Friday, September 30, 2011

Alvida Dilli...

Disclaimer: This is an old post which somehow got lost and was found again. It was written in May 2010, just before we moved from Delhi to Bangalore.
Have you ever had that dream where you are taking an exam, unprepared. Or that you are outside and people are staring at you because you are naked? Well, I have actually lived that dream, though not that literally. It happened the first time I went to a shopping mall in Gurgaon. We had just reloacted to India after a 2 year stint in Germany. After having worn nothing but western clothes for ages, I wanted to go Indian. I was dressed in (what I thought was appropriate clothing for a casual evening out) a salwar kameez. I couldn't have been more wrong. When I saw what every other woman was wearing, I wanted to curl up and die. They were designer clothes, shoes, bags, and on designer bodies. These women took the term "dressing up" to a whole new level! And it wasn't even Diwali yet! That is one of the first things I noticed about this place - the well groomed (not necesarily well-mannered) men and women.

That was in November 2007. I can't believe that I am already writing about saying goodbye to Delhi. It seems like we just came here and already it's time to leave. To say that I am unprepared to part from here is putting it mildly. Note that I say unprepared and not unwilling. I always knew that my stay here was for a limited amount of time. What I was unprepared for was how soon that time would pass.

What will I miss in Delhi? The language Hindi, spoken and written. Hindi in all its Punjabi and Haryanvi glory. The SIMPLY AWESOME north indian food available at most restaurents. Talking of food...the paneer, that's as soft as down, the magnificent Dal Makhni, and the galauti kabab which, when prepared in the right way, just melts in the mouth. I could go on, but perhaps it would be only fair that I touch upon matters other than food.

Shopping!!! I completely and utterly blame Gurgaon for making me a shopaholic. Actually, make that mall-aholic. It was completely awesome living in a place where there were 7 malls within a radius of 5 KM. Almost every weekend found me in a mall...usually window shopping, watching a movie, or pigging out at the food courts. Of course, things changed after Vivaan was born....I could no longer go for movies as much. But I still continued my mall-a-thon every weekend. A direct result of that is that my off-spring feels very much at home in a mall, sitting on his favourite stroller. His favourite sport is going up and down an escalator. While it can be quite tiring, there's nothing that can compare with the rush of color on his chubby cheeks and yelps of excitement when he is on the escalator.

Shopping in Delhi meant an hour long drive to the capital. There are plenty of options to choose from : Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Dilli Haat and South Extension. And Delhi is no stranger to malls. DLF Emporio was one that I longed to visit, especially after I heard that parts of India's first bonafide chick-flick Aisha were shot there, but haven't been able to do so. City Walk at Saket is architecturally splendid. It boasts of some of the best brands and a very fine food court. The outer part of the mall (let's call it a courtyard) has pretty water fountains and is very well lit  - a perfect way to spend a balmy evening resting your feet after hours of ogling at those designer wares.

The other end of the shopping spectrum would be Chandni Chowk. I only visited it once. But the spouse has visited it more than a few times. Each trip of his would end up in an upset stomach as a direct result of snacking at the famous paranthe wali gali. What would be interesting is to explore is the silver market (dariba kalam) and the chawdi bazaar that specializes in handmade paper/wholesale stationary.

I did visit the usual tourist spots, the historically relavent places. Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb, the Lotus Temple and Akshardham - all must-see destinations. My favourite one was Humayun's tomb. We were also lucky to have been able to visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

I hope I will be able to visit Delhi again, hopefully sooner than later. Until then, it is alvida, Dilli!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rendezvous - 1

She couldn't stop the shaking. Her hands. Numb with the cold, with the rain. And fear. Fear like she had never known before. She had to stop herself shaking, else it would only be a matter of time before someone from behind would honk like they always dids in this part of the country. Delhi road rage was as famous as Qutub Minar. Well, not that famous, but you get the picture. And the other thing that was well known was the fact that it was one of the most unsafe cities for women in India. That thought spurned her into action. She started the ignition and gripped the wheel hard so that her hands would stop shaking. Lucky for her, she had worn her heeled slippers. Stepping on the gas would be much easier. She tried to think as she slowly waded through the rain into the crowded Connaught circle. Thankfully, she didn't have to concentrate on the route as she knew this part of the city very well. Think, think, Rashi. What am I to do now, she kept asking herself. You brought this on yourself, a quiet voice in her head said. "I know that", she spat out aloud. She was now angry with herself. Fear always brought that out in her. Fear meant that someone somewhere was responsible for something bad that had happened. And that someone deserved her wrath. And this time, it was targeted at herself. Why, why, why did I get myself entangled with that man. This was the 100th time she had asked this since 4:00 PM. Ever since he has smiled into her face, his eyes twinkling with glee. He knew what had passed through her mind at that moment. It was almost as if he could smell her fear. And the smile had slowly turned into a snarl. That had been enough to send her flying out of the cafe into the open parking lot. No need to worry, she had told herself. He can't do a thing to me right here, with so many people around. But it wasn't the things he would do now that worried her. It was what he had already done that needed thinking about. And what he had promised he would do, soon..very soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ramblings...part 1

It's been almost 2 years since I updated my blog and I have been accused by near and dear ones of being lazy and inactive. I am guilty on all counts, of course. So here I am trying to prove that I still have it in me to write a few words. But at the same time, I am suffering from what can only be called a blogger's block. What do I write about? Some suggestions from the spouse are -
1) Our son Vivaan: Yes, it seems like an awesome topic. I can gush about how adorable he is, how much he amazes me each day with his activities, what his latest exploits are. But right now I am not able to find words to write about it. This will have to be a topic on some other day.
2) Our recent vists to Rajasthan and Agra: The sisters had flown down to India for the express purpose of spending some time with Vivaan and lavishing some TLC on the darling. To make matters interesting, we decided to go travelling to some of the well known tourist attractions in the nearby states Rajasthan and UP.

Our first visit was to Udaipur. It was the first time we were going to a trip with Vivaan, and I was tres excited, to say the least. Of course there were some initial misgivings about how much we would really accomplish in terms of sight-seeing with a 10 month old infant, but the fact that my parents were also acompanying us on the trip made a huge huge difference to my confidence as a mother and caretaker. As is often the case, the little one is the apple of my parents' eyes. To use a hindi phrase, Mom and Dad Vivaan par jaan jhidakte hain. He has them eating out of his soft pudgy hands at the slightest wimper.

Coming back to Udaipur, folks, it is home to one of the most expensive hotels in the world, The Taj Lake Palace, and every other hotel/guest house is located in such a way as to provide a view of the island hotel. It is beautiful no doubt, but the lake is so badly maintained that I think Bengeluru's Ulsoor lake looks much better minus the Taj Hotel.
We stayed in a very popular hotel called "The Tiger". It is owned by a German who has made India his home. The rooms were clean and very well kept, the service was excellant. And best of all, it is very reasonably priced. More information can be obtained from Trip Advisor which rates it very highly. I also strongly recommend it. The only negative point would be that there is no lift, so if you are travelling with someone who has a problem climbing stairs, it's not the best place to stay in. But you can always request for a room on the first floor, just like we did. We visited the following places -
The city palace It is certainly one of the most beautiful palaces that I have seen. Bollywood trivia is that Raveena Tandon had her wedding reception in the courtyard of this palace.

Vintage Car Museum I didn't personally visit this one, having never been interested in automobiles, but dear husband did pay a visit and he was duly impressed. Apparently you can rent any one of those babies for a day for a small prize of a lakh ruppees!!
Chittorgarh This is 2 hours drive away from Udaipur and is an absolute must-see location. We saw the Victory Tower, the palaces of Rana Kumbh, Rani Padmini, Meera Bai's Temple, etc. Our tour guide droned on and on about how Alluddin Khilji never did see Rani Padmini, because she would never have suffered such dishonour. However, I prefer the more popular legend, of how the Moghul warrior on just seeing the reflection of Padmini, was so smitten that he decided to attack Chittor. So very romantic...

Bagore ki Haveli The Sound and light show at Bagore ki Haveli ,which is right beside The Tiger was enthralling. Women wearing beautiful, traditional clothes of the region danced to some folk music. There was also a puppet show which immediately reminded me of the picturization of the song "Phir Raat Kati" in the film "Paheli". Now SRK tied to puppet strings doesn't exactly evoke a very Rajasthani image in my mind....

There is a lot more to see and do in Udaipur, for example , the Jag Mandir Island, but this was all that we achieved in our 4 days stay there. There are a few constraints when travelling with an infant, as I discovered. Before I forget, one of the highlights was the food. We had visited a resort in the outskirts of the city called "Aapni Dhani" which translated means, our village. They served very delicious and authentic rajasthani cuisine. We went to Sukhadia Circle late one night for eating the famous chaats. The result was that one of the siblings got infected with a bad stomach infection and had to pospone her return back to the US. So this is not recommened for those with a delicate digestive system.
A few weeks down the line, we made another trip. This time, it was a road trip. We had hired a vehicle which could seat about 10 people and tons of luggage. The first stop was Agra, the home of Taj Mahal. But more on this in another post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A very satisfying day, indeed!

This post is dedicated to all my friends who stayed in Bangalore at some point of time and contributed to the special memories of my favourite city.

Last Saturday saw us gallivanting in Bangalore, like the good ol' days. First stop, as always was India Coffee House on M G Road. But before we could get there, we had to brave Bangalore's Saturday afternoon traffic rush. Fortunately, the Gods were kind to us and we spent only a little over an hour to reach M G Road from Whitefield, which, considering all things, wasn't too bad.

India Coffee house has been an absolute favourite right from my early days in Bangalore. Situated bang on M G Road, it still holds it's own admist the Barisstas and Cafe Coffee Days that have cropped up in the last few years. I still remember my firsr visit to ICH. It was a Saturday in the year 1998, and I was fast asleep in a tiny Cambridge Layout flat, when an incessant knocking at 8:30 AM woke me up with a jolt. With eyes still closed I opened the door to find Siddharth. Now don't get me wrong. Siddhu's a dear friend and I am always pleased to see him, but on a saturday at 8:30 AM..uh huh! To say I didn't welcome him would be putting it too mildly. Anyways, he said that we were all (I had 2 room mates then - Sandhya and Sonam) to go to a real good place for breakfast. I protested against the earliness of the hour and what followed next was paens about that special place where you get the world's best scrambled eggs. Thinking it would be easier to just go along with the plan, rather than argue, or worse, be left behind, I agreed. We left for M G Road in an auto. In those days, the ride would take about 5 to 10 minutes. As I entered the celebrated doors of ICH, two things caught my attention - the large mirrors on one side of the wall and really old posters campaigning for Indian Coffee. The place had an old world charm, meaning, it's furniture looked like it was from the 1950s. Siddhu placed the order, since he knew what was good there, and in time, I came to know that EVERYTHING was very yummy there. One bite into into the "scrambled egg on toast", and I was hooked for life.
Back to 2008, the scrambled eggs still taste divine. Also divine are the dosas, the chutney (we always ask for extra helpings of this special chutney which makes us go weak in the knees), the finger chips, the tomato minced omelette, the vegetable cutlet and last but surely not the least, the coffee. The only other coffee that comes close to the one served in ICH is the one my Dad makes.

After having satisfied our stomachs, we headed for the Premier bookshop. I took a short detour to Bombay Stores and our wallets turned predictable lighter. Next stop was the Strand bookshop, another old favourite. Some years back, there was a south Indian fast food joint just beside the Strand Book shop, called Kadambam. Sadly, it's no longer there. Strand looked like it hadn't changed much. After spending a good hour or so browsing through old favourites and a brief chat with Vidya Virkar, we set off for Commercial Street. Some shopping and loafing around followed. By then it was around 5:30 PM and it was the time when the cooks at K C Das start frying the yummy loochis. Needless to say, Ferose wouldn't have missed this chance for anything. His love for anything Bengali is legendery.

The last stop was Cambridge Layout. I was hankering after a particular road side stall that serves the softest idlis this side of town. It was not in it's usual place, but after searching for a while we found it, as usual, crowded with customers. Among the patrons were the usual suspects : auto drivers, a few office goers, a couple of college students and people like us, who will go to any lengths for that perfect idli! And all for Rs 7 a plate. Heaven indeed!!

Dusk was setting in, and the traffic was getting worse. It was time for the us to head to Madhu's place, where a party of old friends meeting us. I cannot think of a better ending of such a satisfying day in Bangalore.

Before I sign off, here's what I am listening to these days: Bryan Adams' latest alum "11", the soundtrack of "Tashan" and "Jannat", and "Journey" by Fuzon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I am sitting in the lobby of Taj Palace in Delhi. Ferose is attending the India Today Conclave 2008. I just tagged along for the pure excitement of getting out of home. The last 3 days have been terribly boring since I have been pretty much stuck at home (and that will be the status quo until I get my car). This conference that continues for another 2 days has lotsa biggies giving keynotes/sessions: Al Gore, Farouq Abdullah, Arun Poorie, Aamir Khan, Shekhar Kapoor, Preity Zinta (part of the youth forum), L K Advani, etc much gyan, and in so many forms. Ferose is one lucky guy.

I have about an hour to kill and fortunately for me, Ferose has left his laptop with me. The last couple of weeks saw me getting entertained in all possible modes. Last Wednesday, we watched the play "Bikhre Bimb", that was part of the Mahindra Theatre Festival. It was directed by Girish Karnad and had only one actor, Arundhati Nag. The play was in Hindi, and I marvelled at Nag's command over the language. Although Hindi is our national language, rarely do I use, or hear anybody else using words like "sahanshilata", "vivek", "akasmat". The play took me back to school days. Those were the days when the only lessons I enjoyed taking were languages. Luckily. most of my language teachers were really good. Reading prose, untangling poetry were such interesting ways to pass time. English text books were divided into prose, poetry and non-detail, the last one always had the most interesting stories. Hindi text books were divided into Parag (prose) and Swati (poetry). I prefered Hindi Poetry to English, because there were much more patriotic and india-based poems written in Hindi. My all time favourite one is "Jhansi Ki Rani" by Subhadrakumari Chauhan...khoob ladi mardani, woh toh jhansi wali rani thi. (I read somewhere that Sushmita Sen is making a film on Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi). The other one that I remember is "Satpuda ke ghane jungle" by Bhavani Prasad Sharma. Among English poems, I only remember a small poem, "Beauty" and I don't remember who wrote it...perhaps Robert Browning.

I have been watching an awful lot of television of late. I generally avoid daily soaps and stick to movies. But I have started watching a weekly soap on NDTV Imagine, called "Radha Ki Betiyan kuch kar dikhaengi". The reason I like it is because it is very similar to "Banegi Apni Baat", one of the earliest serials that was aired after the onslaught of Zee TV in India. I am talking early 90's. This one (also) has 3 sisters living life with a fair amount of struggle. There is one good guy, and one cocky one in the college. The eldest sister is on the lookout of a job. But the icing on the cake is Apoorva Agnihotri who plays a doctor and has an important part. I am a bit frustrated that the serial airs only once a week, so I am usually watching all the reruns until the next episode comes.

Movies: We watched a couple of films last week, but the most interesting one was "Black & White". Firstly I couldn't believe it was a Subhash Ghai film, what with Kisna and Yaadein having flopped big time. The story of "Black & White" revolves around a terrorist from Afganistan who comes to Delhi to blow up the red fort. The terrorist is played by newcomer Anubhav Sinha. He has a mind boggling screen presense, not to mention a voice to die for. So the Ranbirs and Neils better watch out. The music of the film deserves a special mention. Sukhwinder Singh's melodies gel well with the mood of the film. "Jogi Aaya" and "Mian Chala" are breezy tracks that enhance the film. I had also watched "Jodha Akbar" earlier and loved it. Hrithik was awesome and Aishwarya wasn't too bad either. Both looked great. A R Rahman's music was good, though I expected it to be great. "Khwaja Mera Khwaja" & "In Lamhon Ke Daman mein" are my favourites. BTW, did anyone notice that among the fakirs (or sufis) who sing the Khwaja number, there were triplets? I mean the bearded guy and the two clean-shaven guys behind him, looked the same. So either hey were triplets, or it was some SFX effects by Ashutosh Gowarikar!!

Books: I am re-reading Agatha Christie's "Partner in Crime". I also finished reading Khaled Housseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". That guy has almost made me cry each time I read his books. This book is based on two women caught in a god-forsaken situation and the unlikely bond that they form in the face of adversity. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks he/she has had a raw deal in life. The story is depressing, but with a positive ending. It had me thanking my stars for every comfort that I have.

Aah, I have nothing more to say since my stomach has started to rumble....hope Ferose treats me to a good dinner after he is back.

P.S. He DID treat me to a good dinner at "Masala Art" in the Taj. It was sumptuous meal of Lasuni Palak and Garlic Naan.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

It's never too late...

It's been several days since I've been wanting to update my blog. But I just didn't have anything that I could put into words. So I am doing the next best thing - I dug up some forgotten pieces of writing from the past and will update the blog with them. These writings are a bit strange, because they were written by a younger me, me minus important milestones like marriage, living abroad. Some of them were written even before I read my first Harry Potter, before I discovered the fascinating Khaled Houssaini through "The Kite Runner". When I read them today, they sound terribly dated . But it's never to late share a blast from the past, is it?

Hey Ram - A Review (Written on 20/04/2000)

Raghupati Raghava Rajaram, Patita Pavan Sitaram" are the starting verses of the title song of the latest venture by Kamal Haasan. "Hey Ram" also happen to be the last two words spoken by the Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, before his death. And if you are the kind who cannot sit in one place for more than 2 hours, then, Hey Ram!! This movie is definitely not for you!!! But if movies like "1947 Earth", "Bombay" or books like "Lajja" and "Train to Pakistan" get your adrenaline pumping , then this definitely is your cup of tea.

So here’s another story of a protagonist against the backdrop of partition and the ensuing communal holocaust. Saket Ram (played by Kamal Haasan) is a Tamilian archeologist in Calcutta and Aparna (Rani Mukherji) is his Bengali wife. Amjad Ali Khan (Shakrukh Khan) is his good friend who believes in a secular India. With communal riots in the background, Saket Ram's life comes to an abrupt stop when Aparna gets brutally raped and murdered by a gang of Muslims. As a repartee he kills the offenders, and others who come in his path of vengeance. But that does not drive away the haunting grief, and the guilt of having murdered another human being. Disgusted and depressed he returns to Madras where his folks promptly get him married to a girl of their choice.

Enter Mythili (played by Vasundhara), a coy, pretty, girl, whose lively exuberance and sensuality, succeed in entrapping Saket, but only for a while. A year after the tragedy, he revisits Calcutta, only to be tortured by the cries of his late wife and hallucinations of the people he had killed. Saket Ram realizes his calling is elsewhere and in true ascetic style takes "Sanyaas" from worldly pleasures. His mission in life remains to kill Gandhi (Naseeruddin Shah) whom he believes to be the worst offender and holds him responsible of all crimes taking place in the name of religion.

But as fate would have it, he again meets his friend Amjad Khan who, despite all the hatred around, still believes that religious harmony is possible. History says Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi. What happened in the interim, did Saket Ram have a change of heart? Did Amjad Khan help him see the truth that he was searching for so long? Did Gandhi, through the sheer strength of his persona, influence Saket to give up the fight and embrace non-violence? For all the answers, do watch "Hey Ram".
Even Though Rani Mukherji appears just for a few minutes in the film, one remembers her long after the film has ended as the pretty Aparna, clad in crisp, white, Bengal Cotton Sarees, sans the make up, quoting Bengali poetry! New comer Vasundhara doesn’t have much to do except look pretty and innocent and she looks the part. Shahrukh Khan has a sartorial role, and gives a fine performance. But an actor of his caliber could have been given much more footage to the advantage of the film. Naseeruddin Shah looks uncannily identical to Gandhi and even manages to talk and gesticulate exactly like him. But the spirit of the film lies in Kamal Haasan's character. While all the other characters keep flitting in and out of the story, Kamal's is the main role, and his performance deserves applause. Technically the film is brilliant and brings out the best of the 1940s era, including the costumes and settings. Music by Maestro Illayaraja is soothing and situational. In short, a film worth seeing and not to be missed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Goodbye Germany

With each pasisng day, the date when I say goodbye to Germany (hopefully not forever) comes closer. Just wanted to put down a few things that endeared me to this lovely country...things I am sure I will miss...
- The trains, buses and trams...
- May 1st, when all Germans go biking. I did too, this year.
- I can leave office at 4:00 PM and nobody bats an eyelid.
- and in less than 30 minutes, I am home.
- Neuer (New) Wine in the month of September
- The unpredictable April weather :-) One day I was wearing a Tee and it snowed.
- I can decide on a Friday night if I wanna breakfast in, say, Austria, on the following Sunday.
- Taking a stroll on the riverside in Heidelberg on Sunday evenings
- and having 'Koffee und Kuchen' in true local tradition
- The fun of visiting the shops even after closing time, thanks to the well lit shop windows.
- The ease of life, in general.
I can go on and on, but that's only going to depress me further, so now a days I have started thinking of what I can look forward to when I am back in India.
- Food, food and more food. Wanna visit all the restaurents in GGN/Delhi, especially street food vendors!
- Escape from Taliban (In my dictionary, Taliban is the synonym for dusting, cleaning, mopping, swabbing, during, cleaning,...the list goes on), thanks to I missed them.
- FDFS (for slow starters, First Day First Show). Can't wait to watch Saawariya and Om Shanti Om on the big screen amidts crowds that bajao seetis and udao ticket shreds in the air for item numbers or Hero/Heroine entry scene.
- Shopping in Delhi/Gurgaon....lots to discover. For instance, wanna make a trip to Chandni Chowk as soon as I get there.
- Travel in and around India - Rajashthan, Agra, Mussourie, Leh, Singapore,....
- and finally, the feeling of being in one's own country is something that can't be described in mere words.