Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bye bye 08!

Usually, just a few days before a new year begins, I attempt to hold on to the last few days that are left of the old one. It's my weird theory that if I yearn for the year to continue just a little longer, that it will. That if I close my eyes tight and wish a little harder, that the old year won't go away as fast as it seems to.

But not this year.

I'm counting down to when the new year will begin so that I can leave 2008 behind.

It hasn't been all bad. I would be cynical if I said it was. I did leave to college in the U.S. and that was great. Living in a foreign country as a student and learning so much in class and out of it was fabulous. I discovered the joys of journalism and the conviction that this is the career path I want to choose. The sense of professional stability was new to the dreamer that I am. And it felt great. It felt right.

But in retrospect, there was too much bad that overshadowed the good.

I said goodbye to my happiest year in college and some of the best freinds I made. Although I spent only a year with them , they really were the people I wondered how I ever lived my life without, before meeting them.

I lost my grandfather. I miss him so much, everyday. I love you Baba.

2008 was chaotic at best. On the last day of this confusing year, here's wishing everyone a peaceful and happy new year 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rajasthan and Rome now at home

Hubba Hubba! This phrase can be used in two ways in relation to what will be the topic of this blog. That is, either in the conventional sense which is the process of the heart being sent into flutter, usually after seeing a particularly gorgeous member of the opposite sex or as the Kannada word to describe a celebration. However, while there's a good chance that the heart is likely to be set aflutter with what I am about to describe, the reason is not a boy or girl. But there is no doubt that nonetheless, it all comes together as a fantastic celebration. the dining experience called Rajdhani.

UB City opened its doors to the public earlier this year and hasn't stopped surprising Bangalore. One of its highlights I recently discovered was the Indian open-air retaurant, Rajdhani, Ek Khaandani Paprampara. True to every word, Rajdhani is the kind of place you should visit on an empty stomach. Turst me, you'll need the space.

*Dholi taaro dhol baje dhol baje dhol baje dhol o dhum dhum baaje dhol!

Rajdhani is a non-stop gourmandizing indulgence with a wide range of foods making a steady beeline for the steel thali in front of you. Don't be fooled by the tiny portion of each sabzi - they're actually the perfect size which ensure that you're full without being stuffed, while still getting a chance to try all of them.

*Dheel de de re de de re bhaiyya, is patang ko dheel de!

My only complaint may be that it was an all-vegetarian menu. But that's juts the sworn carnivore in me speaking. Besides, I understand the necessity to keep it that way. Meat may distract from the rest of the colorful, delectable food served here.

I won't spoil the magic for you by giving you all the details. At Rs. 200+, it warrants a definite visit. Take your tastebuds on a ride called the Rajdhani.
**Yeh hai India meri jaan!

You could stop here. But why would you? Avarice as a vice is so overrated. Go back the following day like I did (yes, "following", with no break in between) and head to Toscano, just next to Rajdhani. Refreshingly, it's not a place for pretentious food in miniscule portions coupled with prices that could induce cardiac arrest. Quite the contrary, it serves delicious Italian food, in well-sized portions with whom the prices are in sound accordance. The menu is limited, inclined toward the vegetarian connosieur. But nothing a little perusing can't take care of. I recommend the pizza Toscano.

Soft lighting, wooden floors and comfortable chairs of mock-wrought iron made for comfortable outdoort seating on a cool December evening in the city. Hushed conversation and a dainty gloden candle in the center of the table had me believe that I wasn't far from Italy. Service was efficient and so friendly. Our waiter smiled the entire evening. Call me a sucker, but that made such a difference.

This is the Risotto Al Funghi I ate. Creamy cheese blended with rice, served with plump mushrooms and green beans with slivers of cheese on the side. As the placemats at the restaurant read, Buon Appetito!

*Lyrics from songs which appear in the Indian blockbuster, Hum dil de chuke sanam, whose story is based in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

** Lyrics from an old Hindi movie (which I improvised) which translate to, "This is India, my love."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mmm mmm good at F&B!

Second time round to F&B and I love it even more.

The restaurant on St.Mark's Road is anyone's guess of what it could be classified as. Is it a cafe or an elegant dining room in someone's tastefully decorated home? It's beauty proabably lies in its lack of definition, the lines being blurred between restaurant and rest haunt, much like the friendly outdoors that blend effortlessly with the bright interiors, the union made possible by large glass windows which are the only thing standing between the two. The transparent panes are great for a view of the green plants that sit pretty just outside too.

The food is the real focus. Who knew that the Indian offerings would be as good as their Pan Asian fare? I tried these noodles with peanuts the last time and they were delicious till the last bite. This time I tried the chilli cheese naan with laal maas and prawn biryani. So filling, so good!

The naan was fluffy and delicately spiced. The laal maas was spicier but the biryani toned down it's effect. Wash it all down with a tall glass of chilled cranberry juice and it's hard to make the evening much better. That's if you're not counting the great company, of course.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It promises to be one heck of a party at Pennsylvania Avenue

Caroline Kennedy is likely to occupy the New York Senate seat that Hillary Clinton once occupied while Mrs. C could soon join President-elect Obama at the White House. This is proving to be possibly the most interesting time yet in U.S. political history...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Excuse me, I hate to point out you're missing a brain

My friend was at a cyber cafe a few days ago when he heard some guys dissing the media industry. He's a journalist too, as many of my friends are. It's ironic, but journalists tend to be an insular lot. Getting back to the point, he didn't take kindly to the derogatory remarks. Few do, especially when it's the fraternity they belong to in question. But it's a democratic society, and people have the right to freely express their opinion. So he had decided to leave the unintentional eavesdropping at that. Incidentally, the guys who made the remarks were aspirants of a national exam which applicants take to join governmental service.

A few moments later, the guys made the mistake of saying that a particular national daily was the final word in the country's journalism and that there was no hope for the newer, emerging models of journalism.

Journalists, have their faults, just like everyone else. The industry is flawed too, much like all others.

But that was it. My friend decided to let the journalist in him do the talking. He walked up to them and said it was a shame that they planned on joining national service when they couldn't even think for themselves. He was referring to their affinity for the particular national daily over all else only because it's the prescribed reading material during the time that they prepare to write this highly competitve test. He asked them how they intended to make decisions for the country when they couldn't decide what they liked to read for themselves. They were merely following the instructions of an archaic panel whom they wished to please and had no real opinion, or at least not one that they were comfortable to express openly.

I'm so proud of you, not for disrupting the peace in the cyber cafe, but for making a valid point that needed to be heard. Sure journalists have their faults and the industry is flawed. Heck, it's dying too, according to many. But it's moments like these make me proud to be one, to belong to the industry and reassure me that it's not possible that several others like me could have all made the same gross mistake.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A train ride away from a plane ride

Class is out for the semester and the winter intersession begins soon. What does that mean for the stragglers on campus before they head off for the holidays? That the B line train has fewer people on it that I've ever seen before. That means it's a pleasure to ride. Train rides without your nose forced up against the glass and a trip back home round the corner. I like the way the last bit of this year before the beginning of the new year is shaping up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bringing the World to the United States

I'm all done with my final project, "Bringing the World to the United States." for my multimedia journalism class (Fall '08 semester). It consists of a SoundSlide, interactive map and a blog. Please check it out here: I look forward to your feedback. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An evening at the movies

A big goofy grin. That's what you have on your face when you walk out of Slumdog Millionaire. Brilliant all the way to the last frame.

Danny Boyle's latest film featuring debutant Dev Patel is so good! There's just no other way to put it. When a friend mentioned a while ago that I should watch it, I didn't think much of it. How could a movie with a title like that be? Sounded too morbid. I was so wrong.

Based on the book Q&A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire is the story of call center tea boy who lands himself a place on the primetime Indian Television Show, Kaun Banega Crorepati, based on Who wants to be a Millionaire?

How can an ordinary chaiwala from a mobile phone company call center in Mumbai know anything about the world, least of all enough to win hom 20 million Indian rupees? The kind of money that his lot will never see in a lifetime, putting him in the same category as more than 80 percent of the working Indian population.

Slumdog Millionaire is true to all that it shows of India. My only criticism may be that nothing of "other" India had been shown. The "modern," "advanced," "new face," of India. It may have helped in showing to the world that India is more than chawls and outdoor bathrooms. But if the movie is showing at sold out shows across the city and country despite a limited release, a sixth sense says that they probably know about that part anyway.

It's a different experience watching an independent Indian movie with an American audience. Unlike Indian movies starring six-figure super stars, this one had faces no one had seen before but grew to like quite quickly. And the audience was almost all-American. In fact, I may have been the only exception.

The movie also refreshes reasons why you love India, as ironic as it may seem in context of the material. How do expanses of poverty, helplessness and sheer filth remind you of loyalty? Because it makes you reliaze you love India, warts and all. With its traffic jams. With its dysfunctional system of power. With its volatile tempers and unpredicatble days. We love India. For it's fun-factor. For it's strength. For it's spirit. We love you India.

A.R. Rahman's soundtrack is brilliant. The kind that sends a tingle down your spine, similar to the feelings of patriotism that his rendition of Vande Mataram invokes. The camerwork is flawless - fast paced and well edited, throwing you right in the middle of the action. Danny Boyle has made a meticulous movie that surpasses expectation. Two thumbs up to Dev Patel.

Go watch Slumdog Millionaire for its enthralling story. Go watch Slumdog Millionaire to support independent cinema. Go watch Slumdog Millionaire to join in the celebration called India. Or just go watch it for the sheer love of movie watching. It's worth more than the price of the ticket and the popcorn.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Being an international student just got more interesting

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I've stopped blaming myself if I'm unable to finish a book, more for dipping interest-levels rather than a lack of time. I read a poignant lesson for an undergrad class once which said that a book can only be enjoyed if the reader is in the right time in his life to fuuly appreciate it. It's so true.

For a class, I recently had to read "The Price of Admission," By Daniel Golden, who is a former chief of bureau for the Wall Street Journal. Brilliant matter which dealt with the truth behind admission prcedures of American colleges. Really fascinating stuff. But I found the tone too forceful. Like someone was breathing down my throat and insisting that I accept what they were saying. I would have probably done that anyway, but the pressure kind of put me off. Between you and me and the very public nature of this space, I will say that I did not finish the book. But what little I read of it was a serious eye-opener.

The United States has largely been a self-centered nation. Being the sole world superpower, it can afford to be predominantly interested only with itself and have other countries pursue it rather than the other way around. Many would disagree with what I've just said but a closer look will prove that I'm not engaging in idle chatter.

The American educational system for example is proabably one of its most insular components of public life. Despite attracting students from all over the world, American students who graduate from local high schools get the maximum advantage out of the system as compared to an outsider. If they attend the school in the state in which they are residents, they get a massive reduction in tuition. That's just the beginning of the incentives.

On many levels, it makes perfect sense. Why shouldn't the local system work as much to the advantage of local students as possible? It's probably harder for some of us to understand when we come from countries that try to make admission to college as difficult as possible for local students. In fact in those cases, it may actually help if you are a foreign applicant!

Golden's book explained the following, which is comforting for an international student to read while at an Amercian University:

  • Some colleges deliberately attract students that they don't really want just so they can reject them and thus boost their own exclusivity factor. The more rejections, the more selective they appear on college ratings.
  • Some colleges drop the lowest six percent of SAT scores they recieve. This hikes their average by about 40 points. A considerable increase. They have some lame euphemism for the practice behind which they hide.
  • Many universties give preference to applicants of alumni and faculty. There's a special category for "legacies, " which in simple words is when daddy big bucks makes a huge donation to the school. Admission committees will overlook slightly poorer grades/test scores and other compelling factors at the expense of "unhooked" students - those that don't have any of these factors working for them.
  • Some universities decide to be slighlty cheekier by ignoring the English scores of international students on competitive tests but consider their math scores which tend to be higher than those of American students.

Wondering which universities may be guilty of these sins? Think of every major Ivy league, prestigious, super-selective school in the United States. Practically all of them except for CalTech which is virtually blemish-free.

Just when we thought we were so far away from "donations" and the quota system. Americans have a polite term for the latter too. It's called "affirmative action," and thankfully it's controversial in this country too.

It was encouraging to come across the information and know that when international students are denied any kind of financial aid most of the time or are rejected from big schools when they have all the right tools, they shouldn't take it personally. There's a greater vendetta at play. If only they knew...

Instead of lamenting how things could have turned out, international students should revel in coming from a foreign culture and having a fresh perspective. It's a major advantage sometimes. Like one of my professors once said to the international students in my program, "You view the glass as half empty. I view it as half full." That was in the middle of a pep talk he was giving us about not wallowing in the disadvantages we have in comparison to American students. That makes sense. I'll view the glass half full.

I'm an international student and loving every minute of it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Killing buildings

The recent Mumbai blasts were pathetic, a shame. The escalating death toll depressed everyone further reminding them how the terrorists had won again.

If the loss of human life wasn't enough, add the beautiful buildings that were damaged as well. The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai is one of the most exquisite structures in the city. To watch it burn helplessly, physically and live, thick black smoke billowing out of its majestic domes and minarets, was painful. The building that is a museum of sorts, with rich woodwork on its interiors, and which has stood proud and tall for decades, was being forced to petty ashes by idiots who couldn't begin to understand the artichtectural asset that was being destroyed.

Victoria Terminus, which was recently rechristened a domestic name, is the symbol for aspiration. Only a few would understand its symbolism when it appears in Hindi movies, reiterating the eternal rags to riches desire that many who come to Mumbai harbour. The ones who land in the city with nothing but a suitcase full of dreams, hoping that magical Mumbai, the Indian land of unlimited opportunities, will make them all come true.

Leopald's Cafe which was immortalized by Gregory David Roberts' story of Shantharam. The popular haunt of many foreign travellers, a major reason for which it was a target.

I hope you're not raising your eyebrows at the attention I choose to pay to bricks and cement. But the identity of a city, though predominantly associated with its people, has an important relationship with its landmark and often irreplaceable structures.

When the restoration/renovation efforts are complete, guests will continue to check into one of the most luxurious water-front hotel in the world. Railways will continue to ply the ancient tracks of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. And Leopald's Cafe has already reopened, resuming with serving the famous liquor and delicious food it is famous for. But Mumbai has already changed into a city where people feel less safe, with its people and buildings under threat.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid

A good book after a long time feels like a relaxing neck rub or soaking your feet in warm water and mineral salts. It's that sense of 'Aah", of sheer relief, in knowing that all is not lost. That the value if good writing has not yet been consumed by the digital world.

I just finished reading "Moth Smoke" by Mohsin Hamid and loved every word. The journalist and lawyer from Princeton and Harvard is a great storyteller who narrates how the protagonist's life goes downhill, caught in an ugly spin of an extramarital affair and a heroin addiction, while constructing a remarkably relevant allegory to the Mughal empire and its notables of siblings Aurangazeb and Dara. I loved his use of words and language and the bizarre descriptions and comparisons that he tries to pass off as normal. Fascinating writer whose first novel gives you a teasing insight into his convulted mind. Some of it was quite morbid, I had to shake myself to reality a couple of times to avoid etting depressed. But that's the strength of a good writer I guess - one who can transport you to the world that he creates between pages, allowing you to forget reality, if only momentarily.

Stranded in a foreign land during one of the busiest holidays in America didn't bother me too much because I had the book for company and was actually silently celebrating the delay because it meant I got more time with the book.

It also became increasingly clearer that my inability to finish a book sometimes has more to do with its lacklustre plot rather than my sloth-like tendencies or my snail-paced reading. Sometimes. Sometimes it really just is my sloth-like tendencies and snail-paced reading.

"Moth Smoke" is definitely a recommended read.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who has the answers?

I was on the lonely planet website a few days ago. I needed some information about different countries and preferred to refer to the bright-coloured, simple-language, basically-fun portal than the boring others with mundane facts in archaic language. I checked the homepage to see who the editor was and it turned out to be Vivek Wagle - an Indian! I was so pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure if I should have been. Indians have been doing great things for a long time. But it was just such an an unexpected find in such an unexpected place that it made me smile.

My mind jogged back to the time I had heard news stories reporting an Indian as an Adobe top executive. Ditto with Citibank. My latest finding is Raju Narisetti whose achievements I am particularly enamored with. Indian soil boasts several well-accomplished natives, overseas and at home, in a range of fields, among its many other positives. I could go on and on forever. But the point I'm trying to make is that despite all the "advancement" the country is making, why are some treacherous people inisistent on keeping it in the dark ages? And succeeding at it!

The Mumbai November 2008 blasts are another incident in a steady trail of terror that the country has endured over the past few months. It's becoming really stale but thankfully not stale enough to shock the human senses. The scary part is when people become immune to the violence and cease to react to it anymore. An uneasy feeling tells me that is not far away though. I sincerely hope that is the pessimist in me thinking out loud and not much more.

How many times can a country be battered? How many times will it tolerate its spirit being threatened? How many times is it expected to dip into its fast-depleting reserves of resilience and "bounce back?" The real question is, how many times is it "supposed" to? None. It should never feel the need to.

We don't live in an ideal world and this rubbish continues to persist. What scares me more than numb human senses is the potentially ugly form that the retailiation is likely to take. Why does that scare me, although the majority will agree that it's jutified?...because rather than purge the evil from its own society, the action suggests more damage to an already tattered social fabric. I'm not sure it will hold up much longer. The futility just seems to outweigh the advantage.

Just when we feel like we have so much to look forward to, so much to celebrate about, sadisitic elements are adamant about ensuring regression and its perpetuity. Damn you cowards.

I have no answers, like many out there. And no one's in the mood for lofty claims that can't be translated to action immediately. Innocent men, women and children have paid the price. Men of valor have been extinguished in the line of duty. Visitors on holiday have been killed and those who survive have bitter memories of a land known for its hopitality.

This is getting stale. And I don't want to think of what could ensue in the aftermath.

Here's a great link, commenting on the tragedy, by one of my favorite authors:

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Flashback before Moving Forward

This is the 100th post. I thought it needed to be dedicated to something special. Thinking back, I realized that there is one event that needs mention but hasn't featured on the space because this blog was not created when it happened. The details may be a little hazy but here's the essence of it.

One of the highlights of my undergrad student life was the film workshop that we had with Pradeep Sebastian. It was five days, beginning Wednesday and running all through the weekend, of pure concentrated movie-watching pleasure. Tucked away in the new AV (audio visual) room on campus, with an airconditioner that chose to overwork more often than not, turning the space into an artificial arctic zone, thirty movie-hungry girls devoured every last scene. I could have sworn there were a couple of drool puddles.

It was intended to be a "film appreciation" course, to make us more cultured women and all those shenanigans. Perhaps that's what its long-term effects were. In the moment, the popcorn was the only accessory missing (only because John sir would have thrown us all out if we had eaten the AV room).

The first movie we watched was a Cannes Film Festival winner, The Son's Room. It was the first Italian movie I watched and loved the way the words of the language flowed so effortlessly. It felt oddly satisfying to hear a tongue I didn't understand. The movie was wonderful, setting a serene mood in soft colours and voices. During the five days that we spent in front of the large screen display, we were transported to the eerie tale of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski and got a taste of the film wizard's magic in his explosive movie that explores incest like never before in Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

We watched "Open Water" where a yuppie American couple's tropical holiday turns into a mid-sea tragedy. Powerful cinema on a shoestring production budget that raked in huge collections at the box office. Independent cinema will always remain fascinating. The list grew longer with Mulholland Drive (which had the most bizarre female nudity scene. I guess you never know what to expect from director, David Lynch).

Then came the two Oriental movies of the lineup. When the first one was screened (The House of Flying Daggers), I had to excuse myself to escort my younger sibling to the social do of that generation. I had to be the lame older sibling who sat around obscurely and ate paneer tikka. Little did I know that the North Indian fare was stale. So when the second movie (whose name evades me) was screened, I had to excuse myself again to nurse a troubled stomach caused by the stale snack I had the previous day.

But I was back in time for Falling in Love with Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro. You can't quite figure out whether it's the couple's onscreen chemistry that is genuine or the fact that both are such good actors that they could have you believe they made hot, passionate love to a tree last night. This was the film that I thought Karan Johar's, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was based on. My loyalties remain divided between a magical hollywood performance and a true Dharma Productions creation that appeals to my Indian sensibilities.

The grand finale was worth the wait with another Italian movie. Cinema Paradiso stole all our eighteen-year-old hearts, who cooed with the young Italian boy and the relationship he has with films and the man who plays movies at his town cinema. No movie that I've watched till date has taken its place and I'm confident no other film will. It will remain special for how "human" it was and how it succeeded in allowing us to believe we were eight-years old again.

At the end of five days, the lights came back on. The last CD was put away in its case. The floor was still remarkably free of popcorn and crumbs. John sir was happy. But the drool puddles remained. Of course the workshop was useful and there was a greater chance that we would now be able to hold a semblance of an intelligent conversation about film noveau and voyeurism. But that would be for much later.

At the time, the immediate accomplishments were that our eyes had dried from watching so many movies continously and we wore dazed grins of contenment. This week could not have gone any better.

To 100 more posts and more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's not all black and white anymore...and there are more shades than gray

The whole world is screaming about how jorunalism is dying. Everyone is wondering just what the future of journalism really is. That with the advent of technology and more specifically, the Internet, print journlists may as well shut shop and head home. They're doomed without a doubt.

So why did I, like several others, choose to join journalism school, at the price of, as one classmate put it, "The equivalent of the GDP of a small country." Turns out, print journalists are still the majority compared to broadcast students. Could everyone have made the same mistake? Or is there a deeper trend that we seem to be missing?

It's true that the World Wide Web has drastically eaten into print sales, with newspapers being forced to reduce their circulation. Several magazines have abandoned their paper models and adopted a web-only format. So that's it then?

Fortuanately, not quite. I came across an interesting article the other day about how the Internet was inevitably taking over the print world. However, the trade off wasn't quite rewarding. The revelation came to light in connection with Conde Naste Publications which was reducing its web workforce, while leaving its print division untouched. It's argument was that it was essentially a magazine company and would not compromise on that. The new-age media pundits just couldn't understand it. But the logic lies in a Vogue or Harper's that could never expect to earn the same kind of revenue from a website as compared to its glossy pages that are eagerly awaited on the newsstands. The advertisers pay heavily to be featured in the prized space. In reality, if they were to adopt primarily or only an online existence, they would be exchanging pounds for pennies.

That got me thinking that it's unlikely any publication will continue to focus solely on a web-based format, especially when it is not economically viable over a longer period of time. It's the money that counts. If it's not coming in through a particular avenue, alternatives will be drafted. No company is interested in a losing venture, or at least one that is not bringing in the desired revenue.

The matter then rests on "convergence" - a word that a professor used the other day and there doesn't seem to be a better term. It seems as though the print industry is changing, not dying. And there is a mammoth change around the corner that is going to redefine the industry forever. All journalists are waiting to see what that is.

Several media that came earlier suggested that the newspaper was halfway to the grave. The radio. The television. The Internet is the latest monster. But just as radio journalism, broadcast journalism and new media were carved out, a hybrid being will be created to ensure that newspapers and magazines will not disappear forever.

Besides, the web and the all the tools that go with it are ultimately "delivery mecahnisms," not the news themselves. They're the new toys to play with and enjoy, the kinder suprise is hidden inside.

It's a tough time for journalists and the industry as everyone tries to stay afloat. But there is hope. So it seems as though, while we're not completely in the clear, we're not destined for doom either. For now, that's enough to get by with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Karmic Circle

"There's too much of an emphasis on being nice. Who cares?"

Well, it's true. No one will question why you don't want to be nice. You're not obliged to remember birthdays. Or buy gifts for loved ones "just because." No one expects you to make time out for old friends.

But let's put it in the simplest way possible. "What goes around, comes around," as trite as that may sound. It's a simple concept called Karma.

My friend from China got me Chinese tea in the cutest green box and suprised me with it this morning. I wasn't expecting it and it made me feel good all day. If I can do something that makes someone else feel that way, it's totally worth the effort.

The status of my Karma is not something that I take lightly.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Of the Constants and New

I miss Hebbal and Bellary Road. But I like Brookline and the Massachusetts Turnpike. I miss scootys and kinetics. But I like Vespas and the ocassional Harley. I miss Comm Street, Brigade Road and MG Road. But I like Comm Ave, Quincy Market and Copley. I miss Mainland China, Samarkand and The Only Place. But I like Noodle St., Rangoli and the pizza place on campus. I miss blaring horns. But I like the silence. Most of the time. I miss the autos and surprisingly the din and madness of the traffic. But I like the T. I really like the T. I miss crossing Cunningham Road. I like being treated nicely as a pedestrian. I miss Lifestyle. I like Marshalls. I miss my family and friends. I'm making new ones of the latter category who are some of the nicest people, but there is no replacing the originals :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, America. With Obama, you can.

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.

Thank you America, for choosing to change.

I'm not even American but I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes when I heard his victory speech. Possibly because it's so easy to see Obama as first a "person" before a "president."

Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has finally come true. The color of a person's skin has transcended political barriers to triumph in the peoples' hearts. This strikes a special chord with me because Martin Luther King Jr. is BU alumni. The American dream has been redefined.

The concerns that Obama is not ready for this post aren't entirely out of place. He is young and has had a comparably short political career when contrasted with that of John McCain. However, his promise for change is convincing and he seems capable of leading the world's most powerful nation into a brand new era. Thank you John McCain for being gracious about your defeat.

Obama's reference to a 106-year-old woman who voted for him in Atlanta, during his victory speech, didn't seem sappy. He wins brownie points for thanking his wife whom he called "the love of his life." Nothing appeals to a girl more than a man who makes no qualms about who his heart belongs to.

The Harvard-Columbia graduate will lead his nation forward - a movement that the nation has been crying out for, heaving under the strain of a crumbling economy and a futile war. The same nation mourns with the new president-elect for his grandmother didn't see this victorious day. The timing is terrible.

This presidential race has been historic. Obama has made history. He will go down in history. Hopefully, he will make some of the country's pressing problems history.

The faith in an Obama-Biden admistration is strong among the American people. Obama is endearing for his power to make a person believe. That I can. That you can. Yes, we can!

Barack Obama, I look forward to your term as the president of the United States of America.

Election Coverage 2008 - Ayesha Aleem and Christine Cassis

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Countdown Begins

The US Presidential Elections 2008 are tomorrow. Who's going to win? Obama or McCain?
I'm at the edge of my seat and biting my fingernails.
Watch this space for an update.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That Impress Me Much!

I read a fabulous quote today. It read, "Maybe some women aren't meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free till they find someone just as wild to run with them and trust."

When I have these periodic reveries about the future, I can never quite figure out what I want. Ssshh, don't tell anyone. On a more serious note, I think this quote knows what I want better than I do.

I'm convinced that I'm about as eccentric as my social circle allows me to be. So will I want to conform later? Chances are, no. Which is why I think someone offbeat would work well. What's life without a little chaos?

The human spirit is too free to be fettered. Not that it doesn't require guidance or direction or purpose. Just no chains.

Does that mean I'm looking? Not exactly. I have no idea what's ahead. I'm as clueless as the next person and am waiting to see what happens next. It's like a blind curve on a winding mountain road. Add some fog for further reduced visibility. But the suspense is exhilarating.

Do I wish that someday I find someone who celebrates the mad scientist in me? Sure! For now though, I'm just going to concentrate on now. Because, at the risk of sounding corny, Deepak Chopra did say, "The past is history. The future is a mystery. But what you have now is a gift. And that's why it's called the present."

Feeling Surer on Shaky Ground

It's been two months in the new land and I'm happy to say that it's OK. That's more than I could have expected to say two months ago. When I first landed here, I thought I had made some sort of huge mistake. What was I thinking leaving the comforts of home and venturing out into foreign lands? On my own? I was obviously kidding myself.

Turns out I wasn't. The revelation came as a suprise to me too.

When I think back, there were times I just wanted to turn away from all of it and not have to deal with any of it. What was the big deal about going abroad to study anyway? It's besides the point that millions of people do it every year. What made it necessary for me?

Now I have some of the answers. I needed to grow up. I was a child and would have always remained one back home. Out here, it's just me and that's making me develop in ways that take me by surprise sometimes. No, I'm no Einstein and I don't claim to be. But here I find myself turning going from a girl to a woman. The thought scares me sometimes. Most of the time, it makes me smile.

So I'm glad I didn't turn away. I like it here in this city where no one recognizes me. Makes me appreciate the familiarity back home. Of course I miss my family and friends. Who knew youtube could be so entertaining? And the course load is hectic. But there are some definite advantages and I'm not complaining. I've also realized that the tough parts are done almost as soon as they begin. It's just a case of hanging in there.

Does it make me want to go back. Hell yeah! But that can wait a while. For now, I'm learning too much to leave. And growing as a result of.

I'm grateful I took the advice of a teacher days before I left, when I was wavering whether I needed to take this big step at all. She said, "He who hesitates is lost." Thank you. I listened. Because I didn't hesitate, today I don't feel so lost.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dance with Daryl Davis

Tonight was a real eye-opener. How often do you meet an African American man who is friendly with members of the Ku Klux Klan?

Eyebrows raised? Mine came down just a few hours ago.

Daryl Davis got his first taste of racial discrimination as a child and was caught off guard when it happened. From then on, he became aware that he was part of a world where not many was were as his naive as him and that it could pretty cruel. Instead of letting that discourage him, he found an anchor in music and boogeyed away with stalwarts like Chuck Berry(given credit for starting the rock 'n roll movement and being the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Van Halen and anyone who's played "rock guitar.") His flawless music caught the attention of a Ku Klux Klan member who one day who put his arm around Davis and invited him to chat over a drink. The two men from backgrounds as immiscible as oil and water shared a friendly chat over alcohol and cranberry juice.

The association grew from that moment on, with Davis being admitted to the clandestine operations and lives of these clan members. He learned plenty and instead of forming strong opinions either in favour or against, he realized the importance of everyone being granted a forum to explain their views. That conversation can dispel so many myths and misunderstandings. The exercise will either achieve in shedding light on where a person's thought process is coming from or will make them question their own beliefs. Both outcomes can result in powerful changes. Who knew that the answer to something so complex lay in something so simple?

Tonight I also got an answer to a long-standing question: what's the difference between ignorance and stupidity? Davis summed it up succinctly by saying ignorance was poor decisions people made without sufficient information. Therefore, they can't be blamed because they don't know better. Stupidity is when a person makes poor decisions, despite having all the information. Education is the cure for ignorance - and for plenty more. Unfortunately, there's no cure for stupidity.

Tonight I went thinking that I'd hear a man rant about the evils of white supremacy. Instead, I got a beautiful message of how it's required to purge all forms of racism and discrimination from our society as though it were a cancer. Because it's common knowledge that an undetected or untreated cancer ultimately consumes the host.

Tonight I was filled with a feeling of looking forward to being part of the only race that exists - the human race.

Below is a video of Daryl David's music. Lose yourself in the universal language that constantly reaffirms its position.

Celebrity Don't Vote Video

I loved this video!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Space is My Pensieve

"You're so optimistic."
"You say it like it's a bad thing."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Answers anyone?

Judith Miller visted campus two days ago - the journalist who spent 85 days in jail after refusing to reveal the name of her source during an investigation of the Valerie Plame case. She's advocating for a shield law that will guard journalists from disclosing their sources, much the same way in a patient-doctor relationship or the way a person and their priest share confidentiality.

I'm no one to pass judgment on these issues but it definitely stirs some questions. Is it likely that this law could be misused, becoming another loophole through which dirty secrets can remain hidden or the weak barrier behind which the cowardly can hide? If the press is allowed complete freedom, would this rule being enforced become the price it pays or the reward it earns?

Miller raised some other interesting points. What is the future of journalism, as it stands today? What can we (the journalists) expect from the profession and what can they (they consumers) expect from it? Does the profession have a chance of surviving or is it just another money-spinning degree for universities where those who love the written word will enroll? Is journalism about the tools and toys that have become imperitive to it - technological gadgets and gizmos - or is it about the content which is reaching the public through these fancy contraptions.

The questions tease me. I'm as eager for the answers as the next nervous journalism student in the seat next to me. We're both here to find out what happens a few years from now and if we'll be able to do our expensive degrees their due justice.

And finally, who is a journalist? The lines are blurring, with bloggers and just about anyone with access to the Internet, is able to make their opinion public. I just realized that there's a great irony in this message being declared here. Heck, who makes the rules anyway?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Second Sound Slide Story

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Little Things that Matter

Good journalism lies in the details. I've been hearing that plenty the past month and a half.

Get what the people said, in exact quotes. Get what they were wearing, what they were doing at the time of the incident you are reporting, their reactions, facial expressions, neighbours' views, family and friends speak - anything that helps "breathe life" into the subject. Make him "come alive" in your writing.

At first, I though the advice was a bit over the top. But then I realized that journalism is all about the people it covers. Their stories, their lives, their experiences. Journalism is the tool that makes them heard to the rest of the world. Peoples' role is pivotal and therefore they need to be captured as accurately as possible in a story. And that's where the details make all the difference.

Now I realize that while details are the answer to superior journalism, it's also applicable to almost everything else. Excellence lies in the details. It's what makes the distinction between better and the best. It's the line that divides acceptable from perfect. It's the difference between almost there and far beyond.

So pay attention to the details. Don't forget to smile or eat a good breakfast. Get eight hours of sleep and donate to charity, in time/money. Love your job but love the people in your life more. And most importantly, love yourself enough to make the effort.

You never know when it will be the day that the little details count.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Ridge with an Edge

I flipped the last page of Judgment Ridge by Mitchell Zuckoff and Richard Lehr and breathed a sigh of releif. The nerve-wracking weeks I had spent staying up late and chewing on my fingernails to find out more about the murder case that rocked New Hampshire seven years ago had come to an end. And at the end of the read, some painful realizations became clearer.

There is a fine line between sanity and insanity. It's a delicate mental balance, which if disrupted, can make a person's actions baffling to their own family and friends. Not that they're always easily understood by the same otherwise. The killers, in this case, chanced upon Half and Suzanne Zantop as the couple prepared to enjoy another lazy weekend. They were the victims of an act of violence dreamt up by two small-town teenagers who had too much spare time. And one of who thought himself to be a "superior being."

What made the killers unlike their peers who spent their time enjoying the snow and the rustic outdoors? What made them think that they would get away with their porous plan of killing randomly-selected people after robbing them to runaway and live their lives like vagabonds?

It's likely no one will entirely understand what the two teenaged boys were thinking at the time of the murder or what caused them to hatch the bizarre plan in the first place.

But what truly deserves a mention is the impeccable reconstruction of events that the authors have managed to achieve. Investgative reporters for The Boston Globe, Zuckoff and Lehr have transported readers to the scene of the crime and the days that preceded it, leading to the build up, and allow them to witness it by narrating the story in scary detail. It's not just the details that are scary. It's the precision with which they've got all of them.

A line in the book speaks of one of the killers revisiting a "place that he loathed," referring to him reliving the double murders, during police questioning. It's similar for the readers who are taken to a loathed place and play silent spectators as the authors piece together the bloody carnage that ensued that January afternoon.

The people of Chelsea will never find answers for why two of "their children" turned into cold-blooded killers. Half and Suzanne Zantop are gone forever. The way in which they are spoken about in the book drives home the great tragedy in losing the couple. But there probably wasn't a better way to immortalize them than this book.

A definite recommended read.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Triumphing over Parkinson's

"The good thing about Parkinson's is that it can't kill you," he says. It's ironic that a man who ran regularly and bicycled 15 miles a day just four years ago, now concentrates hard just to rise from his seat.

"I'm very self-conscious," he admits. "But the medicines help. See, my hands aren't shaking as much," he says, holding one out.

I see.

"Please don't be self-conscious. There's so much more to you to notice than that."

He's grateful for the comment. Now I just wish he takes it to heart.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Off the hook

"...guitar sounds are on their way out..."
- Dick Rowe, executive of Decca Records about the Beetles.

"Television won't matter in your lifetime or mine."
- Rex Lambert, Radio Times editor in 1936

I believe similar words of discouragement were blasphemously and infamously uttered when Alexander Graham Bell was attempting to launch his invention of the telephone. And it was a turbulent beginning fof the cell phone as well.

Today, I sit in my apartment, miles away from home, divided by ocean, land and time. But my family and friends always seem close by. The Internet helps undoubtedly. But the phone calls are the real highlight. Hearing a loved one's voice in real time allows you to naively believe that they are just a few houses down from your own. As I'm talking, I can visualise the signals and the long elegant paths they travel to make my voice heard so far away.

Where would be without these inventors who fought to realise their dreams? Depending on letters that would take weeks to arrive and broaden the chasm that inevitably settles comfortably between two entities that are forced into a lack of communication.

I like being able to call home. I like receving calls from friends. There will be plenty more inventors who will meet narrow-minded obstacles. I only hope that they step over them like pebbles in order to make their genius available to the world.

Until then, I'll bask in the fact that Mr. Bell and I share an alma mater.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Presenting Coldplay

Coldplay resurrects my faith in the existence of good music.

Common Ground by Scott Strazzante

And this one struck a chord with me especially since a home is such a sacred entity in Indian culture. Joint families are the norm, generations live under one roof, speaking of selling the ancestral property is blasphemous. Watch this video and leave your comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Baby Drops of Blood

I thought this was beautiful and should be shared. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What's in a name? - A lot Shakespeare!

How hard it is to say Ayesha? Yes, Ayesha. Just two syllables. Aye-sha. No, not Ayeeesha. Ayesha. Stop it, there's no 'L' in my name. For the last time, my name is not Alisha!

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Parkinson's?

You're immaculately dressed and always on time. You're never grumpy and are regular to class. You take pride in your past while being hopeful of the future. Your eyes twinkle with mischief like that of a seven-year old boy. You've lived a full life and don't see why you should slow down now. Neither do we.

You're bursting with energy and I know for a fact that if you had been healthier, it would have been hard keeping up with you. It's already a challenge to match your step.

And while I have to admit that you're not always the best to teach the subject, I think you teach us plenty more. About life and what lies beyond the textbooks. That a smile can take you far and that no reason is good enough to give up on life or yourself. You are alive as long as you breathe and it's a crime to not take advantage of every second. You teach us about life - not by words but by your shining example. You make me want to be a better person. Parkinson's disease has found a tough opponent in you. Here's to your undaunting strength and tireless spirit. I hope that you continue to spread your infectious cheer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's official

Cheese is my official favourite food. Chicken comes a close second. And the combination of the two is almost as good as chocolate - every woman's guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Speeches and Scream

It's amazing how language has the potential to be a primary means of communication to a trained tongue and ear, while still sounding like gibberish to foreign ones. Perhaps music and love really are the only universal languages.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Principles above Petty

Holding the door open for the next person is important.
Your clothes being perfectly matched or impeccably pressed isn't. It doesn't matter if your hair is messy or just been unbrushed for the past three days. I really don't care.

You must show up on time but it isn't necessary that you address me by a title. First names are fine. Most of the time

I'll treat you like an adult if you behave like one. I'll take you seriously if you take yourself seriously. And as long as your work is in order, with regard to the rest of your life, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Cutting in line is unacceptable. Walking across the street a few seconds before the pedestrian sign comes on, isn't. After all, the pedestrian does have the right of way. Heck, you can even walk across the street where there is no zebra crossing. Once in a while.

Don't push while entering the trolley. And it's impolite to speak too loudly on your phone in public. But you don't have to carry your shopping in a plastic bag. I'll understand if you carry your bare merchandise in your hands because you care about the environment. In fact, it'll probably make me respect you more.

Don't burp at the table. But it's OK to slurp your drink loudly. Seriously. I'll just think that you're really enjoying it :) As for that Sloppy Joe, go ahead and dribble. The ketchup stains only add character to that T-shirt.

It's OK to leave your unmade bed in the morning. Just make sure the volume of your television doesn't bother your neighbour.

Learn to let the little things go. And know what the bigger issues are that are worth holding on to.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shut up and Clean up your Act

No, your jokes about women aren't funny. What, no one's ever told you that before?

Racial slurs, fat jokes and making fun of others - I don't know who's laughing but I as sure as hell am not.

Your brazen use of 'f%&k', 'wh%re' and 'sl%t' doesn't impress anyone. It just says that you need to expand your vocabulary.

Body noises, references to feces and bad bathroom habits just mean social decorum or public regard are not your forte. It doesn't paint a pretty picture about your personal hygiene either.

Being mean to children, the elderly or the disabled is not cool. It makes me pity you for being so void - emotionally and intellectually.

The world seems to have forgotten to be nice. Well, the majority. Let's not generalize here. Suddenly, getting 'piss drunk and 'high' are the only phrases that catch anyone's attention along with the usual sex, boobs, booze and drugs banter. A boob in your booze? Perfect. Gives a whole new meaning to coke float.

Grow up. The world won't be nice to those who walk around with hay between their ears.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Live to Eat

So what's the point of a blog if you can't document your culinary escapades :)

I've been on a bit of a gourmandising adventure and thought that the delicacies that I've had the good fortune of sampling deserve a mention. Here goes:

The first was a vegetarian sub that I tried. A far cry from my usual order but we were tired, hungry and totally unfamiliar in a new land. It turned into a modest dinner that filled us and without being boring owing to the black olives and cheese it contained. A tertiary introduction to what was to follow.

The next day was marked by good old Mcdonald's. Those golden arches have a way of luring people on whatever part of the globe they're on. So the Big Mac, it was. The inspiration for the McMaharaja on native soil. Double beef patties sandwiched between tomatoes, onions and lettuce, with a side order of Pepsi and fries. Mighty good!

After that we decided to be a little more adventurous and behave like real tourists explroing a new city. There was plenty of time to turn into a local and bite down into a burger later!

Initially the adventure didn't go too far. It began with the newly introduced flatbread sanwiches at Dunkin' Donuts. A low fate breakfast option who's value can be lost when washed down with a tall glass of hot white chocolate. Frothy, sweetened milk - liquid goodness. The plain crossiants weren't bad either.

And then special occasions arrived that needed to be marked. What better way than to head to a seafood open cafe by the ocean. Tia's served up a super jumbo shrimp salad. Charbroiled prawns the size of tequila glasses accompanied by fresh lettuce, finished off with a gentle garnishing of parmesan cheese. Exquisite. The fish and chips were impressive as well as the fresh cod broke into perfect flakes when broken into.

But the fireworks began the day we discovered the International Food Hall. World cusine under one roof! A foodie's dream come true.

Clams Casino - still encased in their shell and the buttery meat dredged in spices and seasoning, a halthy slice of salmon - the pink meat gently cooked and flavoured. Both were accompanied by lightly buttered rice. Smack!

Once we entered the food hall, the memories are a little fuzzy. They got lost somewhere in the milieu of crumb-fried crabcakes, a slice of beef and spinach pie, summer pizza complete with shrimp and pineapple, Japanese Teriyaki chicken with rice, chicken fingers and potato wedges, an extremely rich, creamy lobster pie and the all-time favourite clam chowder in a bread bowl. Throw in a massive slice of chocolate mouse cake. Phew!

All of the above was periodically punctuated with cheese pizza, a Mediterranean platter, buffalo chicken on bread and an authentic Mediterranean meal of chicken, kous kous and fallafel that was enjoyed on the MIT campus. Sigh...

And tonight, Kheema Naan with Raita was joined the list. An Indian meal after a while and the best that can be found away from the land of the original. The tea that followed wasn't the best. Too strong for my taste and I ended up with the tea leaves at the end. But the underlying taste of cinnamon was interesting.

All in all, it's been a very filling month!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Facts

Journalism is not just a profession. It's a way of life.

Between Two Worlds

I'm in the new city and I can't find better words to decribe my situation: I feel like a fish out of water.

It's a great place, really clean, friendly people and the weather has been great since I got here, except I'm warned of a rather snowy winter.

I've spent two weeks exploring the city, so I know some of the really great places to eat (more on that later), I've seen some of the attractions and now I'm really comfortable where I'm at.

But nothing beats home.

I craved to be here for close two years. And now that I am, I want to go home. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ungrateful. Neither am I serious about throwing in the towel and returning or anything of the sort. It's just the intense pangs of homesickness speaking.

I miss the pulse of my city, its heartbeat, its soul.

I honestly did think that America would be like th emovies. I blame the steady diet of Karan Johar movies we're fed as children.

So while it looks like it does on screen, clean roads, diciplined traffic and fresh air, I miss the chaos of my city. I never thought I'd find myself saying that.

I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

For my Baba

So the saying is true. "You win some, you lose some."

I won the two-year battle with myself, family, everyone important and frustrating factors beyond my control to study in a foreign country. I packed my bags and moved to a new land, determined to blaze my own trail. And the timing coincided with another monumental change in my life.

The day I left, I also lost a friend. A mentor, my hero, my best friend. After a two-week hospital battle with painful medical odds, my Baba breathed his last.

With the people that I'm close with, a part of me becomes firmly associated with. It's a bond in which I don't want to ever forget them and don't ever want them to ever forget me. So when I lose such a person, temporariliy or permanently, I break off a large piece of that bond and send it with them. While I do lose a large part of myself with their absence, I like to believe it's like a souvenier that they can remember me by. And I have the other half, or part at least, to remember them by. Kind of like best friend hearts where two best friends have either halves of a heart that becomes whole when joined together. It's my way of ensuring their immortality. Even if they leave, they live on inside me. That way, I never really lose them.

I miss my Baba. There's no doubt about it. This was only the second man to have ever carried me as a baby, after my father. To have cherished me growing up. And to have supported me as an adult. He always made me smile, his laugh was contagious and I loved the way he smelled.

I'll never forget his penchant for ties or the fact that he never needed an excuse to be in full suit. Most importantly, his fiery spirit is seared in me. His fearless attitude, his bold decisions and his ultimate disregard for authority. The rebellion appealed to the rebel in me.

Home will miss your sparkling personality. Our larger social circle will miss its leader.

And strangely, I don't feel the need to grieve such a loss. I questioned why my eyes were dry at the funeral. I expected to be torn and inconsolable. I felt nothing of sort.

More thinking made it evident to me that perhaps this was because his life needn't be mourned. It needed to be celebrated. Because that's what he brought into our lives everyday that he was a part of it. A celebration.

That's how I've decided to remember him. As someone who made a real effort at ensuring I was happy. As someone who fought against the world to find his place in the sun and who left it having touched so many lives.

Baba, you make me proud. You always have.

I am grateful that you are in a safe and comfortable place where you can look down and see how much your children love you.

For all the greatness that you were during your time with us, for all the memories you built with us, for all the dreams you made come true - Baba we love you for all of it and so much more.

You are not lost. You live on inside my heart, my soul, my mind. You are a part of me, just as you always were. And you always will be.

May your soul rest in peace.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sand between my fingers

I'm about to leave the city that I've lived in for all but three years of my life. This city is more than home. It defines me.

I'm about to relocate and adopt a foreign land. I know that I will crave familiar sounds and smells. And most of all, the people. The people I love and those that constitute this city's vibrant spirit. I will feel so lost without you, my friends.

I will miss knowing that it's possible to cut through Barton Centre from Church Street to MG Road, or the other way around, without having to walk all the way around. The big, golden Deepam sign that crowns MG Road. Browsing through the crowded shelves of Blossoms or the well laid out ones at Crossword. Hopping over to Gangaram's if you need a book that you can't find in either. Sipping on a cafe latte at Coffee Day watching the evening traffic whizz past. Driving my beautiful black hatchback through streets that I recognise and the silent satisfaction I feel in knowing which ones are one-ways and secret shortcuts. Mastering the art of crossing Cunninghan Road. Knowing what 'Koramangala Exit' and 'Madivala Exit' on the signboards in the basement parking of the Forum Mall mean. Hearing the flow of Kannada from local tongues wondering when the day will arrive that you'll be able to speak like that or at least understand what is being said. Corner House. Cubbon Park. The Leela Palace. Gulmohur trees, The monsoons. Hot bhajjis. Cold Pepsi. Beijing Bites. The maddening traffic. Autos. Two wheelers. Cows, dogs, cats. Life just won't be the same without the chaos.

I'm hopeful about the change. It promises to be exciting and I'm really looking forward to it. But a large part of me will remained anchored here. It's the part that will allow me to pick up where I left off when I return. Until then, I only wish that the new city attempts to be as kind to me as my home has been.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In-flight Dinner

I love airports. They're like people. Could it be because they see so many...?

Everyone has a story. An airport is one those places that seems to hold everyone's story. Everyone who passes through them, that is. The businessman who's making his thrid trip to Hong Kong this month. The seven year-old who's taking his first flight back home on his own. His uncle, with whom he spent the summer, dropped him off two hours ago, after placing him under air hostess care. Now he'll take the short ride back home where his father will be waiting to receive him at another airport. The girfriend who can't wait to throw her arms around her man just like in the Lufthansa ad and the college student whose leaving home for a long time.

There are plenty others, like the parents visiting their married children who live abroad, the first time traveller who is petrified of flying and the happy family on another Raj Travel Tour. Whoever you are, the airport has a place for you.

The atmosphere is bursting with emotion. It's heavy and electric. All the farewells and teary eyes, the innumerable hugs and vehement promises to return soon. Or its the welcoming bunches of flowers from family/friends and air conditioned cars that they bring with them, whose doors they throw open to rescue the tired traveller.

And yet, none of this is permanent. Sure, nothing is. But at an airport, it's even more temporal. From the winding queues at immigration and customs to the walk on the aerobridge from the aircraft to the building when you drag your luggage-on-wheels behind you. The manicured meals that you're served as a passenger or the more-perfect-than-life duty-free shops in the departure lounge. The distances that are covered. You know that it will end soon. Sooner than expected. It's all in transit. Always.

Maybe that's exactly what makes it real and therefore more appealing. In an age of plastic and Botox, anything remotely real is welcome.

Speaking of real, although this is entirely unconnected, I had a realy good meal tonight. Beijing Bites round the corner served up a particularly fabulous dinner of Crispy Peking Chicken, Lemon and Basil Prawns (which were sooooo goood! Flattened seafood in herbal seasoning goodness. I'm still smacking my lips) and Butter Garlic Noodles. It was a traditional Indo-Chinese dinner. But it was simply divine. And I have to mention the Bhuna Gosht from nearby Shahi Kabab Centre. Spiced and garnished, for my tasting pleasure - splendid. One of those moments that genuinely make me feel proud to be a carnivore.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Indyeah! - A Tribute to the Tricolour

I was at the cinema today and before the trailers began, a message came up on the screen instructing the audience to stand for the National Anthem. Unquestioningly we rose from our seats and the music played. Instruments came to life with images of the Indian Army atop an icy mountain. Temperatures are clearly below freezing, it's blizzardy and bundled Indian soldiers are holding the Indian trciloured flag. It's waving furiously in the wind and the crescendo is growing louder. Before I realise it, I'm mouthing the words, matching the music. I can't tell how many instruments are being used, but it's a rich sound. I have goosebumps on my body and I feel wieghtless inside. Patriotism washes over my insides, I feel new, alive. I am proud to be Indian.

Having lived a nomadic childhhood, I always found it hard to answer the question, "So where are you from?" That's because I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Now I know that India is home. No matter where I go, that will remain constant. I am so proud to be Indian. And I'd love to shout that out from atop an icy mountain.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Some thyme just in time

So the Elle girls went out for brunch to Herbs and Spices, 80 Ft. Road, Indiranagar. I've heard plenty about the place for ages now but never got down to actually going. I finally went and wondered why I had been putiing off the trip all this while. It's small and basic but fun with an open space in the centre that welcomes the sun. Split level seating adds character to the space and the tables are surprisingly private though being in close proximity. It's all about the arangement.

I tried the chicken quiche, with the faintest hint of onion and seasoned with thyme. I'm not kidding when I say that it really was the best that I have eaten so far. Fluffy pastry married to cheesy fillings and spinach blended together - it silenced all conversation on my end with its arrival to our table. My mouth was too busy savouring the delicacy to talk :P

Dessert was cheesecake topped with slices of fresh mango. Sumptious. And the Walnut Meringue was light as a cloud but quite bland. The eggless chocolate cake was an honest effort but fell short on account of being almost sugarless and unacceptably 'pasty'.

The decor was pleasing, I was in beautiful company, and conversation with friends followed the completion of the quiche. The afternoon could not have got much better.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

In Passing

I love it when friends fight over the bill at a restaurant after a meal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If the Walls had Ears

The other night I was curled on a chair watching a movie. My mom and dad were reclined on the daybed next to me and my sister was sprawled out on the carpet. It occurred to me that it was after a really long time that we were sitting in the comfort of a home watching a movie all together. It had been ages since we had done that. We had the sound up quite high but it didn't matter because we have two vacant plots on either side of this house. So the space is largely ours to turn up the volume to a decibel level of our choice.

It was late at night and very quiet outside. Apart from the distant hum of traffic on the busy ring road outside, there was no doorbell or telephones to dispel the silence.

For a few moments, I diverted my attention from the engaging movie that was playing on the DVD palyer and thought to myself. This house came into our lives about two years ago. We put off moving into it until a year ago because we were pretty comfortable where we were back then. Or so we thought. It didn't occur to us that we were multiplying like amoeba and needed more space. Reluctantly, after many tear-filled battles and caustic exchanges later, we moved into this house. It didn't affect my life much because about a month after our arrival, I moved away from home to live on-campus which I couldn't have been happier about. There was no waythat I was going to call this pile of bricks, 'home'. No, that title was reserved for more sacred spaces that held my memories, where pencil marks indicated how tall I had gotten in a year or where the dining table had been just high enough for me to walk under one end of it and out the other without stooping an inch when I was a year and a half old. Much like the place that I had been forced to leave behind. Not like the new place that seemed to be a cheap replacement attempting to allure occupants with its bright shiny fixtures and 'newness'. Besides, it seemed too far away from all the things important to me - namely, the city centre. But after a year spent at a college on the outskirts, that was no longer an excuse. Moving in was inevitable.

Ironically, the college that I left home for was the same one that I hadn't considered on even applying to simple because its adminstrative office was in the same area as the 'new house'. Please note that the phrase 'new house' was used almost as an expletive. Turned out that my stint at this college, though I attended a month late, was the happiest period of my life. It aslo let me get used to silence - something I despised before. The quiet drove me insne. But at the new college, I had no choice because it was tucked away, 30 Km from the city, nested in village. I didn't mind a minute of it because my college experience was perfect. Nothing could make me think of it otherwise.

But just like all good things come to an end. College ended and I had to come 'home'again. That meant the new place that I still couldn't begin to call 'home', for all the reasons that I just put down. It was still my parent's house that I was just a guest at before I zipped off to graduate school in the US in two months.

Tonight, however, I felt differently about it. It didn't seem as horrible to me as it always had. It was where all of us could put our feet up and relax as a family. Where we didn't have to worry about interruptions and disturbances. For the first time in 22 years, the four of us shared a domestic space that was just for us. And contrary to what I had thought earlier, it actually felt pretty good.

Like, I've said earlier, home is where the heart is and I really do believe that. So while a large part of mine will lay firmly embedded in the home I left behind, where I had gown up all these years, I can now feel a small part join this house. Maybe I can now finally begin the process of learning to call it home.

I snapped back to reality and focussed on the movie again.But this timeI had a slightly goofy grin plastered on my face. I think I've finally made peace with the walls.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Desire fuelled by Fire

I almost forgot. Apart from Philadelphia, I also watched Fire, by Deepa Mehta this weekend. I thought it was only fair to complete the trilogy having watched Earth and Water earlier. Ms Mehta really is a talented filmmaker. And in this particular production, she had the added advantage of the acting skills of Shabana Azmi to exploit. Honestly, I thought Nandita Das was mediocre. I've never really been a big fan although she was better in Earth.

Getting back to the movie, it was new and interesting. It got me thinking. Is lesbianism a condition of circumstances or a definite predisposition brought to the surface by these circumstances? I posed the question to a colleague at work who said that all women are sexually curious when it comes to members of their own sex. In other words, all women have it in them to be lesbians. Strangely, that makes quite a bit of sense. Just for the record, I'm straight.

I thought it was funny that Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Azmi came together all these years later in a set up of role reversals. This time around, Azmi was the adulterous spouse , cheating on her excessively spiritually husband with her sister-in-law as opposed to Kharbanda who had been enamoured by a starlet and strayed, cheating on his wife played by Azmi in Mahesh Bhatt's, Arth. Talk about turning the tables...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bank on Hanks

Where do you begin with Tom Hanks? At the part where he plays young Allen Bauer who falls in love with a mermaid or as Winston Groom in Forrest Gump, struggling to make sense of the world around him, with only his mother's words of wisdom that "life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you'll get", as his only defence against cruel experiences. Perhaps it's when he plays frazzled Viktor Navorski of Krakozhia in The Terminal or as strapping American symbologist, Professor Robert Langdon in The DaVinci Code. Wherever it was the you first fell in love with him, he always gives you a chance to do it all over again.

And that's exactly what happened when I watched Philadelphia this Friday night. Yes, I agree that it's not the usual choice for a weekend-watch-to-be-teamed-with-popcorn see. But I figured it was about time that I saw this milestone movie.

It's hard to do justice to charcters that are played by exquisite actors like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington when they're sharing the same frame. But director, Joanthan Demme, is fair in his treatment of both and the camerawork added intrigue. The real highlight of the movie is Hanks who steals your heart as the gay lawyer suffering from AIDS. The scene after the party where he's explaining the opera to Wahington is haunting to say the least.

In one word, Tom Hanks is brilliant. Which other actor lets you believe that it's the same guy playing the single father unknowingly in search of love in Sleepless in Seattle, the mysterious hatter in You've Got Mail, or the man who has The Greeen Mile, the production of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the voice of Woody Allen in Toy Story to his credit? And when the lights go out at the end of a shoot, it's the same guy that you can still imagine going home to be Rita Wilson's charismatic husband and Colin Hanks' dad.

Tom Hanks' versatility as an actor never lets an audience get bored. It's definitely got to do with the sincerity that he puts into his work - the kind that can only stem from genuine love for your work.

Mr. Hanks, you raise the bar when you come on screen. Everytime.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday leftovers

Being a firm food lover, I find it difficult to outrightly dislike any kind of grub. But last night's dinner was partciluarly bad. I dined at Ruby Tuesday's on Church Street and was thouroughly disappointed.

The nachos were dismal. I'm pretty sure they were stale. It was served with an excuse of a salsa. It lacked any kind of flavour or taste. The chicken wings were the only saving grace of the evening. Liberally smothered in a tangy sauce with chilli bits in it, the meat was well cooked and made up for the nachos topped with black beans and an insanely small amount of cheese that preceded it.

The settings were also disappointing. It seemed as though it were trying hard to be a hangout but was just falling short of the target. The acousitics weren't too bad. The only highlight of the evening was the courteous staff.

By the time I had finished my meal, it was raining hard outside, torrents of water creating 'waves' against the parked traffic on the street, cascades from rooftops and sheets of liquid across windshields making it increasingly difficult for drivers to maneuvre their way on already crowded spaces. The person in charge of car parking ensured that I didn't have to brave the downpour by having my car which was parked at a distance on the street and not at the restaurant, brought to the doorstep by the valet attendant and being escorted to it while the watchman held a large umbrella over my head.

So apart from being slightly cold, I reached home safe and dry. That's quite a bit to be happy about. Oh, and I had gone to dinner with friends that I hadn't met in a long time. The coversation, the giggles and the endless photoshoots was why I was there in the first place. This was the real highlight of the evening.

But Ruby Tuesday seriously needs to revamp their menu. And paying some attention to the interiors wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Great Indian Spirit

The monsoons are here early this year. So they're catching us unaware. And Bangalore is already notorius for its unpredicatble weather. It's one of the qualities that make this city so loveable. We might be out shopping in the sun or driving back from work on what appears to be a perfectly clear day when all of a sudden, we find ourselves in the midst of a heavy downpour.

A few days ago, I was parked at a traffic signal. As I waited for the light to change from red to green, it began to rain. I had nothing to worry about because I was in my car. My faithful, beautiful black hatchback would keep me dry as a bone. Heck, I even had the luxury of switching on the heater if the mildly chilly outside was too much for my delicate self to handle. Outside my window, I saw two girls, both of whom were around the same age as me. Only one was wearing a helmet. Both were dressed in thin synthetic salwaars - their only shield from the rain.

I felt a tiny prick inside me that reminded me that I was sitting in a warm dry car, a five-seater that accomodate four others, while these girls were getting soaked and cold. I was positive that if I had been in their position, I would have been grouchy and miserable. I hate being cold.

But when they turned their faces towards me, they were smiling! The windows of my car are tinted, so they couldn't see the look of utter disbelief on my face. It was like a one-way mirror, where they were the happy spectacle and I was the shocked spectator. I just couldn't understand how they could be caught in the rain without any warning and be so happy.

If that wasn't enough, I realised that several other motorists who were getting wet also seemed to be rather unfazed. While those who could get shelter were doing so, either by parking under a nearby bus stop or slipping into a water-proof windcheater that they had tucked into their backpack, the rest with no protection seemed just as comfortable. In fact, some of then were holding their faces up to the sky and using the raindrops to feel fresh. It was in their hair, their eyebrows and their mouths and they were enjoying every minute of it. Just then a car passed by on the other side of the road. It went through a huge muddy puddle at full speed, splashing copius amounts of unclean water on bicyclists, moped users and pedestrains, most of whom were already expecting the onslught. And even before the water could finish dripping of their moppy heads, they had all burst out into a fit of giggles. They seemed to be celebrating their circumstances.

So there I was sitting amidst an entire crowd of dripping wet individuals who thought it was hilarious that their shirts were clinging to their bodies.

That's when it occurred to me. That it's all about the Great Indian Spirit. That's what makes us different. That in no other part of the world will you find a lot quite like us. Where it isn't out of the ordinary to have leaking roofs and inundated basements, where it's possible that the beggar on the street corner makes more in one evening than the management student who's been trying to sell the face steamer/vegetable processor to passersby who shrug him off like vermin, where urchins tap the windows of bullet-proof sedans, where chawls share a wall with gated communties, where your kids go to posh private schools but your maid's go to the government one where the teachers never turn up, the bathroom doesn't function and the roof threatens to cave in. It's injustice sure. But it's also about survival.

It's about hope based on dreams that allows the urchin to believe that he'll be on the other side of the glass one day.

And that I have lots to learn from two minutes at a a traffic signal, which hasn't been covered in my posh private school.

Never before have I come across a race that has the burning instinct of survival searing through them as strongly as it exists in Indians. They find humour in tragedy and possibility despite no ready opportunity. Bill Cosby once said that if you can find humour in something unfortunate, even poverty, chances are you will survive it. That's what's been driving Indians for centuries.

Sometimes I don't know if that survival instinct stems from circumstances or whether the circumstances in this country are such because of the resilience of our people. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Masala ka Jalsa

Dinner tonight was especially fantastic. We tried this new place that's opened off Church Street. Ada.

It's pretty inviting from the curb onwards. I though it had rooms as well but turns out that it's just an Indian and Chinese restaurant. Works just as well I guess, since food is usually always the first priority.

Tonight, we decided to go Indian.

We got a corner table. I ordered a murgh shorba to clear up my sinus. It was quite a mediocre beginning to a sumptious meal that followed. The cheese naan, again, was average. But the kheema that it went with was absolutely divine. Finely minced mutton seasoned with aromatic spices and gently garnished with almond chips was almost melt in the mouth. I've never been a big fan of fish. And the fish curry helped me maintain that stand. But the sheekh kebab compensated for it.

Service was spot on. I got the feeling that the staff was meticulously trained to play the perfect hosts (You'd be surprised how many places overlook this very important detail). They were effiicient without being over attentive. Managerial staff was especially helpful, volunteering to show us around the rest of the dining area. That's when we discovered the open air seatng area and made a mental note to ourselves to make another trip soon and take advantage of the great outdoor. That charcoaled broiled food is likely to taste particularly delicious while the cold night air kisses the tip of your nose.

Acoustics need slight improvment. But Ada definitely warrants a second visit. Check it out for yourself (Resthouse Road, Bangalore).

Consummate a fine evening with pan from the guy at the corner of Residency Road. Bring India home to your tastebuds!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Venus doesn't need a Penis

The Weaker Sex.

The Fairer Sex.


Think with their heart.

The Nurturers.




...And other annoying titles. Women have been called every name in the book and described in every imaginable way, good and bad. And it seems that over time, they have begun to believe the names which others assigned to them. For example, there are scores of women out there who believe that they are a notch lower than men, in most aspects, because some chauvenistic bastard* would have got them to believe that, and hence they behave that way. They will consider themselves to be stupid (to put it mildly) and thus behave like they really are. That in turns causes others (read: men) to treat them similarly. So who's to blame?

It's a vicious cycle.

*As for the chauvenistic bastard, let's say that it's him more often than not. Let's give the men the benefit of doubt. Sometimes it can be plain old social conditioning as well. Whatever the case, it's not possible to blame others because you choose to behave like a dimwit.

Whether you choose to accept it or not, we still live in a male-dominated society. Women need to realise that it isn't necessary to prove their superiority against men. However, it is essential to acknowledge them as equals and strive towards asserting their own stand.

It's so rare you find this healthy move being achieved because very often you come across only one kind of extreme - the bra-burning feminist or the pathetic wimp. Where's the balance necessary to restore balance?

This post is a shout out to women to begin to take themselves seriously. It's only when they do that others will do so in return. Women need to believe that they are just as capable as anyone else and start living their lives that way. I'm tired of seeing women behave like they don't possess a brain or the mental faculties to think. Women drivers are still a standing joke. Have you ever noticed how blonde women are the butt of jokes but not much gets said about beach bum men, however furiuosly their hair might be bleached?

You may wonder why I'm writing this now - at a time when it seems as though gender equality has been restored to the civilised world and the Feminist movement was over years ago. But if you read betwen the lines, you'll see that women have a long way to go. They've come a long way. But they still have a long way to go.

Women are powerful. Period. It's just that so many of them out there don't know it yet.

And for all those women who indulge in male bashing, please take a minute to think what the world would be like with no men...

P.S. A comforting statistic that I came across the other day is that women constitute 49% of the world's population. Despite female infantoecide and skewed sex ratios in several parts of the world, there are still a substantial number of us out there. So let's get working!

P.P.S. Dont ever let anyone make you feel like you have to feel sorry for being born a girl. Embrace your sexuality and never think of breasts, glutes or your uterus as something you have to apologise for. Don't stand for unneccasary attention being paid to them either. A strong, confident woman can take on the world. So tell 'em to bring it on!

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to offend anyone, men or women. I am a woman who is very proud of her race. I've also had the good fortune of having some brlliant men in my life. So I'm a firm believer in the goodness of men. This post is just an earnest wish of a blogger for people to take charge of their own lives. No one is going to hand you the life that you want to live or the way on which you want to live it. It's up to you to build that for yourself. Learning to take control of your life is the first step.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hanging on a thread

Vulnerability is a funny thing. Knowing that there are several forces out there, both physical and otherwise, that can affect you is both nerve rattling and humbling.

Nothing is constant. Change is one of the biggest factors that can make you feel vulnerable. There are several more.

Everyone loves to feel protected. To know that no matter what, they will be shielded from life's wrath. But that's a luxury no one has the joy of enjoying. And somehow, as cynical as that thought may seem, it is that element of vulnerability that is necessary to help you find your place under the sun.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Wonder Years

There are so many things that make so much sense to me now muhc more than they did when I was a kid. I recall that while being a kid was undoubtedly hassle free most of the time (if you didn't count school politics, wardrobe concerns and most importantly - playtime dynamics), it was a rather blissful time period. However, it was a confusing time...

For example, I could never figure out how people could drive with the music playing. It seemed so complicated. Having been a driver on the road for the past four years, I've come to understand that it really isn't rocket science. In fact, I find myself being able to do it all the time.

It seemed bizarre that adults think it was downright gross to kiss. Wasn't it universally accepted that having another person's saliva in your mouth was not normal...? Twenty odd years down the line, the concept much makes much more sense.

Childhood was also punctuated with sudden burts of fear, the onset of which was particlularly pronounced. I was petrified of crime, of being separated from loved ones, of not waking up in the same place that I fellasleep. I often felt terribly helpless. It was a crippling feeling. Figuratively speaking, once I realised that there were no monsters under my bed, in my closet or behind the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, it wasn't long before the adrenaline that kept by body on guard converted itself into this liquid balm and washed over my insides before the feeling disppeared completely.

I won't negate that childhood is a great time period. But honestly, i'm happier to have grown up and be more in control of my life and suroundings as compared to back then. Sometimes, just sometimes, childhood can be mildly overrated.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Compliments to the Chef

I just had to put down that Mainland China is by far one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city.

I went back after a while and the food was still as good as I remebered it. The noodles were soft and tossed to perfection with an eclectic blend of Chinese and Indian herbs; the fried rice was fluffy and pristine white with the faintest hint of chicken; the black sauce chicken was crisp and the ginger chicken outdid all others with its mild taste that somehow still lingered on your tastebuds after you had swallowed, but then quickly disappeared leaving you craving for more.

At the end of the meal, my appetite was satiated yet I didn't feel stuffed. The evening was made better with just the right lighting, courteous and prompt service and great conversation with family and friends.

All in all - an exquisite experience.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Green Monster that lurks...Everywhere!

I thought space needed to be dedicated to something that pervades our lives so incessantly and intensely.

Abba sang about it. So did Petey Pablo and several others. Oprah Winfrey, The Rolling Stones and Bill Gates have plenty. The Forbes List regularly updates its list about who does.

It's taboo, in the sense that you never speak about salaries, inheritence or even penury for that matter. If you do, it always happens behind closed doors, if you've noticed. Business meetings, for example.

Many of us would recall gangster movies (Bollywood for us back home) where underhanded financial transactions were always conduted through black, ominous looking briefcases stacked with piles of cash. It was a tacit rule to merely flash the moolah over the table very quickly. Again, an example of a financial transaction carried out in utmost secrecy.

It's an art to know how to tip waiters and valet attendants - a quick handshake during which a crisp bill is exchanged. The world is oblivious. Only the two of you know.

Whether you choose to be a slave to money or not, you make a statement. A very strong one at that.

The Sensex is closely monitored. The words 'Sale', 'Free' and the like hold special meaning and importance in our society.

Money talks. No. correction. It's a blabbermouth. It has verbal diarrhea. Nothing can mke it shut up.

Money spells power, fame and quite often disaster. It's really about managing it right. The key funda being making it work for you rather than the other way around. Invest smartly people!

Anyone who says they don't need money is lying. Most of all to themselves.

It's a fact. It's best to admit it.

The world is officially money crazy.