December 31, 2008

The lightbox

This is a remarkable post for many reasons, 1 -It's the 400th for MindBlogging (yippeee) and 2- it fulfills a project that S and I embarked upon ages ago after seeing Pattu's this post. Fascinated by the concept and seduced by his results, we set out to build our own little/mid-sized lightbox. We followed pretty much the same procedure. But for the unfamiliar here's a gist .
What you need -
How to go about it -
1. Cut out a rectangle from the top and the 2 sides of the box with the knife so as to be able to tape the trace paper over the holes and allow light into it for a reflection-less even light.
2. Paste the trace paper directly over the holes to cover them up. Tip: Tape from the inside of the box for better results.
3. Paste the chart over the inner back wall and the bottom of the box. The end result should look somewhat like this -

4. Position the lamps with the fluorescent bulbs (we found only a maximum of 40W) directly in front of the box on either side of the opening. We realized that this configuration was best for the low power afforded by our lamps.

Shoot away!
Here are some results -

We could've gotten better results with a more powerful lamp and that'll be part of our Lightbox Ver 2.0. As of now, here's wishing you all a fabulous New Year ahead!

December 30, 2008

The elusive cup

It's unavailable in most of India it seems (I bet that's what every place that sells it says to justify the pricing). India isn't into shot-glass marketing even for tourism. I got this one in pewter at the airport at a rather steep 1000 bucks. But how could I starve my collection?

Khana Khazana

Ah well... what better phrase to describe the rich variety and taste of the Indian cuisine? Truly a khazana. Here's a jhalak from just 2 instances in Chennai.

Paati's incredible bhara bhaji

The Gujarati thali at Saravana Bhavan's Rangoli.

December 29, 2008

My BIG fat Big Bazaar experience

Well, apparently Big Bazaar is a "national" chain of stores across India which sells a host of things at prices unmatched anywhere else. Until the last week of my trip in India, I'd never heard of them. And I finally did hear of them because of my unsuccessful khoj (hunt) for a suitcase that was also big as well as inexpensive, as well as "branded" so as to not have it split on me while emerging on the conveyor belt. After unsuccessful Witco ( a large travel chainstore) visits I had almost given up hope when Appa found a full page ad on the paper advertising inexpensive travel cases at this place. Having never seen it before, we thought it would be worth our while to go there once and check it out. And so we did.

The first time - And at first glance it appeared as if we'd hit the jackpot of luggage seekers. A variety of well-acclaimed luggages were on big sales of 20-40% off. We looked at many and narrowed it down to an American Tourister green mid-sized suitcase in conformance with the measly European baggage allowances. All seemed well. They were even giving a coveted flask free with the purchase (which by the way was scored all the brownie points from my Paati when we called her to tell her about it). And so off we went to checkout, paying about 40% less than we'd pay at any other place at the modern day prices. Pleased with ourselves and armed with the bag we went home. And while showing off the purchase at home, I reached in to retrieve the free flask which I had seen the salesman stow in... only to grab thin air inside. Puzzled I opened it wide to reveal the empty depths. Uncharacteristically my dad grabbed the phone and called the store to tell them that they'd not given us what we were entitled to. They told us that we could come in at any time and pick it up.. I didn't see that happening when I was around.

The second time - But my mom said she didn't mind taking a look at the place and so we set off to get the flask. It went smoothly enough and without much ado we got the flask. We also bought some other stuff for the house, door mats and other things... And so we were done, I naively thought.

The third time - And so we went and with 2 days to go, the packing began. We carefully stacked away all the podis and pulikachal and what not amongst clothes and other things. And when we were done, we stood the suitcase on it's wheels... and it keeled over. No, we hadn't stuffed it that much... the stupid wheel broke! I was flabbergasted that something "branded" could give away that easy. We vowed to go back and got it exchanged. The Big Bazaar had cast a curse on us, it appeared. And so we went... With a lot of drama (courtesy me), we got it exchanged with a lot of wariness. And we were sick of going to Arcot Road all the way from Adyar. We sincerely hoped it was the last time. Not to be...

The fourth time - We got the new case home and started delicately filling it with all the samaan that we had offloaded from the other one... when I remembered that I had stashed my old cell phone and charger into one of the flaps on the inside of the previous suitcase. And I had forgotten to remove it. I was devastated. My dad immediately called the store and had them looking for it. They called us back, bless them, saying that they had located it. And that meant we went yet again and got it finally. I was done. It was a big fat curse. And I hoped never to set foot over the premises ever again. And I was careful not to buy anything more.

And finally we broke the curse, it seemed.

December 26, 2008

Reflections on 2008

Here at Blogger, I have celebrated the end of 4 years including this one.. And this year has narrowly clocked the maximum posts by me. I am going to keep this short. 2008 was one of the best years so far - I got married and I spent over 3 months in India, even if sporadically. Just those 2 factors make this a glorious year... And to top it all, I live in Paris... ah bliss.. As for 2009, I have very few 'resolutions' and whatever I have are professional.. The PhD has to take shape and a very good one at that.. More publications and conferences make for a very successful year... And of course everyone has their personal aspirations. Mine is to travel wildly... let's wait n watch if I make it happen. :D

Here's wishing you all a fabulous year ahead! And here's welcoming 2009! Happy New Year!

PS:This post isn't necessarily my last one on this side of the year. We'll wait n watch, won't we?

December 24, 2008

Changing Chennai

It seems that every India trip no matter how closely spaced I am complaining about the changing landscape of India in general and specifically Chennai. Yet again I am out to complain. The pollution is unprecedented and the noise pollution psychopathic, the traffic insane, the crowds always in a hurry, the prices astronomical and did I mention the traffic? Gosh! Appa and I took the MRTS (local train) yesterday and it was the most peace I've experienced in this city that is is undergoing the worst metamorphosis since they last spoke of Kaliyug. I suppose every Indian city is just as bad and virtually all of my friends coming back to various cities have identical complaints. I thought I would be able to witness a change for the better since the days of Chennai Chutzpah... thanks to the global economical recession or whatever... but nothing of that sort has happened. People have instead become brand crazy with the increased purchasing power. No one in an IT job has a "normal" cell phone that was once used to just make/receive calls/SMS. Now it goes way beyond just that. It's become a status symbol of sorts. The one major improvement though has been the Guindy airport flyover. It's a marvel of sorts and has worked wonders to regulating the horrendous traffic that was witnessed while the thing was under construction. That apart Chennai is still filled with 'under-construction' fly-overs which are still debatable as to whether they will improve/worsen the traffic situation (for instance I think the IIT fly-over is a big waste of time/money and what not).

Maybe this is what it takes to make the country a "developed"one... the path isn't easy and while the residents of Chennai have certainly taken it in their stride the changes are shocking for the visitors like us. I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, that hardly matters.

December 21, 2008

Paati Precious

This post is dedicated to my Paati (grandma)

Ever since we were kids Paati has been a big part of our lives, me and my brother's. More so because Appa was in the Gulf after the Gulf war, and Amma used to spend half the year there, we were left in Paati's and chittipaati's care. And that just got us closer. Indeed I remember the time when Paati had to supervise our 'studying' before the exams. I used to be big on Murugan lending library at that time and had tonnes of books to read even during the exams. I remember crouching in a corner with a storybook folded between the pages of a textbook while pretending to study when checked on by an unsuspecting Paati. And both my brother and I have adopted Paati's unrelenting taste for "bottomless chai", i.e, chai at any time of the day for any reason. She is always the one who makes the chai (Amma also now) on demand and helped us study through the nights those years when we used to pull all-nighters. I got reminded of this last night when I got back from sending off S at the airport. It was 1:30 in the morning and yet at 76, my Paati got up from bed and made us some chai to settle in for the night (unlike others, chai doesn't keep us awake necessarily - it's more like a nice hot drink to end the day). It also reminds me of the countless times that Appa's asked for bhajjis in the middle of the night and she's unflinchingly fulfilled his request based on some thoroughly unfounded funda of "raathri ketta illainu solla koodadhu" (if something's been asked for a night, it shouldn't be refused). Touch wood for her energy! Not just that, my Paati also has surprising knowledge retention. She remembers minute bits of information and through asking and finding out and her own self-cultivated interest in matters, is now a self-proclaimed expert on both French and US visa procedures and GRE and what not! Not to mention Paati's fabulous cooking is one of the main things I miss at any place abroad... Looks like I could go on and on about the many facets. But I guess what I am aiming with this post is to thank her for being her. Of course for those who didn't know, I am named after her. :D

Doin-doin

Read as doin-doin like coin-coin. This is to denote the sound made by the console.
That's the name that my household has given the gameboy kind of console that used to be enough entertainment for kids before the age of Segas, PS3s and Wiis. Ahh... whoever has played with it can hardly forget it. Who can forget Super Mario, Tetris, Circus, Ice Climber or Arkanoid once you've played it, especially at a tender age? Indeed I remember the 'Tetris tournaments' that my bro and I used to have with one another (I think I should mention that I was reigning Tetris champion... Oh and while we're at it, I might as well mention that I was also champion of Snake II on the Cell phone... muhahahaha). :D So anyhow, the reason I am writing about it is that I found it lying around a couple of days back. Of course I had to get some action! I sat and plugged the rudimentary system on the TV. Indeed I laughed at the AC adaptor which was a initially a 3-pin Gulf-type plug which had just been wired into an India 2 pin plug and 'protected' by an entire wad of insulation tape. However it had given out this time, after like 15 years. But my dad had a replacement adaptor in which one could set the input/output voltages, power etc. With a glee of delight, I plugged everything back in and expectantly turned it on. Usually because of the frequency mismatch, it required tuning on the TV, but one could hear the sound of the console, the sound which earned it the name of doin-doin. This time I didn't. I was semi-disappointed though I had mentally prepared myself for such an event. I half-heartedly put the TV on Program mode to hunt for the unlikely frequency. Surprisingly the TV stopped at a blank blue screen in a few short seconds. This had to be it. My dad and I toggled the reset button, the adaptor cable and the TV cables in random order when finally the music I yearned for reached my ears and I saw the gaming list on the TV. Magical! I felt like a child all over again as I rushed in to get a pillow, put it on the floor in front of the TV and settled stomach-down for a long-sought game of Tetris.

December 19, 2008

Fall of J..

For those hoping that something rather dramatic had happened, sorry to disappoint... I mean in this post the literal falls that one encounters when riding bikes in pot-holed rain damaged roads. This time though daddy dearest was responsible. We weren't really hurt and it was rather comical at hindsight... But I have had my share of falls from bikes from the days that my bro used to take me doubles to the time that I tried to take my chittipatti to the post office in the days that I was just shy of 16 and not 'allowed' to ride a 2-wheeler yet. Indeed my most memorable fall was when my brother was taking me doubles on a Kinetic Honda. And not so surprisingly, the falls have taken place only the times I have sat with both legs on one side, i.e, sideways. On this occasion, more than 10 years ago, my brother was trying to navigate a rather sudden and huge pothole, more like a ditch on the road en route Kotturpuram. And he would've rather avoided the ditch than keep me on the bike apparently, for I slipped right out and landed in the middle of the road, my clothes ruined. It's one of those situations that's sad and funny at the same time especially when your brother takes a few seconds to realize that you're not on the pillion but on the road and keeps driving away. I remember wanting to laugh and cry at the same time. The other occasion when I dropped my chittipatti on the middle of the road on the way to the post office when I was about 16 truly scared the daylights out of me. It was my first time on the bike by myself on a decent distance. Not to mention the first time I was taking someone with me. With the turn of the road, the skid and my inexperience I deposited my chittipatti square in the middle of the road. Those days the roads weren't as crowded as they are today, thankfully. So someone behind us got off to help us up and thankfully we weren't really injured. But more recently in this trip I experienced one more fall. The fall sounds more serious than it really is and in fact my dad was taking the bike at a speed that was slower than if you were jogging along. Hence at the turn with the rain-ridden roads and the skid, we both found ourselves slowly and steadily losing balance and I remember every second of that fall. You know how when you sometimes fall all you can remember is that one instant you are on the floor? This wasn't one of those times. I remember the angle, the way we fell and every second of this one. It was funny for me.. but Appa hurt his ankle a bit in trying to balance the bike in the last second. Once more the good Samaritan prevailed and a couple of priests on a motorbike behind us stopped to help us a bit. Ask my parents and they'll tell you it's the dhrishti. Lol.

December 18, 2008

Journey of the junk

We've all heard about the "Survival of the fittest" theory by Charles Darwin. I've personally witnessed the exact opposite... how things we discard find their way around... back. My house is a stack of sorts... What goes in seldom comes out as far as things are concerned. And my chittipatti is yet to discard anything that has the least residual value. Indeed it is a running joke in the family that if she throws something away, it sure as hell has nothing remaining to offer. Seeing that as it is and the fact that she is the reigning supervisor for most of the major clean-up operations at home, nothing ever leaves the house unless it is in complete shambles and simply cannot be fixed. While this has worked to my advantage a few times in the past, more often than not I can marvel at what all I am likely to find when I come back home and dig through my stuff and try to discard the things I haven't used in ages in an attempt to put m two pence in for the household cleanup. This time I found a tonne of my Nalangu samaan that my sister-in-law had lovingly purchased for our wedding. I sorted through all the dolls (the guddas n guddis), the bangles, and what not, reliving the beautiful wedding memories when a plastic bag at the far corner caught my eye. I pulled it out. It was some of the gifts that I had received for my birthdays over the past few years before I left the country. Including the birthday cards. A treasure trove. I took out some dear to heart stuff and then pulled out what was evidently the remains of some gift. It was a holder of sorts on which sat an empty test tube. I vaguely remembered seeing stuff like this at Archies Gallery. But I couldn't recall what exactly it was or who had given it or what to do with it anymore. I moved it to the discard pile... not too quickly for it had caught the eye of my chittipatti. She snatched it out of the pile and turned it over and over in her hands no doubt looking for something creative to do with it, maybe as part of her traditional yearly Navrathri decorations. But she couldn't find anything to do with it right away. Seizing the opportunity and citing the example, I gleefully put it in the trash bag. This happened over a week ago and obviously it had slipped my mind. Imagine my shock then, when today I found it sitting on the watchman's room. I had to find out what it was doing there. Mild interrogation led me to find that my chittipatti had bestowed the thing on my housemaid, who in turn had tried to fit it in with her own household or to see if it matched the fancy of her grown children. Meeting failure on both counts, she took it upon herself to give it away to the watchman who has small children, more likely to be amused with a useless toy than her own grown kids. And hence, it wound up on my very own doorstep once more. Junk circulates. And trying to obliterate it has thus far proved unsuccessful. Evidently, it either requires cooperation on many levels or personal attention to see it through to the main trash without an in-between man/woman. Gosh.

December 17, 2008

Banking burdens

Well, the idea of banks initially used to be to reduce one's economical stresses about keeping money safe. But I am not sure how the work these days. Yup, for most part I am sure they do what they promise. However, there are hidden clauses, unheard-of rules and unstated assumptions. Both my brother and I had an account in a certain bank here in Adyar, Chennai. And we've both been away from the country for a reasonable amount of time. That meant that the accounts lay low with minimal activity and I could understand it when they told me when I went there this time that my account was regarded "dormant" and I would have to ask for reactivation. Ok... then, they asked me for a proof of identity, not one, but three. Oh and the passport wasn't enough. And where they's promised me a zero-balance account, they now required 25k. Forget all that.. my brother's account was now regarded "unclaimed". And that meant, the ate 10% of the original account balance as a "fee" for "maintaining" the unclaimed account ever year. And they sent us a letter by regular mail to inform us about the same. With the amount of junk that each bank sends us regarding new "zero balance accounts" and credit card offers, we were expected to sift through all of that and actually find the clause in a pile of gibberish, assuming they really did send us the letter. And we, the innocent unsuspecting account holders had no idea of all of this till one fine day, the secondar account holder my mom decided to shut the account down and get all the money in it. She was pretty shocked and upset to learn that 40% of the initial amount had consistently vanished over the past 4 years that the account lay "unclaimed". Off went my dad all upset and indigninant at being unaware of such a ridiculous clause, being a banker himself. Then they demanded proofs of identities of my brother's and mother's, both to be self-attested, which wasn't initially mentioned. Once the letter went in, the demand for attestation came through about a month later...and once the attestation also went in, we were informed that we would receive the remaining balance but not the amount that was gobbled over the years. Banking made simple? Surely not. The solution? Don't trust the foreign banks masquerading themselves with advanced systems... trust the Indian brand names. Go India!

December 15, 2008

Ready? Jet... Go!

I flew Jet Airways to India when I came here this time. Of course that meant I was prepared for the sheer volume of our junta in the plane, outnumbering any other nationality by many-many to one. And it was a pleasant change to note that they carried more vegetarian meals than any other. Having flown other intercontinental flights in the past, I was used to being served the meal ahead of anyone else as it was earmarkedly special for me, being vegetarian. I noted in amused delight that on Jet, the 'non-vegetarian-non-Indian' meals were served first up while the vegetarians were the bulk of those being served. And since the flight was headed to Chennai, there was instant recognition in the Tamil chatter in the flight as soon as I entered panting and puffing from running at least 2km, I am sure from the previously delayed connecting flight (this warrants a post by itself). After making sure that my unceremoniously small carry-on (because of French regulations) wouldn't fit anywhere in the cabin space near my seat (big fat surprise considering a zillion Indians were travelling, more than half from the US with kids meaning they each had overstuffed bags splitting on the sides all dumped into the cabin without an inch space to spare), I went on to put it in the first class cabin someplace and settled into my economy class seat next to an Indian lady with 2 small children. While we started gabbing away in Tamil as to our whereabouts and origins in rapid Tamil, I heard the shrill cry of an attention-demanding toddler. It wasn't till then that I looked around. I visibly counted 12 kutti children in the seats around me, many of them probably born abroad and going to visit thatha-pattis (grandparents) in India for the first time. What a sight! As much as I like children, I did dread the prospect of incessant crying from one baby or the other, one of the common pet peeves among travellers till they have children of their own, I suppose. I wasn't wrong. For the 9 hours that the flight travelled from Brussels to Chennai there was one unhappy child after another, wailing about something or the other. The parents tried in vain to get their over-enthusiastic kids to sleep... some tried getting the older ones glued to a cartoon or two on the excellent in-flight personal entertainment system, some tried walking the bored toddlers up and down the narrow aisles, often running into the air hostesses who kept coming with one service or the other. Some others tried cooing softly, singing, yelling, threatening and what not. There was this little boy in the seat in front of me. He must've been a little less than 2 and I don't know his name, but he looked like a Rishi. He spoke in this delightful baby Tamil with broken sentences in a Junoon-like fashion (those who've seen Junoon in Tamil for sure understand what I mean). It was very cute.... but halfway I think he got pissed with being strapped to a single place and became highly cranky. But he would angle across his seat and sometimes catch my eye. For that one instant, through his tear-filled eyes, his crying would stop for half a second and a reluctant smile would spread across his tiny face. I guess it was the fact that someone was watching him that made him self-conscious at such a small age and briefly his babyness vanished. Kids!!

That apart, of course as soon as the flight landed practically everyone rose to grab their bags and rush out the exit... sure, we could all fly more than 9 hours but these last 9 minutes is where we 'gain' time. I've never understood people in this aspect. I had to wait till the flight had all but emptied to retrieve my bag from the first-class cabin.. And last out, I was the last on the bus that awaited to take us to the terminal and consequently first out of the bus and first on the immigration queue. :D. Simple LIFO (Last-In-First-Out). Not just that, considering that my bag had possibly just made it because of the excessively delayed Paris-Brussels leg, my checked-in bag was among the first out too.

Well, that proves it... where there's Murphy lurking, there's also Lady Luck around to show her pretty face. Go Jet!

December 13, 2008

Happy Karthikai

Karthikai is a second festival of lights type thing celebrated in South India. Without going into too much detail, I can just say that is is common to light lamps through the entire month of Karthikai (in Tamil) which is usually from mid-Nov to mid-Dec of the English calendar, culminating on the full-moon day of the month. And then as with all festivals, there's a whole lot of goodies and decorations, prayers and even crackers left-over from Diwali usually. You can read all about it here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karthikai_Deepam. This was my thalai-Karthikai and hence a bigger deal than usual. As the new daughter-in-law, I had to bring in the light into the home by lighting many a lamp and praying for the health and happiness of all. I donned a sari and all and lit all sorts of lamps and burst a cracker or two. Here's one of our clicks from many showing the lamps all set to be set down to light various places around the house in tasteful decoration. Happy Karthikai!

December 12, 2008

The NRI syndrome

I have always thought of people who complained of India's waters/climate or anything else in comparison to their long-term stay outside the country as spoilt. And sure enough, here I am, doing much the same, complaining of changing waters (drinking and otherwise) and pollution for the scratchiness in my throat and overall the changed environment as a cause for the flu-ish symptoms that I am carrying right now. Most specifically, I think the throat-ache/stuck voice and body pain are pretty common across many people who suddenly transcend into the country and have a quick first few days before the body can gradually adjust to the changed surroundings (or overcome the 'jet-lag'). I had a tumultous first week here, what with my SIL's wedding, we had changing venues every night of our sleep for the first 5 (of which I barely managed to steal a few winks on the first 3 nights). Add to that the overexcitement of the wedding preparations and the early mornings and the million rituals, it was cacophony at best and protest after protest, my throat gave out as did my body and since, I have been recuperating in pristine Kanchipuram at my husband's house. The body gets what it wants and mine has gotten it's share of rest.

PS: Amidst everything, I still managed to grab a few bites of chaat (bhel/pani puri) and gobi manchurian. So what if the body gets what it wants, so does the mind. ;)

December 10, 2008

The one week hiatus

Well, I've been in India for like 4 days now and this is amongst the first couple of times that I've zoned in on the computer... feels like reconnecting with a lost arm.. Anyhoo, with the number of social commitments that have been planned for me, it doesn't look like I'll be blogging much over the next few days as well! So here I am just to tell my loyal readers and new ones that I will have plenty of India stories planned for y'all pretty soo. In fact off the top of my head I already have a bunch of things that are waiting to be told. So please gimme some time. For the newer folks here, there's plenty to read... Choose from the overflowing entries on the right-side bar. And do keep checking for updates... Cheers!

December 3, 2008

Copiously corrupt

I was following the Mumbai attacks along with the rest of the world of course. And one of the matters that would've struck anyone as bizarre was how the police officers died in spite of wearing bullet proof vests. This is why - the vests were defective. They had failed when clad on dummies and shot as with mere pistols. Not rifles. Not men. Dummies! And yet, instead of being recalled and ensuring that the police force had the best that there was to offer, they were distributed to everyone including the highest ranking officers. Thanks to which 14 policemen/NSG personnel lost their lives, including ATS chief, Hemant Karkare. NDTV is carrying the news -

http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/mumbaiterrorstrike/Story.aspx?ID=NEWEN20080075019&type=News

Someone somewhere screwed us over. And it's still happening, in every facet in everything in the country. We need change. And fast.

Oh yeah, did you know India made No. 17 on the most dangerous countries to visit. :X - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/3534072/In-pictures-worlds-most-dangerous-places.html

December 2, 2008

Harry Potter again..

Well, it looks like I can be 72 and still be mesmerized by the series. I had seen the teaser trailer for the Half-Blood-Prince eons ago and had completely forgotten about it. Having had a lull at work, I was randomly surfing, when I found the full-length trailer. And as always, straight from the trailer I can tell that they have mixed up the facts to make the tapestry of the movie flow easy. But also, I was hooked and am eager to watch it. But then I got all bugged that the movie was supposed to release in November but thanks to wanting more money to be churned, they pushed it to a mid-summer July 17 release. I tell you, by the time the 2 parts of the last book are made into movies (which they are being filmed currently, I believe), those kids are not going to look 18 at all... and I will probably have kids to whom I read Harry Potter to. Anyhow, here's the trailer of the movie releasing in July -

http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/harrypotterandthehalfbloodprince/

Enjoy!

The greener side of the grass

Remember how we always tend to complain about something or the other? I have too... and this post is a good example in the recent past. Today I was on the other side, the greener side. Where the trains were more frequent than the other side, in this context. As I walked down to my side of the platform, I saw thronging crowds on the other side presumably waiting for an accident/incident-delayed train. And before I could register the sheer volume of the people there and the fact that we must've appeared much the same to them a few days ago, I heard the arrival of my train. And no, it didn't feel great to be standing on this side. Well, yes of course it didn't feel as frustrating as it were if you were the one waiting for the trains to arrive. But there was of course no jubilation or anything of that sort. On the other hand, I felt bad for those people who had an uncomfortable ride to endure. Taking the concept out a bit further from this literal 'train of thought' makes me wonder if that's how it feels if one were in the 'greener' side of things in other contexts. Unless we personally contributed to the side being the 'green' one, I don't think one feels the satisfaction or the pride in the 'accomplishment'. This theory of course doesn't extend to national/country issues but just to everyday life. Finally it's a matter of perception, which is why the phrase 'the grass is greener on the other side' was coined in the first place, to fit with everyone's different perspective of things. To me though, it just reminded me of the saying 'what goes around, comes around' and extending that further would bring in karma and other such things which would make this an unnecessarily long post. But I think the important thing is to recognize that you had your share on the greener side of things. That's what makes it possible to be able to deal with it later when life shelves you back to the not-so-green parts.

December 1, 2008

Xmas Paruppu Usili

Well I made another of my favorite dishes today, the paruppu usili. But this time I had two red capsicum sitting beside one green one and so they all went into making the dish. And ofcourse, red n green is sort of the Christmas theme and hence the name. Of course, thanks to the lighting (yellow) and the paruppu (again yellow), the dish looks nothing as colorful as it does in front of my eyes. But here, take a look -


Well, the recipe is in the comments section of this post in case you are interested. And I am having it with my trademark dhideer rasam. Here's another mouth-watering shot of today's attempt. Enjoy!

November 30, 2008

Bye bye November

Yet another month... so many posts in fact the maximum for me this year almost one a day. The end of another month and almost another year. And half this month, I have spent in solitude and working my a** off... another birthday gone by... and a lot more reflections. It's time to welcome December and welcome I do, with outspread arms for I have just under one week to go to India! Yoo the hoo! I think my blog will be reduced to a sporadic whimper once I am back in the Motherland. But if my wedding trip was any indication, not quite! I suppose I will be a bit irregular during the first week for sure. However, can't wait!

Disoriented

This may have happened with some of you sometime. You get up in the wee hours of the morning and you can't remember where you are and what's supposed to be happening. Sometimes it just means you slept that well. But some other times other events may add to the confusion, like today for me. I went to sleep pretty late after watching Hum hain rahi pyaar ke, fully aware that it was Sunday today (it is, isn't it?) and I could sleep late. So understandably I was pretty darn confused when the sound of machinery outside my window roused me. I checked the cellphone for the time.
8:00am.
Yeah, that was the time they normally came. But never on the weekends. Had I overslept on a Monday? I checked the cellphone again - Sunday. Still not convinced I tottered over to the laptop. Sunday. Then what the hell was the crew doing outside? I half-opened the shades. And yes, all their machinery was going on in full swing. What the hell was going on? People working on a Sunday? In France? Unheard of. Declaring them all overzealous, I went back to a half-baked sleep.

It is Sunday, right?

November 29, 2008

Bar bar baingan - with recipes now!!

For the unfamilar few, the post title is in Hindi and it means -brinjal (eggplant) again n again.

Well, I did promise the baingan bharta to anyone who followed what I was saying last week. Addicted to my own cooking, I did make it again... and managed to recreate the magic (what my dad says is the mark of a good chef)... alright alright, enough peethal (tamil for uncalled-for praise). Here's a pic of the subji... The light was gone outside and I had to resort to the good old yellow ceiling lighting and hence the bad photo. But I assure you it tasted way more delicious than it looks. Also, I was out of cilantro and didn't want to stock some so close to leaving, hence the boring garnishing.


And what did I have it with? My indian bread speciality - theplas :D. Made enough for the whole week. Take a look -




Leave me a comment if you're interested in either recipe. I'll be happy to share. Happy tucking in!

RECIPES -
Well, there was atleast one request for the recipe... so here goes.
Hint - Read blue-coded words for the order in which to add ingredients.

Baingan Bharta -
Ingredients
1. 1 medium-sized eggplant
2. 1 large onion
3. 1 can of tomatoes/2-3 medium sized tomatoes
4. 2 cloves of garlic
5. For seasoning - mustard seeds, jeera seeds, 1 tsp each of dhaniya (mustard) power & jeera powder, 2 dry red chilis, 1/2 tsp of red chili powder, a pinch of turmeric and salt to taste.
6. For garnishing - a fresh sprig of coriander leaves
7. For cooking - 1 tbsp of oil

How to make it
1. Heat the oil in medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the onion up into medium-sized pieces.
2. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, finely chopped and the dry red chilis.
3. As the garlic starts turning brown, add the cut onions and some salt, so that the onion releases it's juices and cooks in them.
4. Once the onions get done, add a pinch of turmeric and dump the can of tomatoes into it. Add the dhaniya, jeera and red chili powders to it and stir well. Cover the saucepan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes to allow all the masalas to seep into the onion-tomato mix. Set aside.
5. Prepare the eggplant to be roasted/smoked on the gas/hotplate. Put 2-3 drops of oil on your hand and rub it through the entire eggplant to coat it everywhere will a thin film of oil. This prevents the eggplant from burning and aids even cooking on the inside.
6. Turn the gas to medium-high and once it's hot, hold the eggplant by the stem or using a pair of tongs and place directly on the gas. After a minute of two of steaming, once you turn the eggplant a bit, you can see that the skin starts peeling slowly. Do this on all sides, including the bottom so that the eggplant is cooked throughly on the inside. It should look something like this -

Set asideto cool off.
7. By now, your onion-tomato mix would've cooled reasonably. Grind it into a coarse mixture in the mixi, not too fine, to make sure that you have some chunks remaining. This is your gravy.
8. Once the eggplant has cooled down, run it under water and peel away all of the skin. The eggplant should've lost all its firmness and can now be cut into small pieces or mashed into a mixture to be added to the gravy.
9. Heat 1tsp of oil in the saucepan and allow mustard-jeera seeds to sputter. Add the chopped/mashed eggplant and cook for a minute before adding the gravy and mixing everything evenly.
10. Garnish with coriander and serve with parathas/phulkas/theplas or steamed rice.
Note: Smoking the eggplant is what distinguishes the baingan bharta from any ordinary baingan subji. Do not skip this step.

Theplas
Ingredients (for about 20 mid-sized theplas)
1. 4-5 cups of whole wheat flour
2. Condiments: 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of red chili powder, 1tsp of sugar, pinch of turmeric
3. 2 cups of water, more or less
4. 2 tsp of oil

How to make it
1. Add the condiments to the dry flour and mix well.
2. Add the water in small portions while kneading the dough with your fingers to a smooth consistency. Stop adding water when the dough has reached the right consistency. (Hint: If the dough is too dry, it will flake while rolling out the theplas. Make sure it is a little sticky).
3. Rub the oil in your fingers and knead into the dough.
4. Set aside for 1-2 hours (Hint: Make your subji in the meantime to save time overall!)
5. Roll out like chapathis, except you don't need extra flour to roll them out. They should be easier to roll than chapathis.
6. Cook on a tava like chapathis, using the flame itself to have them 'ball-up' like phulkas as well. (It tastes just as good even if you don't do it that way).

Advantages: They are spicier and tastier than normal chapathis and make for a good change. They also last longer and are a great snack with chai.
Enjoy!

November 28, 2008

Incredible India

I wrote this post 2 days ago but didn't publish it for some reason.. And then the Mumbai attacks took place and it felt mis-timed to talk about India tourism. I am hoping that it doesn't sound out-of-place in the whole grand scheme of things.
____________________________________________________________________

Ever been asked a question, to which you have soo much to say that you can't answer it? Let me ask you the same question that my professor asked me, not verbatim, but pretty much the gist.

"I am going to India for a conference based in Chennai. I will have 4 days for sightseeing.. what all should I see?"

Trying to see India in 4 days is like trying to swallow an elephant in one go. It's impossible. But I have often found myself floundering to answer various combinations of the very same basic question. Me, who can give you unsolicited opinions and direct suggestions about what to do and what not in most of the other places I have visited am left clueless when it comes to India, maybe because I haven't seen a whole lot yet, maybe because I haven't played tourist while having planned the trip (our parents planned the trips when we were young).

Of course, what came to mind almost instantaneously were
1. Mahabalipuram (simply coz if the conference was in Chennai, then it's a must-see),
2. Pondicherry (same reason + it's all French-French)
3. The backwaters and a houseboat experience in Kerela (God's own country)
4. Taj Mahal
5. Fatehpur Sikri
6. Palaces of Jaipur, forts of Jodhpur, the city of Jaiselmer
7. Bangalore - Mysore
8. The Western Ghats (and Bombay n Goa perhaps)
9. The Ganges - Himalayas - Haridwar-Hrishikesh
10. The temples of the south (Tirupati, Kanchi Kamakshi, Madurai Meenakshi) the Golden Temple in Amritsar
11. The caves of Ajanta-Ellora
12. Sanchi

And suddenly it seems like I could go on and on about places and spots to visit and importantly regional cuisines and food to try. But where to start? And where to end? And that too in a 3-4 day trip? If any of you have given recommendations to a friend to do something similar or have done it yourself, do give me some tips here. Your perspective of must-see in India will be most appreciated. Thanks!

November 27, 2008

Prayers for India

Why India again n again n again... and particularly Mumbai? If you don't know what I am talking about, it's the terror attacks in Mumbai last night. Over a 100 people have been killed by various attacks at different points in the city, some very high profile. Read about it here - http://ibnlive.in.com/news/terror-nonstop-101-killed-in-mumbai-attacks/79122-3.html .

Major officers of the ATS(Anti-Terrorism Squad) have been killed. The Deccan Mujahideen have claimed responsibility. It's shocking and very very sad. Everyone please take a moment and pray for peace. May those souls that were lost, rest in peace. Jai Hind.

November 26, 2008

Cold weather - Hot Manchurian


Well a girl's got to eat... Even if the motivation to cook is low because of S not being there, it's the best way to melt away 2 hours. Usually it's lesser time... but for making manchurian, you might as well do it well and in style. And for the cold weather the piping hot manchurian was fabulous. And I've been on a roll. I made my best baingan bharta yet the other day and unfortunately I was too hungry to take pictures. Hehe. But it tasted so great, I want to do a repeat performance soon and I promise pictures soon enough. Enjoy this one though!

November 25, 2008

Ice ice baby..

Wish it were a just a glamorous song as opposed to the situation in my office. The temperature has dropped here in Paris this past week. And my office evidently is ancient, for it has no heating! And it's the corner office on the 3rd floor and consequently I am left with teeth chattering and shivering and wearing the hood of my hoodie indoors (no kidding). No wonder I spend so much time in the warmth of the Cleanroom, huh?

Not for long though... Sunny pastures beckon as early as next week!

November 24, 2008

MindBlogging does Winter!

Well yes the season of snow is here... It snowed yesterday here in Paris and that's what gave me the idea actually... so I played with the template to make a winter theme (there's not much change except the header and a couple of colours here n there). And it's definitely not as colourful as Fall was... But do let me know what you all think.

And Happy Winter to everyone who has one! And Happy Holiday season as well!

November 23, 2008

Jumbo hostel

Here's an interesting business prospect - a budget hotel set in a converted airplane to cater mostly for overnight passengers... And it's set to include a café and a "couple's suite". Check it's plans out here - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7744472.stm

I think it'll make for an interesting idea (and a much more comfortable stay than shacking up against 4 chairs).

November 21, 2008

Oh God it's Fry-day

Fry-day because of the bheja-fry (mental trauma of sorts) that I have endured today

Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. Today was just one of those days when Murphy reigned supreme and as always I was left powerless to witness the unfolding of the events. I got up earlier than usual in the hopes of having my tea and breakfast rather than one or the other. Of course there were other plans in store for me. The kitchen gas (hot plate) kept tripping the circuit for some vague reason. It used to do that before and had stopped. But today it flipped with every turn of the knob. And I had my heart set on the tea. And so after various trials and combinations, I had it working and had my tea ready. Which meant I had forsaken the time for breakfast. No biggie. I stepped out of the house to pouring rain, a malfunctioning umbrella and a delayed bus. And I usually time my routine so well that everything matches... i.e, the time I get to the station is just in time for the train and so on. With the rain and delayed bus, it meant I was either going to have to make a run for the train or wait 15 minutes for the next one. Luckily (or so I thought), after a full sprint, I managed to get into the train even as the siren blared and the doors shut. Aha - beat you, Murphy! But I was unsuspecting of the sprawling plans that lay ahead for me. The next station is where I change trains and usually there is a train almost every 5 minutes. Not today. After having made the run and caught the previous train gasping for breath, I found myself waiting over an hour for the next one. And the platform filled up steadily from other arriving trains for transfers on to this one. And I counted 13, that's right thirteen trains pass by on the other side while about a million of us on this side waited in frustration for either a train or an announcement or some information. Just like the grass is greener on the other side, the trains are far more frequent on the other side as well, no matter where you're going, just notice.

Finally, a train arrives. And it's bursting at it's seams with passengers who'd endured the hour long wait at the previous stations. And more people squeezed into this one from our station as well. I wanted to get to college alright, but I had to get there alive. I thought I would smartly give this train a skip and wait for the next one, hoping it wasn't far behind. It wasn't. But it was just as crowded and this time everyone who'd skipped the previous train in favor of this one decided they weren't waiting anymore and squelched into this one. It was like a rollercoaster ride, only slower and long-drawn. Only instead of safety belts, it was a million people crammed up against you so you couldn't move a millimeter anyways. In all this struggle, I forgot to put my Ipod away. And it's a tiny Shuffle, mind you and it wouldn't take half a second to vanish or get broken to pieces in that sort of a stampede. Luckily it survived. As did I. And as we all spilled out at the school station (the train practically empties here), we all looked bedraggled and straight out of a hair-raising ride.

And here I am in school. And guess what? The cleanroom is closed for a couple of hours for maintenance. Some days, I tell you, it just doesn't pay to get ot of bed.

November 20, 2008

I heart Google


I bet more than half of you out there have tried the new Gmail themes... Talk about brightening our email experience. Well yeah, Yahoo and the rest did have customization of the inbox... But that was like just making it look purple or blue to suit the colour of choice. But Google has taken the customization to a whole new level. The picture above is just one of the many new themes that GMail is offering. Amongst others, there is a theme that provides weather, one that changes according to your location n what not. Sure it's all just for timepass, but passing time hasn't been this fun ever. Oh and has anyone tried their new video chat? It totally rocks... Talk about an all-in-one window. Cheers to Google!

November 19, 2008

No spice!

Note: For the purpose of this blog, 'spice' is the plural of spouse (the way mice the plural of mouse)

It's amazing how sometimes your life is soo parallel with some of your closest friends'. At around the same time, SO, VR, PT and I are left without the spice in our lives for a few days. It's almost like old times in Cincinnati when we anyway hung out with one another by choice. And 3 of us were roommates with SO being the unlisted roomie too. If only we were teleported back in time where we could just spend time with each other in person. Now, we are spread across 3 continents and have no clue when we can all meet together. In the rare event of us being in India at the same time also, we are all spread across 3 states there as well and unless there's really a big occasion, it's hard to meet.

I know everyone says that marriage changes things but I am not sure marriage is entirely responsible for the way we've been geographically strewn apart. And surely, as the spice is in, time for other things dwindle in the effort of doing coupley things together. But everyone needs 'friend time'. The best case scenario is pehaps when you and your spouse share a friend's circle. That way the both of you want to hang out with the same bunch of people. Or if one of you is new to the place, the other introduces you to their existing friend's circle and you just sort of 'adopt' them, which is what has happened with me. Irrespective of that, it's very essential to touch base with all your other friends, the ones with whom you don't hang out with anymore. It sort of helps keep sanity in your life. And it's okay if your spouse isn't a part of this segment of your life... It's just part of the required 'lone time' I guess. Ever since S left for India, I have been on the phone with a lot of my friends... but then I have always been good at keeping in touch either ways. Poor S has never affected that part of my personality. In fact he's very appreciative that I make time for all the other people who are very important to me as well. At the cost of sounding pretentious, I wish some of my other friends were a wee bit like me. (ML - are you listening?) Though it's a two-way street, I have lost touch with some precious people... I rely a lot on modern technology to an extent in that I believe email is a sureshot way of keeping in touch. And it's soo accessible to the modern person these days and I wonder if there's really an excuse not to be in touch anymore (unless it's something serious, of course).

As always, I've digressed from my core point of discussion. This is what is a flow of thought I guess. And I dedicate this post to the spice in our lives and to all those precious friends who are so important to us, together comprising the key demographic that matters to us. Cheers to y'all!

November 18, 2008

Vile vibes

Ever felt sometimes that someone didn't like you? Everyone tells you that you are imagining it and that there's nothing like that. You may agree with them in public but you just know that you are right about this. I have met a few people I know don't like me. Most of the time I don't know the reason why but nevertheless I find it amusing. I know some people who can't stand being disliked by others... but to me, it doesn't matter all that much. But I am stuck with the conventional question of how I deal with such people. Of course not everyone who dislikes you shows it very directly, which would make it easier to respond in an equivocal manner. It's all about the vibes usually. And sometimes you just have to play nice for the sake of the others involved. Like be civil to one another. I am great at that (or so I think)... but others aren't that subtle apparently. I remember this one colleague of mine who evidently did not like me at all. She was not-so-subtle about it either and my continued assertion to another colleague about it was met with denial until one day he confirmed that it was true and for some absolutely silly reason. I was right about that anyway. And that's just one of the examples. But it does beg the question as to what extent you actually need to go to in the name of nicety. Is it better to be a bit upfront and make it obvious that the most you're doing with someone is be civil in public or is it better to pretend getting along for everyone else's benefit? I guess it varies with the situation. In that if you were to deal with someone on a day-to-day basis, it would just make sense to sort out the differences and get along being politically correct rather than have a cold war even. And like VR and I were discussing, often times, you can't help it. Sometimes people dislike you for a variety of reasons - that you're loud or forward or sophisticated or confident (read too-sure-of-yourself) or you-name-it. And if you did bring it up, who's ever going to name any of the reasons above to try and sort it out? Very few... and in such situations... ignorance is bliss. I suppose it's better to pretend not to notice and go along with it. I figure I am harping over here a bit. I'd love to hear all of your opinions on this. Comment away!

PS: Notice how 'vile' is an anagram of 'evil'? But it's also an anagram of 'live' :D. So, scratch that!

November 17, 2008

The way they were

This past weekend was a movie marathon for me... mostly at home on the HDTV and just one outside in the theater. But really this post is about those movies I saw at home. Amongst others, I played DDLJ, Barsaat (1995), HAHK, K3G, and KKHH. For people unfamiliar with these abbreviations, the rest of the post isn't going to make much sense either. Well, as I watched I noticed so many things with a fresh perspective which I probably didn't in the past, either because I had no opinions back then or was in awe of these actors/actresses.

1. The costumes - what were they thinking? When I saw some of Kajol's clothes in DDLJ and many of Madhuri's in HAHK, I visually cringed. Add colour to the screen, ok.. but what about style/quality or class? What about Kajol's halter blue dress in Ruk ja or her glasses throughout the movie? I still do think Maddy's Didi Tera was a good outfit and one to be copied, but the green/white lehenga in Joote Do Paise Lo - what the heck was that?

2. The melodrama - Yes, all our movies have been dramatic. But something were a bit too much to take. Like Twinkle Khanna in Barsaat overall. no wonder she isn't in movies anymore. Or like Jaya Bacchan in K3G or even Hrithik for that matter - that movie was all about the sobs.. Everyone was weeping in some frame or the other... Eeks... Portraying India with a colourful song n dance culture is one thing... and conveying that family does matter and everything is another, but making us look like tap-eyed people is plain dumb.

3. Timeline - There is no concept of timelines in these 'family movies'. For example, Rahul in KKHH would be married and have an 8 year old before Anjali was even engaged. And Tina chose to reveal the love reunion of her surviving husband to her 8 year old daughter in the last letter fully trusting that Anjali would still be single and in love. Oh and here's another one - Rahul (again!!) in K3G has a family tiff that's securely kept from Rohan for God-knows-how-many-years and when he wishes to find him, all it takes is one internet search!! If that's the case, why haven't we found Vishal Taneja yet???

I know it's all just a movie... and one shouldn't take many things to heart. But there has to be some logic in the sequence of events. When there are perfectly sensible movies like RDB, Lagaan (come to think of it most Aamir Khan movies with the exception of perhaps Fanaa), the brain just begs reason. But well, I do thank the Karan Johar genre... my weekend melted away. And sensible or not, these movies are all definitely timepass. And that's all most of the public wants anyways.

November 15, 2008

Instant Cheers

You know how when you want to feel suddenly good, you need to do something silly? Utterly childish and something completely face-value. I did too. I was pretty bored this afternoon, not to mention fretting over the fact that I had 20 long days to face alone before my own India trip. Guess what I did? I made a countdown calendar which I hung very prominently on the wall in the front room. Now I'll scratch off each day as I pass it. And already I feel tonnes better. :)

Sentimental fool

I've never been big on goodbyes. Ever since I was little. And there is something about airports that make me weepy. Considering I have been away from my father from when I was very little, this is a surprise. You would think I would be used to it by now. Evidently not. I remember when I was a young and we were in India while my dad was in the Gulf, my brother and I would spend 11 months of the year looking forward to the 1 month my dad would be in India with us. That was our holiday season. We had the whole fun of the year in that one month. Needless to say, when he left the gloom was darker than the ever. Eventually as my dad moved back with us to India almost parallel to my brother going away to the US, I began to look forward to his arrival. Having never been away from him it was a heart-wrenching experience when he first left. And thereafter his arrivals marked my holiday season. Indeed my classmates from college will probably remember that I barely came to college when my bro was on his holiday. That changed too. Because I was the one leaving home next. And then it was all about making those India trips. I know people talk about "brain drain" and all that. But forever since I left home, going back even on the shortest of vacations has dominated any talk that I've had with anyone. Not just mine. Everyone's. It was the biggest news if anyone was going to India. And it formed the absolute core of the months surrounding it. I guess it's the vicious circle. People want their earnings to be in a currency of higher value so that there is more to spend of it back home on vacation. With the current rates of things in India, I am not even sure that's happening. Anyhow, the topic of this post was to do with goodbyes. The airports I think have always signified separation for me. I first flew when I was 3. Though I was going to meet Appa, I was bidding goodbye to Patti and all. That was separation. And when everyone cried, so did I. When we came back to India, it was usually joyous as we came back as a whole family. But eventually we would stay the holidays longer than Appa could and so another separation, for however short. Then we settled in India and needless to say Appa's visits were very very animated but his departure made me just as sad. And the cycle kept continuing. It's only relatively recently that we've been making 'family' trips via airplane. Usually in India it was by train.

With the number of country hops and nomadic adventures that I've had, once again, you would think I would be used to leaving people behind - my roomies n friends in Cincinnati, amazingly a cat in Iowa, dear friends in San Diego and family in India again. Yet, today I left S at the airport with his India trip preceding mine by 20 days. Emptiness once more. And it's so much worse when you are the one left behind to face an empty house and mundane life. And there's something about leaving someone at the airport gate (or being left by someone) - I think it's the finality. It always, always brings a lump to my throat. I hate airport goodbyes. Or maybe I am just a sentimental fool and need to grow up.

November 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to me


Well, I am obviously not one of those people who shies away from getting whatever wishes possible from whoever. In fact my friends will recollect many years when months before my birthday I start hinting around for things/favours. It's all as a joke of course. And I think it was inculcated in us from a very young age that the birthday was a big deal. Many people I've seen have outgrown "celebrating" it. I mean everyone probably does the dinner outside thing. But very few go the length and do surprises and cakes n candles and all. And this is strictly when you are out of grad school. In fact so many people share the perception that it is just another day in the year. I am of a slightly different opinion. Yes it's only another day. but it's ONE of 365 and in a lifetime, with any luck you'll have like 80 or more. And when it's that countable, it's worth the celebrations.

Traditionally I have been the 12 o clock person. I love to wait for midnight and get hugs and wishes and calls. I also love getting wishes all day, phone calls from friends and family, ecards, emails... everything is an indication that you matter to these people so much so that they've taken the time and effort to do what they can to make your day a little extra special. But things have changed over the years. It's a bell curve of sorts, having reached a peak between 18 and 25. I once remember having had 98 phone calls on a birthday, it having been a holiday. It was a highlight of that year. Traditionally, my family's always been excited about birthdays and for as long as I can remember, we've had a midnight cake cutting. Add to that the gifts. When we were very young, the day dominated the celebrations - wearing "colour" dress to school and standing out, making it obvious that it was your special day, handing out chocolates to your classmates, getting "Happy Birthday" sung to you and all that. And then the early dinner with the family. That was that. As we grew, it included night stays from close friends. All our Kadalai nightstays on all our birthdays formed the crux of our celebrations and still forms a crux of my fondest memories. With all the friends that mattered and the family of course. Grad school - it was different. Everyone who was new in your life tried to etch their way into it. And it worked for the most part. Some of my most cherished friendships were made here and my 4 birthdays away from home was made very very special by roomies and best buds alike.

This year was even more different. Not just was I half-asleep by 11:30pm and S had to hold me up to wish me and for the cake and all, it was just the 2 of us and I was looking forward to just spending it at home. No fancy parties, no major things to do. But I did get a "birthday dress". Having had that in common with every birthday of mine, I didn't want to break the pattern. Things change I guess. But this was as subtle as special, having an adoring husband try to add his touch to your birthday. It was sweet and very special.Thank you S. And thanks to everyone who's called and mailed and scrapped. Each of your wishes makes this day extra special. :)

November 12, 2008

Movie Review - A Wednesday


Warning - Spoilers ahead.

It's been a very long time since I wrote a movie review. But this movie warranted one. My dad had touted this movie for weeks even as he CD-mailed me the DVD. As is usual in such cases, I was expecting that it wouldn't live up to the hype that it was given. I was wrong. It was everything and more.

It had stellar performances from everyone in the movie. In a short 95 minutes, the movie manages to grip the viewer and make every frame powerful. Of course at the helm are 2 of India's premier performers delivering unfailingly yet again, Naseerudin Shah and Anupam Kher. The director Neeraj Pandey has ventured a bold script with just the right actors. The plot revolves around the wrath of a common man played by NS, who is outraged at the (lack of) action by the police with respect to even the terrorists who had been captured and held in custody. Misleading them to believe that he is a terrorist himself, he manages to force the police into accumulating 4 major terrorists at a single secluded location, with the promise of revealing hidden bombs that are poised to rip the city apart. The climax of course is when he blasts the terrorists instead, rather than the city and turns out to be a hidden samaritan. The plot is crisp and very fast paced and has the viewer glued for a well-invested 95 minutes. The end whilst unexpected is inspiring and it is indeed a bold movie by Bollywood, given the fact there are some undeniable ties between the industry and the real underworld.

To me at least, it was thought provoking and I found myself reflecting what would be the 'right' thing to do, ethically and morally. And it has that 'Indian' (movie) kind of feeling. All in all, definitely worth your time, but not one of those timepass movies that you can watch while doing something else. Give it the time it deserves. The dialogues are definitely worth that much.

****1/2

Bye bye Ganguly

I wanted to say many things about this man I have watched and drooled over in the past. But my brother pretty much surmised everything I could ever say. Here's his post. http://wwwews.blogspot.com/2008/11/ganguly-my-icon.html

All said n done.

November 10, 2008

Cups of life

This has nothing to do with Ricky Martin or football or a world cup of any sort. This is a different sort of cup that S n I collect at every place we visit, together or not. Its a shot glass collection. I know many people do that. In fact at one of S's relative's homes, we saw 3 large glass cabinets full of shot glasses from many many countries/places. Many others collect refrigerator magnets or some other souveniers of sorts. Still others don't get anything. It's each person's individual taste. But to me, collecting souveniers is like leaving footprints on a remote beach. Just like though the wind and waters will eventually wash it away, you'll know you've been there. Only this is the other way around a bit. The shot glasses we collect brings to mind my memories from the place like snapshots. It reminds me of what I was doing when hunting it down. Of course there are photographs as well but these are stronger somehow. S has taken to my childish indulgence as well. And we enthusiastically scourge places for these readily available souveniers. It makes my trip complete. :). Here's ours so far :)

Le Mont St Michel

This one was planned up in the skies alright... It rained for most part of the day as we got there to the Northwest tip of France. The skies were gloomy and the prospects of seeing the breathtaking Mont St Michel rise up into glorious skies seemed unlikely. But even as we parked our car, the skies parted and the sun peeked out. And this is what we saw -



It's little wonder that this is the second most visited place in France next to the Eiffel Tower. And even as we finished walking the length and breadth of the mountain and the abbey, the rain started once more. It was all timed to perfection. Lucky us.

Great Bretagne

We were in Bretagne, one of the regions in the Northwest of France this past weekend. And the food here is typical - crépes and galetes - savoury pancakes, filled for main course and sweetened for dessert. Crépes and galetes are very similar to our Indian dosas. However they are made of wheat rather than rice and dal and they aren't made as crispy.

And to drink, there's cidre (cider). We were in a bunch of places in the region, notably Le Mont St Michel and St. Malo. And every corner has a Créperie and virtually every place we tried was fabulous. It's like one of our dosa diners which can serve a 100 varieties of dosa with just the basic ingredient the same.

And it's not just the food. The region is gorgeous and the people helpful. In fact we met a very helpful couple at one of the Créperies but that warrants a different post altogether. And this post is just about the food. There's more to follow from our little weekend getaway.

Nothing like home


I love travelling, seeing new places and everything and I would do it many many times... but the feeling of coming home is unique. It's peaceful, its welcoming, it's warm and comfortable and mainly, it's yours. No place can feel better. But like many things, the distance makes the heart fonder and you truly appreciate home only when you have been away from it and then of course, no sleep is as good as it is on your own bed. Besides, the feeling is multiplied if you've had a tiring weekend albeit fun-filled, with over 1000km of travel in 2 days, add to that being the only driver. I've had the joyous homecoming twice since last night - once when we actually got home after the trip last night and once today when I went to return the car. You might wonder why the second time. The rental place is just behind my house and naturally to return the car there, I opted out of taking the GPS. As luck would have it, the roads were closed at certain points for maintenance and an innocent hunt for a U-turn turned into a massive diversion from my ville (city) to another. Throw in a couple of highways and it's chaos. After accurately memorizing the path I was taking and needing all of 1 U-turn to just turn back, I found myself on the highway. A couple of exits later, I landed at a familiar sounding locality and in there after a few circles around the town center, finally I caught sight of signs pointing to my city. The gush of relief was unmistakeable. In a few short minutes, I had the car returned to it's owners while I got back to the sanctity of my sweet home.

November 7, 2008

Parking in Paris

Pure nightmare. And I don't live in hardcore Paris. I live in Ile de France. I just spent the last 60 minutes (it felt like eternity) driving all sorts of circles around my house through the one-ways and what not. To top it, the spot I found finally is about 15 minutes from home and I spent another 10 minutes parallel parking in the space that was exact for the mammoth that I had gotten for rent. The only good thing was that it was not a busy street... or I'd have had cars queing up behind me giving me sour looks. Now I know why many people don't have cars around here. There is no space to park!! Yes, our building has underground parking. But we are not allotted the space unless we actually have a car. So that means we are left to find spaces in the streets. Hmph.

November 5, 2008

Preferential Passports

My nephew, Boo has an American passport. So does every kid born in the US I guess. Last night we were out for dinner with some of our relatives. Of the 4 of them, 2 had Australian passports one, an American one and one an Indian one. They were describing how there was minimal scrutiny for the 3 'foreign' passports as opposed to the one Indian one. This is not surprising. I must thank my stars for having been pretty fortunate in obtaining whatever visas I've wanted though my 25 years of travelling. However I know of so many people who've not had as much luck, who've had a variety of visas rejected for seemingly no reason at all. First, I find it preposterous that holders of a certain passport require visas for certain countries as opposed to others. Like if you hold an American passport you probably don't need visas for short stays for a hundred countries that I would. The world's immigration rules have got to be the same for people across all countries. Who's to say that the "privileged" ones aren't there to stay for a variety of reasons. (I write this, assuming that most countries fear that they will be immigrated into on a permanent basis by the person entering their country). I could be wrong. There could be a lot more funda behind this than I could possibly know. However, I just don't see how being "born" in a country and thus bestowed that passport exonerates you from possible illegalities/or whatever it is that is of concern. Shouldn't the rules be same for one and all? I am not suggesting that everyone sit and increase the administrative paperwork by ensuring that everyone else gets a visa etc for everything. Like the European union has a pretty cool concept of the Schengen visa which means that with a visa to any one of the countries under the Schengen treaty, you are welcome to enter and leave any other country under the treaty. There has to be some umbrella like this for other countries as well, which makes it easier. But it does irk me that the American junta for instance can override any Schengen requirement and are free to enter anyways. Why preferential treatment? Because these are the so-called "developed nations"? So what if our country is "developing"? In what administrative way does it make us less reliable or less-trustworthy? In fact I suppose their fear is that educated as us lot is from these countries we are likely to "stay" in theirs for the "opportunites" perceived there. I fail to see the whole point, I guess. If there's something that I am entirely missing, someone illuminate me.

Does anyone else have any opinions on this? Let's talk about it.

Obama wins

After what seems like an agonizing year of campaigning, if not more, after Obama vs Hilary and then Obama vs McCain and then the entry of Sarah Palin contrasted to the quietude of Joe Biden, after talk about the Alaskan lady's dress sense to wardrobe to family to prank calls to God-knows-what, the results are in - Obama is to be sworn the 44th American President and the first black one. Here are some news updates -

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-ledeall5-2008nov05,0,4114011.story
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/us_elections_2008/7709978.stm

And I am not even in the USA. I was rooting for the Democrats in any case. And having spent quite a lot of time following this on World news, I am glad it's over.

November 2, 2008

Bye bye Kumble

All you cricket fans must be updated on this news. India's spin pillar for the past couple of decades and recent Test captain, Anil Kumble announced his retirement all of a sudden from all forms of the game. Here are some news articles on this matter -

http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/india/content/current/story/376672.html
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/kumble-retires--pics-farewell-jumbo--your-say/77288-5.html

I have been an avid follower of the game in the past. I think I gave up when I lost the means to keep updated while I was in the US. I did see the World Cups but India's dismal performances didn't keep my interests piped up. And I have slowly weaned myself from the game. The 20-20s did suddenly perk my interests and I was amused by the IPL (With a cricket-crazy husband it's impossible to keep completely away from the game. I even saw half the $20 million 20-20 game beteen the STanford Superstars and England). However, I do remember the days back in school when cricket endured as a common religion amongst all of us. As a matter of fact, during all major matches, we count on our class boys to have a pocket radio to get match updates in between classes. Or we had those school-side neighbours just behind the cycle stand who would yell scores for our benefit every now and then or when we yelled out for it. And then, we were a group of girls who had their personal favorites in the game. Mine was Jonty Rhodes (I went as far creating a website for him which if I may add was very popular) for as long as I can remember. I do remember that many many girls had a crush on Anil Kumble back then. This was about 15 years ago, mind you and he seemed quite dashing back then to our roving eyes ;). And then there was the historic test match against Pakistan where Kumble picked up all 10 Pakistani wickets. I saw the match with my brother. I don't think I'll forget that achievement ever nor will I forget the way the other bowlers bowled to the batsmen once Kumble had picked about 7 of the 10 wickets. It would have been immensely spoil-sporty had one of the Pak batsman had lobbed off a ball off another bowler just to kill the chances. They played sport and Kumble created history. And then there was always his pace of bowling, with him never quite as slow as you have come to believe spin should be, nor achieving any major turn of the likes of Shane Warne. He always seemed more of a medium-pacer to me. Enough of my visesh tippani. Here's raising a toast to Kumble - for all his contributions to Indian cricket! Happy Retirement!

November 1, 2008

The best vs the rest

Once you get used to the best, it's very hard to go back to the rest. I've learned this the practical way. As a student, I experienced the 'rest' firsthand. And after marriage now I get to experience the best. (Actually that started sometime after I started working having graduated from school, but this claim makes it sound even better, what say?) Before my family starts wondering if they haven't succeeded in offering me the 'best' in every way back when I was home in India, let me put those thoughts to rest. I am exclusively talking about the time that I have lived away from home.

These thoughts all occured to me when I was sitting at the coin laundry mindlessly watching my clothes toss and turn in the tumble dryer. As the clothes merrily danced into dryness, I caught sight of a white sock, now sooo pearly white that it was virtually unrecognisable from it's earlier self that can only be described as blackened at best. The difference was unbelievable. Who thought a machine could wash every garment soo well? I then realized that more than the machine itself, it was the detergent that made the difference. The clothes never felt this clean when we were previously using even the powder Ariel. But enter the liquid Ariel I am never going back to any other detergent. Makes me think back to the days at grad school when we used to buy something, the brand name which I can't remember because it wasn't economical to buy 'Tide', the best-selling counterpart out there for 3 people with laundry weekly.

The laundry is just an example and a very feeble one at that, on the topic that I am harping on. Here in Paris, alongwith my brand-conscious husband, I have had the fortune of experiencing really what the brands are about. We shop at Sephora, a very popular perfumerie that stocks the most famous brands in the world. I've found my scent there - Pure Poison by Dior. Once you use something like that, it's impossible to relapse to the happy days of Bath and Body Works sprays (though I love their bath products still). And then when we bought the perfume there, we were given samplers. This is what kills you. They give you free samples of some of the great stuff that they stock. For me, it was a J'adore (by Dior) bodywash and body lotion. I was sold. After using that, who could go back to buying Nivea or Faa? Not me. Yesterday I bought the full-size version. As for my husband, he is a walking n talking 'Jean-Paul Gaultier' brand ambassador (except he doesn't get paid for his conquests). He not only takes his personal care products seriously, religiously refilling every time he is out, he has sold no less than 10 people on the same products, some as unlikely to pick it up as my brother (Now my bro is soo sold on it, that he has located Sephora near his home in California for refills). If JPG agents are looking for representatives, please contact me for the details of my husband :D. That's what I am talking about. There's certainly more than just the names to the brands, if not in something less important as accessories, but in something as important as personal care. Having used Dior makeup also, I find it hard to use much else. What's the end to the story? Empty pockets, in a manner of speaking. Is it worth it? Maybe... after all, life is about living.