the lesson you learned from that regret to your life TODAY?
  8. If you lost everything tomorrow, whose arms would you want to run into? Does that person know how much they mean to you?
  9. Do you fear death? If so, do you have a good reason?
  10. What would you change if you knew you were NEVER going to die?
  11. If you were at heaven’s gates, and God asked “you why should I let you in?”, what would you say?
  12. When will you be good enough for you? Is there some breaking point where you will accept everything about yourself?
  13. Is the country you live in really the best fit for you?
  14. What would people say about you at your funeral?
  15. What small thing could you do to make someone’s day better?
  16. What do you believe stands between you and complete happiness?

Thursday 19 July 2012

Rants of an overworked mom and underworked professional

So whenever I get a phone call (the frequency of which has drastically reduced since I quit my job), like most conversations, it usually starts with "What were you doing"? But if I reply with "working", pat comes the reply "working? On what?"

Hmmm. Lets see. I won't dwell on the fact that when I gave the same reply in office, it was never met with incredulity. I will also not dwell on the fact that if I call anybody (like anybody) else, and I get that reply, I am expected to nod understandingly and call back later.

So, what is it that I (idle lil housewife that I am) may be busy with? With raising a child (often single handedly) maybe. It could be one of the 3 times that I gave her a bath, or one of the 6 when I'm trying to get her to eat nutritious food (or cooking it for that matter). I could be reading to her. Or maybe setting the house right after the 20th time that she equally distributes her toys in each room.

Perhaps if its my lucky day, I may be struggling to research on my pending project which I still need to build my point of view on (all the time fending off the lil one who wants both my attention and my laptop). Or if god is very kind, I may get a few minutes to pen down a page for an article (don't even get me started on my pending book).

I may be running chores which I never gave a thought to before I had a baby (do you know how difficult it is to go buy vegetables if you are alone with a child)? Or a trip to your bank branch which you have been putting off forever because you don't want to take your daughter out in the afternoon heat.

So when you ask me what I'm upto, I rather say "nothing much". It implies that I may be sitting with my feet up reading a book and sipping on tea. Its an easier picture to paint rather than justify what it is that I'm 'working' on.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday 15 July 2012

My food adventures continue


My food adventures take me far and wide in this city (ok they take me far and contribute to my widening waistline!!). The law of averages claims that for every great hit I find, there must be a miss too. The law of bollywood also suggest that “Ek heere ki khoj mein kaanch aur pathharon ko jaanchna zaruri hai”. Well atleast that’s what I tell myself everytime I have a terrible meal.


Which reminds me of my discovery in Sundar Nagar called Baci. Terrible may be too strong a word for the food there. Let's just say it failed to impress. A cute little restaurant filled with foreigners and expats and a menu that had me salivating. Alas, the food fell flat. The Steak was far too well done to be called medium well and the Pasta with Smoked Salmon was too dry. Perhaps after discovering the latter dish in Amour, my standards for it have become too high. But then, if I am paying Rs.3000 for 2, I demand better food than the crap I was served. The only (and I stress on only) saving grace was the White Chocolate Mascarpone with Irish Cream. Absolutely divine!


So the first rain of the monsoon took us by surprise and washed the angry summer away. With such wonderful weather on a Saturday afternoon, we hijacked our friends from the other end of the city, P &R and headed to the open air restaurants of MG Road. Tonino was surprisingly empty for such gorgeous weather and relented that we wanted to sit outdoors in the drizzle and not inside the restaurant. Toninos is known for its thin crust pizzas and for good reason. This gorgeous half and half of Tomato and Mozzarella and Chorizo and Black Olives was lipsmacking. As was the rest of the food. But our favorite was the complementary freshly baked bread with a delicious black olive pate. But again, with a bill of Rs.3000 for 2, I could see a sad demise of our days of economical eat outs!

The Bento Box at Tamura
As much as I love Yum Yum Tree, I am glad I took S's advice and met her at this little known Japanese restaurant in Green Park - Tamura. You know that you're at the right place when not only is the seating low (Japanese style) but you also have lots of Japanese co-diners. The menu at Tamura is exciting with options for all kinds of meats in forms like Ramen, Tempura, Teppanyaki etc. What is even more encouraging is that these don't come with the usual heavy tag that Japanese restaurants like Wasabi have. The Bento Box above cost Rs.550 and included Chicken Teppanyaki on some noodles, fish, breaded prawn, sticky rice, some egg dish (stacked omelet types), seaweed, sesame spinach and some yummy sides that I can't name. We also ordered the Pork Ramen which was heartwarming and nice. Cheap it is not but at Rs.600 per head, atleast I still had money for parking.  


And lastly, my lunch today. The only place to get authentic Parsi food in Delhi, the Parsi Anjuman or Resthouse on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg is a secret whispered in corners but never announced. To enjoy their delicious fare at the canteen like cafeteria, one has to make sure you call ahead and tell them you're coming. They serve Dhansak on Thursdays and Sundays. The food is charged per person and is a fixed menu. I am not a great fan of Dhansak but I will dream about those amazingly flavored Mutton Kebabs tonight for sure. Must visit - for the experience of a small community hidden in the folds of the rest of India. And for those heavenly kebabs. 

Monday 9 July 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur- You want to see their guns?!



Watching a film after 3 weeks of its release is a dangerous proposition. You probably have already heard reviews, seen facebook updates about it and have a vague opinion about the film. But don't let that stop you. Go watch it anyways and have your own opinion. I'm glad I did.


If I had to review Gangs of Wasseypur in one word, it would be 'unapologetic'. Critics berated the film by saying that it was too chaotic, too many stories flying around with just gore and abuses for entertainment. I wonder if we saw the same film.

The film traces the lives of three generations each with their own enemies and struggles. If you pay attention, you will realise that there are only 2 groups of enemies..one the Qureshis and the other Ramadheer (who uses the Qureshis to get rid of Khan), the local don/politician. Each character has been cast with precision. To the extent that Manoj Bajpaye's father Shahid Khan actually looks like him. Every actor does justice to their character. Whether it is Durga the seductress, the different characters of Danish n Faisal or the hired assassin.


Three actors deserve special mention. First ofcourse the fabulous Manoj Bajpaye. I must confess, I have always had a soft corner for him. He has a quiet intensity to him which is so sexy! Though this intensity was polished in Zubaida, in GOW it is raw and what may be called 'ghaati'. He portrays the role of Sardaar Khan, ruthless with enemies, a womaniser yet one who is scared of his wife's temper and a man who lives with only one purpose in life- revenge. The second actor is Shahid Khan, Sardaar Khan's father. Though the character was given a small role, he had such strong screen presence that he stays with you till the end. Whether it is the tenderness with which he wipes his wife's brow after almost getting killed or the raw rage when he beats up the coal mine's guard- a fantastic actor proves himself. Lastly, my favourite performer was Richa Chadhha who plays Sardaar Khan's first wife Nagma. A fireball who retorts back to policemen in their own language and tells her husband where he can get some action when she's not interested, Nagma radiates strength through the film.

Anurag Kashyap is a gutsy man. He doesn't blunt the edges or apologise for his art. Likewise, the film is sharp, edgy and gory in parts. Yet even the toughest critic can't call it boring. Yes it is abusive, but dear viewer spend a day in the region where this is set and you'll realise they don't exactly shower flowers while talking.


The soundtrack had me tapping my feet throughout. My favourite being Kehke lunga and Womaniya. The songs are hilarious. As is the film. In my opinion the film wins because it doesn't take itself too seriously. It jokes, kids and finds humour in every frame.

Love it or hate it, GOW is not a film you can ignore. Don't be deterred by the critics who shout violence and foul language. Omkara was abusive but nothing short of epic. As is this. Watch it. Now. Before the second one gets released.
posted from Bloggeroid

Friday 6 July 2012

Top 10 Must-Dos in Mumbai

Mumbai - The City of Dreams for some and avoidable for some. Love it or hate it, Mumbai remains a city that you can't ignore. 

My latest article on Rediff lists out the Top 10 Must-Dos in Mumbai. Whether you're visiting on work or leisure, let the city seduce you. 

You can read the article here

The Gateway of India with gorgeous Taj behind it

Monsoon in Mumbai

Exclusivity at it's best - US Club in Colaba Naval Area

Wednesday 4 July 2012

There was then and there is now..

There was a time
Is what they say
When one hi from her
Would make his day

He would fret
And he would pine
Wait for her
Till the end of time

There was then
And there is now
Miles apart
They know not how

The tables turned
Such cards were dealt
Her tears now
His heart don't melt

Her prayers, her thoughts
She dreams of him
He cares not
It don't matter to him

Happily ever after
No such thing is true
She dies each day
Yet, he has no clue.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Of love lost

Sometimes you read something that has so much wisdom that it overwhelms you. Read in the books by Amish-

The opposite of love is indifference. Not hatred. Hatred is still intense emotion. It means that you still get affected by the person's actions. Indifference means that the person is irrelevant to you.

Such true words. Hatred can break hearts. But indifference can break people. Empty them out from inside so that only a shell remains.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday 21 June 2012

How to climb the corporate ladder

In comparison to my peers, I walked out of the corporate life pretty early after 5 years. Yet, while I was in it, I was told that my work style was quite effective and my productivity enviably high (so modest!!).

I learnt a lot about work place ethics from all the leaders I worked with in these years. Each had a different work style and yet, everyone taught me something. And to them, I will be forever grateful.

I also realised once I started being 'self employed' that work ethic is even more important outside of the corporate world than in it. These rules apply to any and every kind of work, whether they fit into your framework of a 'job' or not.

My latest article on Rediff talks about a few key tips on how to increase you 'Effectiveness' at work. These are not just words for me, but rather define my work style.

Read the article HERE

PS - After I wrote this post, my brother wrote to me and commented (am not sure tongue in cheek or not) that for a person who worked for 5 years only in the industry, I sure had some sage advice. My thoughts on this are this - It is an intellegent man who learns from his own mistakes, a wise one who learns from others.
posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Yum Mum

You know you've been vacationing too long when a passing auto's passenger asks you the way and you actually know the answer! 10 days in Mumbai, how they passed in a blink. I have often visited this city on work. But I was always in such a hurry to get somewhere that I never had a moment to enjoy it. Which is what I did this entire trip. Allow the Maximum City to seduce me. It tried its best, and its been fun while it lasted, but my darling Capital City still wins.

What happens when you let a foodie with no agenda lose all over a city? She returns with a much lighter wallet and a few extra pounds to hide under layers of clothes. People wonder what I've been doing in Mumbai all this time. Don't I have work to do back home? You see, my work is two fold. One is a 2 foot something in whom my heart beats. And the second is done virtually anywhere I can find a paper, pen and internet connectivity. And thankfully, both these are portable. So it really is irrelevant whether I am in Delhi or Mumbai. And yes, my sea facing room and the endless buffet breakfasts do tip the scales a little.

Oh the Chocolate Mud Cake!!


So coming back to my food adventures. There have been hits and misses. Best thing first- I discovered the little bit of heaven called Mahesh Lunch Home. Agar jahaan mein kahin jannat hai, to yahin hai yahin hai, yahin hai. If you are a seafood lover, this is the answer to your dreams. The range of crab, lobster, fish or prawn dishes is phenomenal. Each preparation better than the other, the Manglorean crab curry was divine as was the masala basa. Its not the dhaaba it used to be and not light on the pocket anymore but well worth it. A little tip- order the boneless crab even though it is double the cost. I went for the one with the shell and the effort was just too much!

The ever so famous vada pao was a huge disappointment. Too dry and too spicy. The sev puri on the other hand was lipsmacking. 20 bucks well spent.



Cafe Moshe was just overrated and served a terrible terrible pasta. They part redeemed themselves by making a delicious chocolate mousse though.



Again, another tick mark for street food I had an Amazing Chicken Frankie. Second best to the memorable one I had at Chaos, it melted in the mouth and left me wanting more.

Which leaves only the room service I have been ordering at Novotel. Limited menu, juicy burger, lovely Thai curry, dry club sandwich and a sinful molten chocolate cake.





Thus has been my journey so far. Pics will be added when I get back home and consolidate all my snaps. Till then, I still have 2 days to go.. And so much to eat!
posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday 7 June 2012

Healthy Summer Recipes

Super excited! Having a fabulous time in Mumbai with the sea waves crashing outside my window, a book in one hand and delicious prawns in another!

But coming back to the point of this post, the monsoon may be knocking here but Delhi is still hot as ever! And what better way to beat the heat than with some yummy healthy summer recipes.

Read the article by clicking here

These are specially created to suit the calorie conscious as well as my near and dear ones who need to watch their sugar intake.

Oh-so-fresh Watermelon and Feta salad!!


posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Tum bin

Na janey kyon aaj bhi yeh ehsaas hota hai,
Tu saath nahin, phir bhi paas hota hai.

Jo dil-e-sheher aik baar barbaad ho jaye,
Mudatton baad woh abaad hone ki aas rakhta hai.

Tu chala jata hai jab bhi chorr kar mujhe,
Dil ke koney mein, Tu kahin paas hota hai.

Pagal ko samajhne ke liye zarourat nahin hain hawalon ki,
Bass ek lafz “Mohabbat” hi kaafi hota hai.

Aankhon se behte huye samandar ko paani na samaj,
Yaad karte huye tujhe, Meri ankhon mein lahuu hota hai.

Lot’te nahin hain dobara jo ek baar chale jate hain,
Magar phir bhi duayon ki umeed mein tu hi aas hota hai.

Tere siwaa mere kaano ko koi sadaa pasand nahin ati,
Bas ek tu hi meri dharkan ki awaz hota hai.

Bhattak jata hoon mein jab bhi ghamon ke saye mein,
Dilaasey ke liye mere pass teri yaad ka sahaara hota hai.

Hamare naseeb mein kahan hai tujse milna,
Hamare liye to khawb ka jahan hi haqeeqat hota hai.

Raat kitni hi taweeel kyon na ho jaye zalim,
Aik na aik din zaroor sawera hota hai…

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday 1 June 2012

Looking for tranquility? Look no further!

In my ongoing quest for peace of mind, I have travelled far and wide. There are so many parts of my beautiful country that I still have not explored. But living in Delhi has given me the opportunity to find hidden gems in the Himalayas away from the commercialisation of the Shimlas and Nainitals of the world.

My latest article on Rediff talks about 3 places where time truly stands still. At par with the sound of the ocean, the tranquility in mountains is hard to find elsewhere. Thus, my 3 secret destinations happen to be hidden in the crevices of the Himalayas.

You can read the article by clicking here.

Tea on the verandah of a cottage on Writer's Hill

The delightful toy train that takes you up to Shimla enroute to Potter's Hill

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Tzinga aaaah

When I was approached by Ankit Negi, an intern at Hector Beverages to do a review of their new product - Tzinga, I was in double minds. The marketeer in me appreciated this innovative style of promotion, get the bloggers to try the product and blog about it. Very low cost but effective means of buzz marketing. But it is also a big gamble. Bloggers by definition are opinionated. If they do not like your product, they will say so without mincing words.


So, I tried the samples he sent across. Launched just last month by a start up funded by venture capitalists, Tzinga is an energy drink taking on the biggie called Red Bull. Which is probably where it falters. The product comes in 3 flavours - Lemon Mint (a refreshing zingy drink perfect for summer afternoons shopping), Tropical Trip (an interesting combination of flavours, unfortunately none of them stand out) & Mango Strawberry (too sweet for my palette but again a great refresher). 

So lets do this the old fashioned marketing way - The 5 Ps.


The product is spot on. The drinks taste good. The flavours are innovative and yet not weird. Though, I did not feel particularly energized and I did miss the lack of fizz in the drink.


The price point of Rs.20 also works. It positions itself slightly above the Slice and cold drinks of the world and much much below Red Bull. 


Packaging is where the product needs to make a choice. The current pouch packaging may be eco friendly and great for carrying in your handbag, but its just not cool. Red Bull drinkers like the whole jazz of opening that slim can with a pop and taking a swig. The pouch on the other hand can be perceived as sissy to be seen sipping from and I can't imagine many men in their target group (18-25) wanting to be seen publicly sipping this. 


Promotion - Though they are employing interesting techniques like blogging for promotion, the positioning needs a serious look-at. The product shouldn't be pitted against Red Bull. The 'hipness' factor is missing. It should be positioned at ages 14-21 for high school and college students.


The distribution of the product perhaps can't compete with the gigantic tentacles of Coke and Pepsi but they have made an effort to get good shelf space in retail outlets like Big Bazaar. The visibility of the product is quite high here.If the positioning is changed to the above target group, visibility in school and college canteens and 'addas' is the best place to be seen at.