Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yeh dilli hai meri jaan…

(An aside: My absence from blog world for the past 3 weeks does not mean I had nothing to say – blame it on year-end blues, and ofcourse, travel and its associated sins of gluttony and sloth :D. I promise to be back with vengeance whether you like it or not :p)

A hard-core Delhi-ite that I am, it had been a while since I rediscovered the historic grandeur that define the very character of this capital city of India. Thus, fulfilling my long pending promise to Vish to take him sight-seeing, I fell in love with Delhi all over again.

The fuzzy sun rays through the wintery misty on most of the days kept us motivated for our touristy visits!

The Red Fort or Lal Quila was our first stop-over. Dad sportingly took leave from work and drove us around.
The drive through the old “walled” city – areas of Daryaganj, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk - reminded me why my visits to these places were so infrequent. The narrow streets, crowded with teeming millions, is not exactly my idea of a vacation.

However, the warm welcome by this much celebrated red sandstone monument made all the en-route traffic worthwhile.


The buildings and structures within the fort are reminiscent of an eclectic fusion of Persian, European and Indian art forms.

Diwan-i-Aam or the Hall of Public Audience…


Diwan-i-Khaas or the Hall of Private Audience…


The two Zenanas (women’s quarters) - Rang Mahal and Mumtaz Mahal boast of splendid architecture in marble.


Moti Masjid, also known as the pearl mosque – This was Aurangzeb’s personal mosque…


Finally, the Hayat Baksh Bagh (Life Bestowing Garden) with the Jal Mahal in the foreground and the British quarters on the extreme left in the background.


Right opposite the Lahori (the main visitor’s gate) gate of Red Fort lies the paradise of Chandni Chowk. If you are willing to excuse the pedestrians who elbow their way literally through you and the constant shouts of shopkeepers, step into the haven for good food and a one-of-it’s kind shopping experience.
Epicurean specialties of this place include paranthas – all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable varieties (lemon, mint, cashew, chilli, etc etc) deep fried in pure desi ghee; chaat items like dahi bhalla, aloo tikki; and Indian desserts, my personal favorite being rabdi ki khurchan!
(Some sound advice: Ignore the run down appearance of the place, forget hygiene and don’t count calories!)

We wrapped off Day 1 of our city tour with a quick visit to Raj Ghat and India Gate.

Raj Ghat – This is the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi


India Gate – The national monument of India that commemorates the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.


The Amar Jawan Jyoti (flame of the eternal soldier) at the India Gate renders a very solemn air to the place.


The other must-see places on Vish’s list were Qutb Minar and Lotus Temple.

Qutb Minar is the world’s tallest brick minaret and is most prominent for its Indo-Islamic architecture.


The ruins in the Qutb complex are evocative of a tremendously regal era gone by.
Some pictures for you to enjoy…




The Lotus Temple is the Bahá'í House of Worship. The dense fog didn’t help us as far as photography was concerned…


Vish has still a long list to go - But like they say, there's always a next time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At the shore…

Spent a rainy Saturday sight seeing locally :).

Two years in Chennai and this was my first trip ever to Mahabalipuram, popularly abbreviated as Mahabs!
A pleasant early morning drive on ECR (which is also promoted as the Entertainment corridor with a series of theme parks, beaches, resorts and boat houses) to Mahabalipuram/ Mammallapuram, leaving the noise and pollution of the buzzing city behind, is such a relief.

The sea that welcomed us at the Shore Temple was quite boisterous…I love the sight of waves crashing on rocks…


The exquisite Dravidian architecture of the temple is an absolute WOW! What was hilarious ofcourse was the entry fee – Rs 10 for Indians and Rs 250 for Non-Indians!
It’s a pity that this wonderful structure is getting ruined/eroded because of the continuous sea breeze and nothing really is being done to preserve it…


The cyclonic torrential downpour during the day did nothing to deter our crazy spirits. Inspite of the incessant rains, we were able to complete the tour of the temples, the pancha rathas (five chariots), the caves, Krishna’s butter ball, Descent of the Ganges and Arjuna’s penance - Each beautifully and intricately carved sculpture reminiscent of the grandeur of Pallava art.


After lunch at Moon Rakers (a non-veggie’s delight and a veggie’s nightmare), we headed towards Mudaliarkuppam – on ECR, around 50 kms before Pondicherry. This is a boat house that offers water sports such as water skiing, water scooting, boating etc.

Given the weather conditions, we were not allowed to ski/scoot.
However, the boating experience through the backwaters was a lot of fun. We were transported in a motor boat from the back waters to an almost-exclusive beach – we thoroughly enjoyed playing in the warm saline waters, splashing and falling with the waves and collecting sea shells!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The call of the wild…

(2010 could easily qualify as “the year of the travelogues” for me…have made so many trips this year - and no, I am not complaining!)

This weekend it was the call of the wild –a safari adventure to the lush greens of Mudumalai (in Tamil Nadu) and around.

A lot of firsts this time around too…And here they are…

Tree Houses!
Yep, we actually got to stay in a tree house – a bamboo structure on stilts on top of a tree – a little rickety but the highlight was the visit by a monkey through the window. No amount of shrieking and shooing could deter it from keeping away!

Here’s the tree house we stayed in…


Zip-Lining
We crossed a river stream on a cable while being attached to a free moving pulley. I felt a little scared in the beginning – the moment when you have to just let go – that primal fear of not having any support to cling on – but after all the cajoling and cheering from everybody I did let go, and lo behold – suspended mid-air is so much fun!

Managed posing “up in the air”…


Jumaring
Jumaring is a basic rock climbing technique wherein you use ascenders on a rope to climb. At our resort, a rope was suspended from a tree and we had to climb to the top. This activity required immense physical exertion. I realized that pulling your body up is the most difficult thing ever. My fore-arms and shoulders have been aching for days together since then. The free-fall after reaching the top was as thrilling as any roller-coaster ride.


We also did the wild life safari but it wasn’t too great. We got to see:
  • Peacocks…

  • Langurs…(check out the dude’s expressive eyes)

  • Monkeys…(cute yet dangerous)

  • A lone wild tusker (elephant)…

  • Bisons (from really far off)…

  • An immensely adorable tree squirrel…

  • And of course the spotted beauties (deer)…

P.S. No tigers (Mudumalai has a count of 86 tigers) and no huge herds of elephants :(.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SecondShaadi.com

While browsing through some news article on my Google Reader, the following ad caught my eye:


A quick Google search, and I bumped into so many matrimonial sites that cater to divorcees or widowed persons who seek another chance at the altar – SecondShaadi.com, Thesecondmarriage.com, doosravivaah.com, indiaremarry.com, and so many more!

So, is India ready for “I do”, a second time?

I will park aside the age-old debate for and against matrimonial advertisements – It makes for a separate blog entry, if at all. I am a fence-sitter as far as this issue goes – At an obvious level, ads seeking “grooms from respectable families with over 5-digit salary” and “fair, homely and convent-educated girls”, seem to commodify and commercialize the institution of marriage. But then, how is it different from going out to a singles’ club, blind dates or dates fixed by friends etc.?
Society makes marriage a complicated affair – So I will move past this discussion.

Does this spurt in such sites that are tailor-made for second marriages indicate that finally our hypocritical, closed society is trying to open up? Or is it simply a case of market dynamics – websites giving second marriages a fillip?

Whatever be the reason, I see this as a welcome dimension in our society. Inspite of increased awareness and education levels in our society, divorcees, widows and widowers largely remain outcast! If we, as a people, accept that we cannot snatch away the choice of a second innings from someone, I view the growing popularity of these sites as a mark of a more mature social structure that is moving away from the rigid beliefs and traditions and paving way for a much more inclusive community living!

Another interesting article that I came across mentioned that even though the second marriage market appears more skewed to men, there is also a considerable number of single/divorced/ widowed Indian women of the age of 50 and above registered at this site. This is a very heartening fact. Traditionally, re-marriage of women has always been a taboo. But, guess no longer so.

In this age of skepticism, it seems like the value of the institution of marriage, which is nothing but a socially acceptable form of mutual companionship, is here to stay - so what if a little handholding from the marriage portals is required! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of new feats…

Last weekend was spent in an out-bound training camp at Coorg (Madikeri) in Karnataka and need I say what awesome fun we had!

After a 6-hr train journey (from Chennai), followed by a 6-hr overnight bus journey (from Bangalore), the luscious green of this beautiful hilly district on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats is a rejuvenating sight.
Here’s a picture of our camp site, taken at around 6AM on the day we reached.


Apart from the regular group activities and games, we really enjoyed jumping endlessly on the trampoline and lazing around on the hammocks.

However, the highlight of the trip was waterfall rappelling (from a height of 120 ft)! I think this is easily the most adventurous thing I have ever done. It was thrilling, a wee-bit unnerving, and physically taxing – I got slightly wounded on the elbows and legs when I lost balance somewhere in the beginning, but then what is a winning warrior without the victory scars :D!
I have been basking in the glory of the achievement ever since, and, yes, it is going to take a while for me to “deflate”:p.

So this is yours truly on the walk to fame….


And, here’s the full view of the very picturesque waterfall…


This was my first visit to a coffee plantation, and I realize coffee plants don’t make as wonderful and grand a sight as tea estates! We tried looking for ripe coffee berries, but apparently this was not the season – most were green or barely turning red (much to J’s disappointment)…


Apart from the rappelling, our constant engagement with the blood sucking monsters during the treks was the defining element of the trip. These bloody leeches were everywhere – their vicious fangs on so many of us. Thank god for A who got salt (the uncrowned hero of the trip) that saved us all!

The splashing in the waterfall in the middle of the trek, and dancing in the bus by every single person, during the return journey, made for some amazing Kodak moments and great memories!

Oh, by the way, there was another (mean) feat accomplished too…climbed onto the roof of our bus at a gas station and was super kicked!!!

Back in Chennai, still reeling from the “hangover” – creaking bones, aching muscles, drooping eyes, all need rest to come back to normal functioning!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Feudal Lord

My Feudal Lord is an autobiography of a woman that transcends the geographical, religious, political and societal context it is based in. Though it is the story of Tehmina Durrani, a member of the Pakistani elite society, set in the highly volatile political milieu of the 1970s, 80s, against the backdrop of a highly radical Islamic community – it is first and foremost the tale of a woman caught in a predominantly patriarchal world that is unfair to her because of her gender and makes her pay dearly for actions that she chooses of her free will.

Though being a Muslim does not help Tehmina’s inherent rebellious streak, her situation is exponentially compounded by her specific background – her rather complicated childhood and problematical relationship with her mother, her latent inferiority complexes, her need to prove her self as a lady befitting the highest echelons of the social pyramid, the tug of war between her hopeful heart and her strong mind, and the final straw – her abusive and traumatic marriage to Ghulam Mustafa Khar, the then Chief Minster and later Governor of Punjab, Pakistan.

Tehmina goes back and forth in time as she constructs the very painful narrative of the 13 years of her marriage in a feudal, woman-baiting society to none other than the Feudal Lord himself. Her silence breaking indictment of the curse that a woman’s life was in the post-colonial era in Pakistan is gruesome, bloody and highly graphical. A victim of domestic abuse – physical, financial, and emotional abuse, a victim of a repressive and racial social structure, a victim of the family need to “keep up” appearances for the sake of social stature, a victim of her own super ego that forces her to mould into the vile of the predominant social ethos, it is rather admiring that Tehmina finally gathers the courage to expose to the world the frailties of the veiled homes.

The book makes you shudder in disbelief at the schizophrenic Mustafa Khar – who is irrationally possessive, insanely aggressive and sick in his highly convenient interpretation of Islam to suit his whims and fancies. Your heart goes out to Tehmina as she tries time and again to break the shackles of marriage only to be each time placated for another chance, by Khar who would resort to every trick the male-dominated and oppressive community bestows him with – subtle manipulation, playing on her insecurities, blackmailing to kidnap her children and open threats of violence.

What is most endearing about Tehmina is that here is a woman against whom the worst profanities have been committed mostly in the name of Islam, yet she is not bitter against the religion. She embraces Islam understanding its true spirit and teachings. The subverted interpretation of the religion by fanatics for their own selfish interests has not disillusioned her. She has picked up the pieces of her life, learnt her lessons, and strives to work for the betterment of Muslim women. Now married to Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif, she has been reunited with her children whose custody she lost because of the divorce with Mustafa Khar.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The potency of the human mind…

…Is frightening to say the least. Leave it unleashed and it obliterates your very existence, but what can tame it – social conditioning, aligning to what others define as “normal” and “acceptable”?

What happens when the chemical concoctions brewing in your brain refuse to assimilate in the proportion they need to for you to be deemed fit for community living?

How do you disassociate with what your psyche perceives as real and ally with what the people around you see?

We as a society are intolerant to any behavior that we recognize “different” from what has been understood as the norm. We are so insecure about our fragile social constructs of “normalcy” that the minute a person behaves even slightly tangential to what we are “used to”, we go on the defensive – our first reaction is to protect ourselves, and the second to “judge” - brandish the person as “mentally challenged” or “flawed in personality or character”.
The more sympathetic among us try to derive logical reasons, try to “sort” thing out, try to find a “cure”.
But, none of us “accept” and “include”.

Our rigid set-ups do not make allowances for an overactive imagination, for a passionately fiery spirit, for an individual who might have a different arrangement of molecules in the grey matter in their system.

Each one of us is unique - yet only to a limited extent, after which we all “conform”. The price for non-conformance is too huge to pay – alienation from society – friends and family.

Like everything else in life, there are no easy solutions to the exclusivity we all practice as part of community living. Acceptance must begin at home, at the level of the family unit. That is our only hope.

(I have not been able to coherently string together the many thoughts that a close association with one such powerfully distinctive mind evoked in me a while back – But, I finally decided to publish this long pending draft to share with you the frustration at our inability to assimilate variations into mainstream – forget assimilation, we refuse to acknowledge the rights of “differently” constructed individuals to lead a normal life – we just give up on them, we subject them to indifference or anger – pushing them into greater depths of estrangement – we make them pay for what is out of their control – the mind – the omnipotent mind that is above the individual.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

“The clouds I can handle, but I can’t fight an Eclipse”

Eclipse has been on my must watch list for a long long time but I guess I am just destined not to see the Twilight series movies on the big screen. Today I managed to get the DVD from a local library and that sure did make my Saturday afternoon.


If you are wondering what a grown-up (supposedly) like me gets out of watching these teenage romances, or as someone mentioned at work, extended Hannah Montana series, I have nothing to say. My defense rests here – a post that I did a while back.

Coming to Eclipse, I thoroughly enjoyed the battle that brought together the indomitable spirit of the Cullens and the unyielding grit of the werewolves, against the new-born vampire army!

The menacingly dark weather of Forks, Washington seems to provide an ideal case of pathetic fallacy – the clouds that could rain any time, the skies that could darken without warning, the coastal forests - all provide the perfect set-up that is pregnant with possibilities – a sense of foreboding lurks just like the omnipresent overcast sky…

And finally what I absolutely adore about these Twilight movies - the incredibly cute dialogues. So, instead of going ga-ga over the lovable Cullens, I thought I’ll reproduce a few of the dialogues here for your reading pleasure ;).

Edward (proposing to Bella): I think you'll find the vampire human divorce rate a little lower. Just marry me.

Edward (referring to Jacob): Doesn't he own a shirt?

Edward (to Bella): Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars – point of light and reason. And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty...

Charlie (Bella’s dad): (to Bella) There's... things that you need to think about if-you if you're going to be... physically intimate...
Bella: Okay, Don't, don't have ‘the talk...’ please!...
Charlie: ... Alright, so, you guys are taking precautions?...
Bella: Okay, Dad, please just don't worry about... that... Edward is...Old School…I am still a virgin!...
Charlie (to himself): Virgin... I'm liking Edward a little more now...

Bella’s mom: There’s something…strange about the way you two are together… The way he watches you—it’s so…protective. Like he’s about to throw himself in front of a bullet to save you or something.

Edward: I’m from a different era. Things were a lot less complicated. And if I met you back then, I would have courted you. Would’ve taken chaperoned strolls, and iced tea on the porch. I may have stolen a kiss or two but only after asking your father’s permission, I would've got down on one knee and I would’ve presented you with a ring. This is my mother’s. Isabella Swan, I promise to love you every moment forever. Would you do me the extraordinary honor of marrying me?


Awwwww...now who can resist the gentlemanly immortals!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inside The Kingdom

Inside The Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia is the true story of a woman born in the western world to mixed parenthood and married to a Saudi Arabian hailing from none other than the much known Bin Laden family – this is a tale of the innocence of childhood, the defining moments of youth and love, the saga that is marriage, the pain that motherhood brings, the bitterness of dreams that go sour when faced with the recklessness of reality.

However, this is not simply one of the many hapless stories of broken marriages and international divorces that are tough on women – this is a narrative convoluted by the clash of religions, beliefs, and faiths – this is the life of Carmen Bin Ladin, sister-in-law of the world’s most dreaded terrorist.

Carmen is a Swiss national now residing in Geneva post her divorce with Yeslam Bin Ladin. Inside The Kingdom chronicles snapshots from Carmen’s life, in her words. She talks about her growing up years in Europe – her strained relationship with her Swiss father and her exotic vacations to her mom’s Persian home in Iran. She lovingly recalls how she fell in love with Yeslam - his commanding presence, his alluring roots, his belief in equality of partners in a relationship, his intelligence. Her fond memories of their time together in California, US and the big fat wedding in Saudi Arabia convince the readers of her assurance of a life of fulfilling love and empowering freedom.

Life is a bubble balanced on swords – and unfortunately, Carmen’s bubble broke. The oil boom in the Middle East in the mid 1970s compelled Yeslam to move back to Saudi Arabia in order to take advantage of all the money that was waiting to be made. And thus, started the long and arduous journey of Carmen – the black cloak or burqa, the thick veil, the walls within homes, the eyes that never meet, the suffocating shadows, the deafening silences, the blatant disregard for individualism, and finally the fervent and fanatic reverence of Islam that threatened to annihilate Carmen and her beautiful daughters.

The final straw to her 11-year marriage was the disintegration of her only pillar of strength – her husband, Yeslam. As his personal traits and attitude collided with the radical Islamism and complicated family politics, his weakness to stand by his wife and daughters against the established system came to the fore.

The book published in 2004 is Carmen’s attempt to distance herself form the “Bin Laden” name that had become a curse for her and her daughters in light of the 9/11 attacks in the US. She was compelled to come out in the open to state her severed ties with the family of 22 wives, 29 daughters and 25 sons – of which Osama Bin Laden was one.

Sadly, her struggle is not over. Though legally divorced in 2006 after a bitter long battle, Carmen still worries about her daughters’ well-being given Yeslam’s constant threats of abduction. Unfortunately, Yeslam holds a Swiss passport in order to keep in touch with his children.

This book is a must read for all of us who are so smug in the cobwebs of our everyday living, so entangled in our small worlds that we forget to thank god for our blessed lives, forget to cherish what we have, and forget to pray for others...

(The lives of women in Saudi Arabia remain deplorable even in today’s times – While modern amenities are making their way to the region, the people continue to steep deeper into the harshest form of Islam – that derived from the Bedouin practices. The power nexus that oil, money, dependence of the western world on Saudia Arabia, and the failure of milder forms of Islam as, for example, preached by the Shah of Iran is blood curdling. Jean Sasson has written a trilogy on the life of a Saudi princess – This is also a true account. You can read about it in my post here.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Conversations around Cooking

I think till I was 16-17 or something, the only activity I knew with respect to food was eating. Cooking never figured in my vocabulary – All that I knew was that food was “produced” in the kitchen :D.

But alas, life is cruel, isn’t it? While I am a connoisseur of good food – quick to pass my judgment on what I like and what I don’t when it comes to gastronomic delights, I had been quite oblivious to the plight of those caught on the other side of the deal.

Now that I sometimes dabble in the kitchen with weapons such as knives, mixies, equipments such as cookers and pans, and the dangerous spices, trying my best to survive the ordeal (successfully), my heart goes out to all the people on whose food I have ever passed negative comments, starting from Mom!
Dear mom, your pathetic lauki (gourd), hospital-like yellow daal (gram - pulse) and pukey spinach (did I ever tell you I was a difficult child?) tastes so much better than what I can barely manage even now.

Here are some hilarious conversations I have been “involved” in over the years…

Age: 17 or 18
Some random aunt invited home for dinner: So Prabha (that’s my mom), you must be so lucky to have a young daughter who can help you with the kitchen. I have only two sons and all that they can do is cut salad and lay the table!
Mom: Faintly smiles (Poor thing, she must be wondering how to start training her son, having given up on me)
Aunt (to me now): So what all do you cook?
Me: umm, well, umm, I cut salad once in a while, I also help laying the table, umm, I attended some cooking classes in school and learnt umm well, forget it. I reheat food pretty well though!
(You don’t want to know the aunt’s reaction!)

Age: 19
(We were moving houses during my college break. I was super enthusiastic to take over “adult” responsibilities. I still remember most of the last minute paint touch up and varnish happening under my supervision.)
The chief painter (to my mom): Aunty, didi (that’s me) zyaada acchi chai banaati hai (Meaning, I make better tea than my mom)
Mom (Shocked!): So Yuvi how is your tea more special?
Me: I dunno!
Mom: Okay, let’s see you make tea
I start making the tea.
Mom: Hang on, what are these boiled tea leaves doing here?
Me: The ones that I made tea with earlier!
Mom: So you are using the same tea leaves over and over again
Me: Yeah!
Mom: Hell!

Age: 20-21
A pesky relative visiting us (to my mom): Chachi (aunt), you better start teaching Yuvika how to handle the kitchen else marriage will become a huge problem. Everybody wants a wife/DIL who can cook!
Mom: Let her be. When the time comes, she will manage.
(That’s why I love you mom!)

Age: 23
(After, my wedding date was fixed.)
Dad: Yuvi now you are marrying a south Indian, you better learn how to cook! Don’t you know South Indian women spend a lot of time in the kitchen!
Me: I don’t understand the logic dad!
Dad: If you are expected to make sambhar, rasam, what will you do?
Me: I will tell them I never grew up on sambhar-rasam.
Dad: But what if they asked you to make some north Indian specialties?
Me: I will say I never learnt cos I was marrying a South Indian!
Dad gives up!

Since then, I have come a long way. I make curd rice, chhola (chick peas), most of the pulses, potatoes, cottage cheese, pav bhaji, veggie rice, rotis, paranthas, puris, noodles, pasta, and cakes, kheer and badam payasam with considerable ease. I have tried my hands on rasam (a reasonable first attempt), sambhar (a disaster – Vish couldn’t even decipher the dish after having the courage to eat it) – Rajma (kidney beans) and some veggies are hits and misses with a ratio of 3:1 maybe!
Wow, I think that’s quite a lot- wonder why I still hesitate answering the heavily loaded question “Can you cook?”

And here’s the latest conversation I had with my FIL one recent evening!

Me: Appa, is pav-bhaji okay for dinner?
FIL: Yes, perfect
Me: Okay I will start now.
FIL: But it is only 6 PM, we’ll eat at 8?
Me: Yes, but I need to start now, so that I have time for last minute work-arounds and fire fighting – this is called risk mitigation planning (IT and Management guys, back me up here)
FIL (visibly amused): Oh okay, but don’t strain too much!

Aww, I was instantly reminded of the pride in my dad’s heart, the beaming glow in my hubby’s eyes and the mischievous smile on my bro’s lips when I make the slightest of efforts to what can barely pass off as “cooking”.

Apparently the way to the hearts of the men in my life is not through their stomachs. Phew! Thank god!

Leaving you with a pic of one of the better cakes I have baked - just to add some credit to my claims :p...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All’s well that ends well!!!

Prayers do work, don’t they? I had sincerely hoped and wished for Delhi to pull through the Commonwealth Games when the Queen’s baton relay happened in October last year. You can read the post here.

And yayay, we did it! Yes, there were a lot of hiccups and major roadblocks; the corruption was deplorable (and is unforgivable); the apathy of the government officials involved was disappointing … but we managed to put up our India shining face – bright and vibrant – when it mattered the most.

In the last couple of months, along with national and international media, everybody was bashing the preparations. As I watched the images of dishonesty and blatant money games flashed on TV, I kept my fingers crossed. While the media reports were not really exaggerated, I was a little miffed that they spoke about nothing positive at all.
However, in retrospect I guess it paid well. Indians round the world cursed and kicked and came out in the open showing their anger and shame at the Kalmadis of CWG who tried their best to barter national integrity and pride for the green bucks – a coffer filling exercise was the CWG for them!

Last minute fire fighting did a lot of damage control – we Indians thrive on jugaad, don't we? ;) (jugaad is a colloquial hindi word – loosely translated as getting things done by hook or by crook – I found a wiki link too for it here – wow Internet rocks!)

While I am thrilled at the spectacular show that Delhi organized, I feel that after the back patting is done, we need to book the culprits who caused so much confusion and delay. They need to be punished in order to set an example for other such events to come – nobody puts national pride at stake, and then gets away with it!

Also, we now need to maintain all the infrastructure we have managed to assemble thanks to the CWG budget - yes, it overshot ten times the initial amount, but we cannot undo that – what we can do is ensure that we preserve the progress we have made – preserve the spirit that is India, the spirit that is Delhi – the spirit that sometimes becomes an obscure flame thanks to selfish politicians, but still emboldens and illuminates the world when the time beseeches.

Go Delhi go!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not now!

(A Facebook addict like me should have posted this much earlier, but oh well!)

Ok guys, FB adds a new step to the friend request denial procedure – Not Now.

A simple Yes and No, or in FB terms, Confirm and Ignore has now become:

Step 1: Confirm and Not Now



Step 2: Confirm and Delete Request



My initial reaction to this feature was WTF! Either I want the requestor to be on my friend’s list or I don’t; what’s with the unnecessary grey area in the middle?

But then, social networking could easily be as complicated as rocket science itself!
If you thought managing relationships was a difficult task; it becomes even more formidable on cyber space.

Here are the broad categories most friend requests I receive fall in:

I The genuine friends...
...Those who make FB well worth the time I spend on it: lost and found childhood companions, friends from school and college, neighborhood peers, colleagues from work!

II Relatives...
...Those I am very close to and those that I have seldom met. I don’t really mind family on FB and so long have been able to manage pretty well :D!

III The one-time met/seen/heard of acquaintances...
These are people I could easily qualify as weirdoes, if not stalkers. Your friend’s cousin’s friend you got introduced to at a mall; a colleague at work you attended a meeting with or saw at the coffee vending machine, and have never spoken to before or after that – forget spoken to – have never acknowledged his/her presence before or after that; the guy who helped you with your hand baggage in the plane (yes, I got one such friend request – we never even exchanged our names, so I am guessing he peeped into my boarding pass – how nightmarish!)

IV The complete strangers...
...The “do you want to do friendship with me”-“your profile pic looks great, so let’s be friends” category.


Till September, I was confidently using the Ignore option for the last category.
It was the third category of requests that left me in a fix to decide among the following options:
  • Should I be politically correct and go ahead and add the person and later tweak my privacy settings?
  • Do I care about social proprietary? FB is my personal space and I decide whom to share it with.
  • Defer the decision.
Though the last option was quite convenient, FB would regularly pop the reminder, making me feel a tad bit guilty (gosh, I take FB way too seriously, don’t I?).

So now, the Not Now option comes to my rescue. It aids me in my indecisiveness – I can conveniently brush your request under the carpet – hide it, as per FB terminology, and never have to deal with my conscience because there are no reminders – yayay – how convenient!

Did I hear you smirk? Yes, I belong to the easy-way-out generation – why not? I have no qualms about it!

Therefore, my initial WTF reaction to Not Now has been now transformed to “not bad”.
Though I have always detested people who fall in the maybe-maybe not category when it comes to answering questions – be it in surveys or interviews or etc, I really don’t seem to mind it on social networking sites.

What FB could have done to make things easier is that they could have added a third button in Step 1 itself – Delete request.
So, at one go I can decide whether to hide the request for Category 3 or simple delete and report spam/block for Category 4. A simple usability enhancement!

What say? Not now?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The centennial post!

So Blogger tells me this is my 100th post, and I am super kicked. What makes the milestone even more special is the fact that it coincides with my entry into the third year of blogging!
Yes, My Musings completes two years today!

What started as an impromptu expression of thoughts has become a medium that has grown on me - has become a very defining aspect of who I am.
Though quite a diary person from my kiddie days, when I used to write long pages on events, experiences that touched me – blogging has been a different adventure. While I would be more than content to just put down on paper (e-paper ;)) my feelings, thoughts and musings, being read brought in a whole new exciting dimension to the act of writing itself.

If blogging has been cathartic, having readers – known and unknown - from different spaces – physical and philosophical – has been exhilarating. I want to thank all the ardent “followers” on the blog, RSS feeds, Twitter, and the family and friends on FB and Buzz who have been patient enough to read through my posts, share their valuable insights, and always been so appreciative of my efforts.

The journey so far…
In 2006-07, with constant traveling and moving, personal journals were getting difficult to maintain – so much so that I had almost lot touch with the “pen”. I had been trying to get a foothold on the blogging space but more than anything else, it was sheer laziness that kept me at bay.
Finally, in October 2008, though having registered on Blogspot more than a year ago, I did my first blog post. Usually, most bloggers do a Welcome or a Hello World post to mark their entry into the blogosphere – I was abrupt.
The death of Sowmya Viswanathan was shocking, and more tragic was the reaction of the politicos – You can read the post here.
On hindsight, I don’t know what made me a regular blogger after that post. Maybe I needed that impetus, that push to break the writer’s block.

Since then, this blog has been an expression of most things in life that hold meaning for me.
I have done a range of posts from seemingly frivolous ones to more introspective ones. What’s kept me going is that I have been able to be true to myself. Though I love the reactions of people to my writing I don’t write to please anyone in particular. What I write is essentially me and that is a satisfying emotion.

There was a time when I felt that an anonymous profile might suit me better. Anonymity might enable me to write more honestly and openly.
I argued that against integrity. If I feel strongly about something, why should I be scared to associate my identity with it? However, there are still times that I am not enable to share an experience that involves others for fear of compromising their privacy – but I guess trade-offs would always be there.

The making of My Musings…
Though I started with quite a simple template from blogger.com, I am in love with my current template from pyzam.com.
The daisy is your everyday flower – yet it is beautiful and exquisite in its simplicity. The green is for life and the sunshine peeping through the clouded sky is the hope we all live on!

Indiblogger and BlogAdda memberships have had their advantages – apart from being ranked, I got to interact with fellow bloggers, each gifted and uniquely talented!

Not a tech savy person, I have been able to get some widgets going. My favorite ones include the visitor counter (I love to see the so many flags of countries from where people access my blog – Oh how on top of the world I feel :)), and the Link Within gadget that adds associated posts below the latest post.

As for my favorite posts, I cannot choose among my creations, can I?


So here’s raising a toast to the blogosphere! Cheers!

Remember,
I RANT, THEREFORE I AM.


Over to you now…

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Has marriage killed the girl in you?

When The Bald Guy () posted this tag on his blog, I immediately added it to my list of must-do’s, and after a sort of hectic week I finally get the time to take this head on.

The above question and a host of associated questions, including those below (reproduced from TBG’s tag), are ones that I have asked and answered so may a times myself.
Asked less, answered more than a trillion times – friends, relatives, colleagues, and even random strangers!
I think my replies have varied only slightly based on my mood and disposition at that moment in time. Here I make a conscious effort to introspect, retrospect, and ummm, well, to be honest.

Before I bring on the volley of Qs, some basic facts – Well into my 20’s, I have been married to the love of my life for more than three and a half years - and, oh boy, you could pass me as “well married”!

The Qs…
  • Are you more programmed, more regulated in your thoughts and deeds?
A definite yes! I have learned to think twice before I speak and act (in most situations I try to restrict my tongue-in-cheek responses to myself or to a close circle of dear ones), and coming from me, believe me, that takes a huge effort!

I am definitely more politically correct, diplomatic, and conforming to established institutions than I was a couple of years back.
This programming manifests itself in subtle ways – I am more patient with relatives and extended family, I try to think from the other’s point of view (however I dumb it may be to start with :D), I have learnt to make allowances for nosey, pesky people around :p: :p.

  • Or are you simply calmer? Assuaged?
If I take this as a continuation of the previous question, my actions and reaction are definitely more controlled and in line with expectations, but somehow, (even though it may sound contradictory) the raving lunatic in me is not cured.

Assuaged? My husband will do a double somersault laughing his head off if I respond in the affirmative.

I am still the crazy person my friends and family swore on way back! My idiosyncrasies remain intact (touch wood) irrespective of the waves of time that keep crashing in!
I am still bonkers enough to break into a dance in the middle of the road, have ice cream for three meals a day, make inappropriate comments in public and then laugh out loud in an “unlady-like” fashion, threaten my husband with a call to 911 if he tries waking me up early in the morning (in India, can’t threaten him with 100 coz - it's seldom answered), and make him blow balloons and decorate the cake-knife with a fancy ribbon to celebrate my birthday!

  • Are you still in love?
With whom? :D

Ok, honestly, a resounding YES - Am still very much in love (phew, thank god!) – with the person I married, with the wonderful family and friends I share my life with, and with the blessed life god has bestowed on me.

  • Or are you simply loving? Caring, fond and loyal..?
I wonder why this question begins with an ‘or’. Am I in love or am I simply loving?

Hell yeah, I am in love and I am loving to those who love me back!
I am no angel or saint; I care for people who matter to me.
I am fond of all the people I willingly include in my everyday life.
I am fiercely loyal to my loved ones - friends and family.

Marriage has not changed a thing or the intensity when it comes to love and loyalty. I was always the way I am now!

  • What does marriage do to you?
Lots :D!

Marriage makes you fall in love with your beloved all over again. Nothing like waking up to the brightest sunshine in your life.

Marriage convinces you that you made the best decision ever, coz there would be no other man in the whole world who would bring back the entire medical store for a slight cut.

Marriage makes you hate the guy you married when all his promises of love and never ending support are sacrificed at the altar of a stupid cricket match!

Marriage exasperates the life out of you when good-for-nothing relatives and well-wishers are waiting for the ever elusive “good news”.

Marriage makes you believe in the K-serials when you disagree with your MIL on the color of the curtains.

Marriage provides the much needed privacy from the ever-so-curious world outside. Finally, you can be there for each other, always, without having to explain your relationship status.

Marriage makes you independent and responsible and secure. People suddenly start taking you more seriously.

Marriage makes you dependent – this one person controls your emotional and mental well being – almost completely.

Marriage teaches you that life is not perfect as the Mills & Boons and Yash Chopras of the world will have us believe. There are tiffs, and there are misunderstandings, and it takes a lot of hard work to keep it all together for the sake of love.
But as in the end of all love stories, it is always well worth the effort you put in!

  • And finally the big one: Has marriage killed the girl in you?
NO! I would never let that happen. Vish would never let that happen. Though he would be happy if the girl in me grew up a bit in-keeping with my age, I still choose to believe he’d rather I stay the person he fell in love with – it is the complete package you get, as we both often joke!

Having said that, life has its own way of moulding you into a more mature and understanding being.

With marriage comes a new chapter in your life, with new characters, new story lines, new plots, never-before-been-in situations, not-trained-for experiences but the individual that is you remains and must remain essential to the core – whatever be the story!

Dreams don’t come true by making wishes on shooting stars, but don’t stop dreaming.

Love is also about you taking the first step forward no matter how huge your ego is, but don’t stop loving.

He seems to suffer from the most incurable form of amnesia when it comes to dates – your first date, the date he proposed, your parents’ birthdays! But don’t stop celebrating (kick him, for sure!)

Miracles don’t happen always as per expectations, but don’t stop believing in them.
Faith and hope make the world go round!

Marriage is about accommodating, including and sharing, but don’t compromise the individuality and the uniqueness that define you.

Marriage is about being the doting wife, the responsible daughter-in-law and eventually the loving mother, but don’t let the girl in you die.
She should be the beautiful, inimitable foundation on which you build your life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

De-tanning!

So here I am to fulfill a teeny weenie promise I made in this post: Sun, Sand and Sea.
A first hand account on how to get rid of the awful tan most of us Indians get during our beach vacations – like I mentioned in my referenced post, while the whole world seems to turn flattering shades of blushed pink and glowing golden, we turn horrible tones of brown and black :)!

(P.S. I am no beauty expert, I googled a lot, went back to the proverbial grandma’s book, and finally tried the more convenient options. What I write here may not be the most effective and efficient treatments but they did work for me :))

Okay, first a few things that you must do to ensure that the sun’s darkening effect on your skin melanin is the minimum:
  • Choose a good sunscreen for your face and your body. Most of us are guilty of taking extra care of the face and hardly anything for the rest of the body.
On a day out at the beach, I recommend Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock with an SPF of 50+ for the face and body. I used this and the damage to my face was kept to a minimum.
(Note: For the body, I had used Biotique Sandalwood Sunscreen lotion with an SPF of 100, but alas it was not at all effective.)
  • Re-application of sunscreen to all exposed parts every 2-3 hours is a must. I know this seems tough; In the middle of a picturesque cruise, an exciting beach volleyball game or a romantic day out with your significant other the last thing on your mind is messy sunscreen! But girls, it’s all for the greater good!
  • After the day is over and you are back, have a bath with warm water. Then, dip cotton wool in cold (preferably raw) milk and massage all over the exposed areas, including your face. Wash off after five minutes. Splash your face with rose water. Before sleeping, massage your body and face with a good oil-free moisturizer or skin milk (if you feel your skin is sticky), or olive oil (if you feel your skin is dry).

If one follows all of the above recommendations, sun-burn will hardly become a cause of worry. However, if you are like me – super lazy, end up doing only the first thing on the list above and then are reduced to fire fighting, welcome to the club and read on.

On an extended vacation, it is very difficult to take time out for skin care and only when you return after the long haul does your skin start begging for attention cure. But, there is good news - it is usually not so late by then.

So I came back with an awful tan – my arms looked like I was wearing a chocolate brown sleeve, my face, though much better, had an unmistakable russet hue to it. And this is a skin care regime I followed for a little less than 3 months to get rid of the vacation baggage on my skin!
Sounds like a lot of time? Actually not! Most of the stuff I wanted to do was restricted to weekends as work left me with little time over weekdays. If you are determinate, and have the time, go ahead and follow this daily to get early results!

(Warning: For your spouse and family, it's going to be Halloween time with all the face and body masks so brace them well beforehand ;))

  • Skin that is badly tanned tends to crinkle and peel off in layers. At all times, ensure that your skin is well moisturized. Use good quality aloe vera gels and crèmes for best results.
  • Continue using a good sunscreen at all times during the day irrespective of the amount of sun exposure.
  • For the face: Apply the following packs every alternate day.
(If after a few days, you feel your skin is dry or stretched, massage your face with Olive oil or Almond oil at night)

Pack 1: Take a full teaspoon of fuller’s earth (multani mitti) and mix it with lemon juice and rose water (for acne-prone skin)/honey (for dry skin). Apply this paste to your face and neck, and leave it on till its dry. Wash off with luke warm water.

Pack 2: Take a full teaspoon of gram flour (besan), a pinch of turmeric, lemon juice, few drops of honey and mix it with milk (for acne prone skin)/curd (for dry skin). Apply this paste to your face and neck, and leave it on till its dry. Wash off with luke warm water.

  • For the body: Do the following every alternate day:
1. Massage your body with olive oil – remember to not use too much oil – apply a quantity that is easily absorbed. Leave on for 1 hour. Then apply lemon juice all over the exposed areas. You can rub in lemon halves too for ease of application. Leave on for 20 minutes and then go for your bath.

2. Make a body pack with gram flour (besan), turmeric, lemon juice, honey, milk/curd and apply it all over your body. Leave on for half an hour till dry and then go for your bath.


Though all this sounds a little tedious and messy, believe me it works! I got rid of my tan without having to subject my skin to the awful chemical bleaching agents!

Let me know if this works for you and also feel free to share your de-tanning secrets :)!

(An aside: I always tell you the sun is upto no good - ever :D)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We are family…

The official bollywood remake of Stepmom brings to Karan Johar’s fans a heart wrenching tale in an NRI setup, yet again – after all, that is the limit to which Johar can “indianize” Hollywood for us :D. And, as usual, I don’t mind that a wee bit!

A disclaimer: When you go for the movie, forget the original. Comparisons never help, do they?

To give We are family its due credit, it brings to Hindi cinema a refreshingly new perspective to the concept of the other woman rather than the stereotyped and clichéd wicked witch she is made out to be in every soap and movie! Never once are you made to hate the stepmom, never once does the stepmom show any traces of evil in her. And full marks to the director and producer for that.

While most would be tempted to dismiss this offering as a typical tearjerker, a genre I dare not defend, I would still go on to say that there were numerous aspects of the movie that tugged my heart so many a times.
Kudos to the story tellers for making the movie crisp and to the point - no sympathy arousing tale of the before love and the reasons for separation of the divorced couple, no confused commitments – a modern day nuclear family saga that borders on realism.
Another saving grace was that the oft-repeated track of “it’s all about loving your parents”, and “our Indian culture and roots are our saviors” was downplayed for once!

A special mention to the kids – they were damn cute. I loved one particular scene where Arjun Rampal is empathizing with his son for having been confined to the company of complicated women and the tongue in cheek response to that “Tell me about it, And you have got one more! (referring to the step mom ofcourse)

However, don’t forget this is a bollywood movie – to the core. The elaborate medical ordeal of Kajol (she is a wonderful actor) and the love triangle between the kids and the two moms interlace the movie with heavy emotions, which sets it drastically different from the more light-hearted and effervescent Kal Ho Na Ho. While both movies try to end on a positive note, We are family leaves you with a feeling of loss and a tear-stained face!
Humesha and forever’ is destiny’s greatest lie. Sigh.

My recommendation: go ahead and watch the movie. A good cry once in a while helps not just the eyes :)!

And here’s my favorite song from the movie…
rehm o karam hojaey dobara
rehm o karam ho jaane do ishara
rehm o karam hojaey dobara
rehm o karam hojaane do Khudara


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