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 bais...how 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.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Namastey London!

Is it a city? Is it a film? No..its.....dubyaman!!!!! :-)
Its corny, but please let me laugh at my own PJ. Laughs are really hard to come by these days. Especially when Vipul Shah sets out to make an entertainer that doesn't entertain at all. 'Namaste London' is one long story about how an Indian guy woes back his anglisized wife. And long it is, especially in the post interval sections. The first half is OK thanks to some sequences, like when Katrina Kaif goes groom-shopping in India. She meets a Rabbi Shergill-wannabe, a character from some K-serial, and some others. If the film is barely tolerable, it's because of Akshay Kumar, Rishi Kapoor and the actress who plays his wife (a real find). Of course, it helps that the leading lady is easy on the eyes, and one doesn't mind her accented hindi because it's 'in character'. Noone knows what Upen Patel is doing in the film. Himesh Reshamiya's music jars. 'Rafta Rafta' is the only song that works, largely due to the green Punjab background and Katrina's vibrant salwaar kameezes. Did someone mention London? Yes, a lot of the film is shot in London, but I didn't take any particular notice.

Talking of which, I had a fantastic time this Easter because I was visiting London, again. Everytime I am here, I am amazed at how much there is still to discover in the city and also the nearby places. Some highlights of the trip:
1) Visited Shakespeare's birthplace - Stratford Upon Avon.
Year ago, when I was in school, I had received the book 'Tales from Shakespeare' by Charles & Mary Lamb as a prize for winning some competition. I read this book several times over the next few years until I left for college. I don't remember what happened of that copy, but visiting Shakespeare's house in Stratford brought back all those stories. That book has been my only access to Shakespeare's work, because I don't think I can ever read the original works. Luckily enough, I found a copy of the same book in the souvenior shop. One of my favourite stories is 'A midsummer night's dream'. I have seen the film (not that great) and more recently a marathi play 'Jangal Mein Mangal' at Ranga Shankara in Bangalore, that was based on this. This Shakespeare story is the perfect amalgamation of love, comedy and fantasy.

2) Villages in the Cotswolds region - Chipping Campden , Bourton on the Water
The name Chipping Campden reminded me of 'Chipping Cleghorn', the village where the murder takes place in Agatha Chrsitie's 'The Murder is announced'. Campden is a pretty village with an old world charm. Bourton on the water, also known as the Venice of Cotswolds, has a canal and some delightful pubs and 'Tea Inns'. The drive in the Cotswold region was really soothing. On the way we clicked several pictures in a DDLJ style 'sarson ka khet'. Spring, truly, is the best of seasons.

3)Cambridge- This is the second university town I've been to (the first one was Oxford). If ever there was a town where I'd have wanted to study, its Cambridge. It would have taken me many years to graduate, since I would have done little studying in so pretty a place. It was thrilling to actually stand in front of prestigious college buildings like The Trinity College, after having heard/read about them. The town was full of tourists like us. The day was sunny and several people where 'punting'. We spent a lazy half hour in one of the green lawns watching the blue skies, and centuries old buidings.

4) Window shopping at Harrods
5) And finally, the food ....
Sumptous Bangladeshi cuisine in 'Cinnamon Tree' at Bracknell
Wholesome snacks at 'Chennai Dosa' at Wembley - Mini Idlis, Dosas, Vadas and filter coffee...in short, heaven!
Fish and Chicken Kebabs at Lahore Kabab House at East End(I didn't eat them, but everybody else wore a satiated smile on their faces that spelt bliss)
Dim Sum at Ping Pong near Bond Street (doesn't that rhyme?)

What I really missed watching was a play/musical at Leicester Square. But there's always , and will definitely be a next time in London.

A 'punt' is a flat-bottomed boat which does not have a keel, and is propelled by means of a long pole. Punts were introduced as pleasure craft in Edwardian times, since then punting has become one of the most popular ways to see the famous bridges and colleges along the River Cam.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

In Nice

Me: Hey there! Im going to Nice this weekend
Pal (who loves cracking PJs): How Nice is that!
Me: Grrrrrr.....!

It was our third anniversary (it feels a lot longer than threeyears, I'll have you know), and we decided to do something special. The South of France was always somewhere we always wanted to go. So off we flew to Nice using our miles (the only thing that comes handy from travelling so much for work!) for a short get-away.

Riviera, the word has so many memories. When I was younger, I used to watch the soap "Riviera". I don't remember much about it, story-wise, but distinctly remember the title song, those rocky cliffs, the blue sea, and the expensive mansions overlooking the mediterranean. That was the picture I had in mind when I landed in Nice. And I wasn't disappointed.
One of the first things we did after we landed in Nice was to take a bus ride on the Promenade Des Anglais. Its is a 6 to 7 kms long stretch of road along side the sea, lined with palm trees. The prettiest promenade I have ever seen. Our first destination after a quick check-in into the hotel was Monaco, an hour away on the bus.

Think Monac0, think the rich and the famous. The central attraction is the Casino Monte Carlo. Flanked by Cafe De Paris on one side and Hotel De Paris on the other, its an attractive building. In the front are the casino gardens and behind, one can walk towards the sea and have a look at the famous french riviera.

After spending money in the slot machines and in the cafe (one cappucino + one cake costed 17 Euros!), we were done with Monte Carlo! I longed to be in a place where I could afford to buy dinner without having to sell body parts.

The next day we went to stroll on the Promenade. The seaside is made of a pebble beach. The weather was perfect - sunny and bright. We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from it to take a bus to Grasse, a small town famous for its perfumeries. We visited the Fragonard perfumerie, and didn't need to see the process of perfum making, thanks to the film "Perfume". Unfortunately, I really couldn't enjoy the perfume shop too much because I can't smell things too well. But Ferose had no such problem. He even bought me a perfume and some eu du colognes.

The same evening we also visited Cannes. We didn't really have to do much except see the festival hall (from outside) and snack on some crepes. The seaside was lovely, but it was all dark.

Our last day in the south of France saw us exploring more of Nice. We visited the museum of Marc Chagal, and the old part of Nice. We even walked a long distance to see the museum of Matisse, but unfortunately it was closed for rennovation.
All in all, it was a really good trip. Nice is really a lovely place. I wish I get a chance to visit it again. SAP France has an office in Nice, so perhaps on a business trip.

Friday, January 12, 2007

From Bangalore to the Back Waters

Disclaimer: I'm currently suffering from a condition known as post-India-trip-depression and I am liable to write whatever comes to my mind. If you are looking for a coherent (and excellant) write up, try www.arvindswarup.com, but if you still want to read ahead, then I have warned you adequately.

I returned from India 2 days ago. I feel terrible. I miss my family, I miss the comfort of home where every single need of mine was taken care of (by someone else!), I miss the food, the faaantastic, droolworthy concoctions made at home or in restaurents, even at times on the street.

And I miss television.

I never thought I'd admit it, but I'm really curious to know what challanges are faced by Saloni from 'Saat Phere'. Has that thick headed husband of hers (Nahar??) developed some brains or is he still naively listening to that snake, Neel? And what about that poor woman who got batterred by her husband in 'Betiyaan'? Last I saw, she was visiting the same husband in prison, probably even taking gajar ka halwa for him. After all, she is a true sati-savitri. Yes, I totally got hooked on to Indian television there. Not just the K serials, but also the new channels. The amount of footage Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai got in the last 3 weeks, prior to the release of Guru was, frankly, not funny. Has Mani Rathnam totally lost it? From when has he had to resort to such publicity stunts to sell his films. The only other soul who got the same amount of TV screen time was that murderer from Noida. And for very good reason too.

Bangalore's traffic is worse, the roads are all jumbled up. Although I've lived in the city for 8 years, I still had to ask for directions because all the familiar routes had changed after the introduction of one-ways. Airport road is bad. The new fly over has made life only marginally easy, and I am convinced nothing can improve it further. CMH Road, which earlier used to be a quieter road, with just enough restaurents and shops to pass a pleasant evening, is now as busy as M G Road.

Watching movies in Bangalore hasn't changed much in the last one year. It still takes atleast an hour to reach any movie hall worth its name. One still has to go much earlier to book the tickets because Bangaloreans have nothing else to do but watch movies on any given day. I watched Don at PVR and Dhoom2 at Innovative. Don was really good (SRK rocks!!), and Dhoom2 was tolerable only because of Hrithik. By the time Aishwarya spoke her first dialoge in the film 'I am hot', I was gagging. Really, what has got into her. First Umrao Jaan, and now this? Her acting in Dhoom makes one appreciate her earlier films, its THAT bad. Abhishek wearing flowery shirts and dacing with the incredibly hot Bipasha didn't impress me AT ALL. He should steer clear of anything Hrithik. Thankfully for both of them, today's release, Guru has gained some positive reviews. I am looking forward to watching it now.

4 days into my vacation, I flew to Cochin. The lush greenery of Kerala was in sharp contrast to the crazy city that Bangalore has become. So were the hills at 'Motta Kunj' (loosely translated, it means egg mountains!) and Ayyampara. It was so peaceful to sit on the hilltop at Ayyampara, just waiting for the sun to set. I captured quite a few pictures. The only othertime I saw such a beautiful sunset was on Andaman & Nicobar (I forget the name of the island)

The boat ride on Kumarakom Lake was divine. Everytime I saw a house boat, I promised myself that the next trip to Kerala would involve travelling or living on one. This trip brought me closer to Kerala than all my earlier trips. It was five days of fresh air, greenery and nothing to do but eat and relax. A perfect vacation!

Now it's back to the grind (not the old Channel V program where women wearing less clothes gyrated to songs at swimming pools or on the beach). The first shock (and a rude one at that) is when you eat your first meal at work. Man, I would have to eat this till my next trip to India, which is far away. Then when you switch on the TV, you realize you'll have to watch some DVD because there is no Aaj Tak or NDTV to entertain you. I actually miss watching that Noida killer on TV. And the worst of all is the layers of clothing one has to wear before going out. Actually its not that bad this winter, it hasn't even snowed, but coming from India, it is still a big change in weather. This is the grind I am talking about.

I am too depressed to proceed any further.