Of comparisons and compromises

A cup of coffee that started this conversation thanks you guys for inspiring me to get back to blogging!

We came, we saw we conquered, but what?

A 9-5 job which spills over by an hour or two, well it has to, there’s so much competition out there! Never ending social commitments and to add to the woe never ending traffic. ‘Me time’ well let’s just keep that out of the mix for now.

They say Bombay is a city that never sleeps, but at what cost? To have time fly by you with a blink of an eye is not my ideal way to live life. So let’s pause here (yes I know your time is precious) as this blog isn’t here to complain about the lack of what we have, but to find a way around it!

In Bombay life is a race but when you step out of the city, it’s a whole new world out there.

Take a 4 hour drive from Bombay you will touch just about Nasik, from London to Liverpool, from Auckland to the Hobbiton movie set from Antwerp to Paris, yes you read it right, crossing borders is possible.

Someone very rightly said- in India your drive consists of looking out for dogs, cows and human traffic. Elsewhere is a straight road cruise to your destination.

We earn, we save, we build but what do we get in return. We can’t all get lucky and move out of the city let alone the country and the population isn’t going to half itself over night, so now what?

As much as I love my country and take pride in being an Indian. At times I just wonder what is it worth? Wouldn’t life be easier in a first world country? Fresh clean air, pristine beaches, an ideal work-life balance and nuclear families. But then, the grass is always greener on the other side, how many of you would actually be okay without your dear old Ramesh or Kanta or rushes to the kitchen to make you pipping hot tea, who makes your bed, irons your clothes and keeps your house clean.

So while we weigh our options and work around what we actually want, the temporary solution is  simple; complain, take short expensive (very) holidays, bond over hot chocolate with friends and forget your woes!

 

Greeka

Every few month I get an urge to travel. It’s almost like an itch that won’t stop bothering me until I scratch it. My mind kept wandering off aimlessly, until I convinced myself that I deserved this get-away to rest my body, mind and soul.

It may sound a tad dramatic but in all honesty, it was about letting my hair down, doing nothing and getting away from the routine work life. I felt the need to live, be, experience and most importantly experiment, something different; away from the monotony of my day-to-day activities.

A travel enthusiast, this time my palate was yearning some Mediterranean flavours, and that’s how the country of choice was Greece. (This also helped me tick off one thing from my bucket-list.)

Nine days of blissful Greeka was nothing less than a blessing in disguise. While the season was perfect for the Europeans, bright sun, tanned skins and warm nights. As an Indian, it was a little stuffy for my liking, given that I had just gone through 3 months of a humid Mumbai summer, I would be glad to have skipped the heat.

Nonetheless, the heat was a small price to pay for one of the best holidays I have had. Athens(also known as Athena) is best described in one word – beautiful. While it doesn’t have picturesque mountains or hillsides, the clear blue waters of the Batis beach and the entire concept of preserving every inch of the lost city was very appealing. In the heart of the city; Syntagma Square, the shopping centre and just a stone’s throw away from the famous historic sites of the Acropolis and Parthenon.

Sadly all that is left of most of the historic sites in Athens is its remains, there’s less form than shown on most websites and history books. But the pains taken to conserve the remains of the old city even through the little streets of Plaka is definitely commendable. One minute you are walking on a concrete floor and the next on glass, which stand atop the old city. Something that truly took my breath away.

The bustling streets of Plaka and Monastiraki add a new life to Athens, a contrast to the Syntagma Square for its ability to stick to its roots. Plaka is made up of small shops that sell Grecian products; bags, leather footwear, olive oil and the likes. On the other hand, Syntagma is the brand hub, with the likes of- Mango, H & M, Promod, amongst other Greek designer stores.

A recommended way to enjoy the city of Athens is to spend equal amount of time at the beach and at Syntagma Square. If only the two areas weren’t a hours ride away(on the metro) Athens would be the perfect holiday destination for all kinds of people.

Moving on from Athens

If one goes to Greece, they would have been told by previous visitors that they cannot miss the island of Santorini. Keeping that in mind, our itinerary did have a good number of days to explore this island as well.

Overlooking the Caledra and the volcano, Santorini is definitely a rich man’s Goa. Fira, the city centre does not go to sleep during the peak season and we were lucky enough to visit at the same time. The highlights of Santorini are not difficult to chart – Fira, Oia and a trip to the Volcano if you would like.

Awestruck by the beauty of the city of Santorini, there was no desire for me to leave it and go trek up a volcano. I chose to sit at one of the many restaurants that outline the island and soak in the view. Look to your left you see the lights of Fira, look to your right and you are drawn to the vastness of the sea.

A simple sight but one that puts you in a trance. No photographs can every do justice to the beauty of the world. And proof of that was the ride back from Oia, know to have the best sunsets, it’s the colours of the sky after the sunsets that make your jaw drop. A pink sky with hints of orange and the sun rays filtering through the colours, if I were to see a photograph of the same, I would still doubt that it is in fact the work of an artist, and not the real sky. For we share the same sky and sun but never have I seen such a striking balance of colours though my window.

A perfect holiday full of the sun, family fun and some wonderful memories, Greece is currently where my heart is.

I had a moment while soaking in my fond memories of Greece in the Mediterranean waters, where my heart said this is ‘life’ and that’s when you know a holiday is worthwhile.

I hear anything Greek and my mind is flooded with lovely memories. A mother daughter bonding trip and my fingers simply can’t keep pace with the speed at which my mind is running reliving bits and pieces of the days gone by. My narration may be out of sync, but the memories are fresh in my mind and I only hope you can see the same when you finish reading the blog and close your eyes to take it all in.

Running Through City Life

Getting a job changes many aspects of your daily routine, from waking up late into the morning and spending fun filled shopping days to running through city life.

Three days into my new job and I can see the difference in my daily pattern. From a shuffling routine and endless hours in front of the television screen to meetings, research and creative brain storming.

8 hours pass by like a fast local train; halting every now and then, btu with very little time to stop and stare at the world’s doings.

Everyday might not be as constructive as the previous or later, but its a new beginning to a new expereince.

The city seems to have taken a change in pace and after a lazy six months post my final submission, it feels like I’m back at University; running through city life!

Goa: A Serene Getaway

Walking into the slowly lapping waves towards a rock, which juts out into the sea leaving a faint craggy land trail, to the shore. Moving my gaze from left to right, gives a panoramic view of the shoreline. Lights gently flickering as they switch on around the shacks, television screens and carefree tourists lounging on the beach chairs, putting behind them the sun, sea and the gently prancing white froth. Bronze, sun-kissed bodies wrapped in rainbow coloured sarongs and children breaking down their carefully crafted sand castles pick up their buckets and pails. Making their way behind their parents going in sync with their footsteps to their respective scooters or cars, bidding farewell to the beach until they return the following day.

Ever since the Portuguese established a spice route colony in the 1500’s, Goa has flourished as a market for tourists of all kinds. From the hippies who enjoy rave parties, to family holiday tourists, this coastal city offers something for everyone. Known as a tourist destination and “the next best thing to Lisbon” by Rough Guides Magazine, Goa disappoints nobody.

Having decided to tread upon a quieter path, I took time off and took a different route, exploring the serene and calm side of Goa. A weekend is all that one needs to explore these virgin grounds unpopulated by tourists, and still local to their very core.

The sunlight crept in through the horizon as the warm rays maneuvered their way around the paper-thin sheers through the window, and onto my face. Propped up in my king-sized bed that overlooked the endless Arabian Sea at Hotel Vivenda dos Palhacos, North Goa (voted as ‘The best hotel in Goa,’ by British Harpers Bazaar,2009) it felt like a lazy Saturday morning. After getting dressed in my trekking shorts and applying oodles of sun block to protect me from the heat, it was time to go out and explore the Chapora Fort in North Goa.

Built in the mid-17th century by early Portuguese settlers on a hillock, the fort once served as a means of land surveillance. From the bottom, getting to the top of the fort looked like a tiring trek. With a palm-sized hand fan and a bottle of water, I put my backpack onto both shoulders and began the upward climb. Local lovers usually come here as a get-away for the day and seem to be surprised to see me walking along the rugged steps leading up to the top of the hill.

About 45 minutes and five water breaks later, I wiped the trickles of sandy sweat off my brow as I took in the view from the top of the hill. To the left, the Arabian Sea stretched into infinity, serene and calm, shimmering in the morning sun. On the right, was the picturesque Goan countryside, punctuated with trees and a nearby naturally formed lagoon. Lunch was laid out at the West end of the fort, which welcomed waves crashing against the hillock. After a light meal of a staple Goan lunch, consisting of 5-spice fish curry and rice along with a glass of iced cashew Feni (made out of the juice of cashew nuts), it was time to bid adieu to the scenery and make the downward descent to the foot of the fort.

Back in the room, clad with aged Portuguese wall-tiles and an enormous pool, it felt more like a villa than a hotel. Sitting in the verandah of my room, I captured on film the low-hanging cotton wool clouds that drifted eerily above the fishing boats glistening on the horizon. For someone used to European luxuries, all the stately grandeur is more than satisfactory. (The room rate starts at £40 a night, including breakfast and a private beach, the hotel provides a balanced package for visitors.)

After taking a dip into the pool, a trip to Mackie’s Saturday night market was a great way to relax in the local style. The markets variety of goods was enthralling, with a riot of jewellery, spices, wandering cows, tribeswomen, and of course, a handful of tourists. Unlike the Anjuna flea market, here the handicrafts were reasonably priced and most of the stall owners speak the local language ‘Konkani’, not English. “Nicknamed as the ‘whole sale department’ of the Anjuna flea market, one should not be surprised to find the same vendors selling their goods at exorbitant prices at the Anjuna market the next evening,” Puja, a stall owner told me as she packed a pair of Indian anklets for £3. With these in my pocket, looking back at the market content with my purchase, it was time to call it a night.

The sound of birds chirping in the trees and the waves lashing against the rocks teased me, waking me up from the calm of the deep sleep I fell into from the previous day’s activities, preparing me for the day ahead.

Goa’s churches, most of which were built between the 16th and 17th centuries, are today UNESCO World Heritage sites. I decided to pay a visit to the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Panjim. An hour-long drive from the hotel, I hopped into a hired taxi and skipped the scooter as it is easy to get lost in the by-lanes on the way to the city.

Situated in the centre of Panjim, and built in 1619 it is one of the oldest churches in the city. Upon arrival it is hard to miss the Baroque facade that is flanked by two towers on either side. Hard to miss is the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, whose glass-encased statue that occupies the focal point of the church.

Having given thanks, I left the church in a light and peaceful mood, which reminded me of the touch of the warm silver sand granules of Agonda beach. With the wind hitting my face and the window rolled down, the car followed the newly paved road towards the beach to catch the sunset.

Walking along the stretch of the beach the crimson sun began to set over the Arabian Sea. In the half-light of dusk, the tide slowly receded making way for the meditatively calm moon that began to surface behind the murky grey clouds. The waves, bloodied by a parting sun caressed the shores softly while the lights on the shacks along the beach begin to illuminate in sync, bringing to life another world. The music slowly grew louder as the fisherwomen set up their stalls across the curvaceous beach of Agonda. One of the many hidden secrets tucked away in the little pockets of Goa, it is only a stone throw’s away from the more popular and commercialized Anjuna beach that is always busy and flocked with enthusiastic tourists.

The aroma of freshly cooked mini calamari’s blanketed in a golden yellow crispy breadcrumb crust, dipped in a sweet and spicy chilly sauce that tingle the tip of the nose, lead me to a candle-lit shack.  ‘Le Marin’ is known to be one of the oldest shacks in Goa.

After a traditional Goan dinner of prawn curry, rice and fried calamari, away from the warmth of the salty waves that froth at the end of their journey to the shore. Tiptoeing past the tourists, I followed the white crabs that grapple on the slippery rocks making their way into the sand, watching the moon light shining on my weekend sojourn.


3 Idiots – Film Review

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, R Madhavan, Sharman Joshi and Boman Irani

Genre: Comedy

Rating: 4/5

Produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani 3 Idiots is loosely based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller Five Point Someone. It is a light hearted film that jabs at the Indian education system, raising pertinent questions about the relevance of learning by rote, the obsession with high grades, and the dangerous repercussions of parental pressure to pursue traditional streams.

Set on an engineering campus in Delhi modeled after the IIT (Indian Institution of Technology), the film features Aamir Khan as free-spirited student Rancho, who dishes out important life lessons to his roommates Farhan and Raju (played by Madhavan and Sharman Joshi), even as the strict campus director, Viru Sahastrabuddhe (played by Boman Irani) clashes with him for brazenly rejecting conventional wisdom.

The film switches from present to flashback mode but not once does Hirani lose momentum. The medley of emotions that he brings forth as he establishes the film’s structure is indeed commendable.

Like the peppy ‘Aal Izz Well’ (All is well) song, the scenes are so well acted that they create the desired effect, leaving a trail of thought even after the movie is over. There are scenes that will make you laugh, that will make you cry and that will make you think.

Hirani does it all so beautifully that you want to go back to college and relive all those moments. Falling in love, harassment by professors, secret drinking sessions, ragging of fellow students, it is all there. Hirani also sends across a message on student pressures but there is no preaching here, it is all done in his inimitable style.

More About the Cast

Rancho the protagonist, as it turns out can do just about anything. From empowering Farhan to convince his family he wants to be a photographer and not an engineer, to nursing another friend back to health after a failed suicide attempt, Rancho even helps an unsuspecting girl open her eyes to the superficial man she is about to marry. But soon after teaching them these valuable lessons and touching their lives in some way or the other, Rancho vanishes on the day of graduation. After which, Farhaan and Raju set out to find their lost friend across the country. With twists and turns along the way, the film is a definite watch for all movie buffs.

Shantanu Moitra’s music and Muralidharan’s cinematography complement the movie well.

Of the cast, Sharman Joshi is brilliant, especially in his breakdown scenes and R Madhavan delivers a good performance. He takes the film back and forth with his narrative and is splendid even with comedy. Kareena Kapoor makes her presence felt despite the small role, and Boman Irani inspires a hearty laughs.

The performance that stands out in this film belongs to lesser-known LA-based actor Omi Vaidya who stars as the Hindi-challenged Chatur Ramalingam. He deserves credit for turning an old childish gag into what is one of the film’s funniest scenes on the strength of his pitch-perfect expressions and delivery. There is also Aamir Khan as Rancho, who remains the heart and soul of 3 Idiots with his spot-on comedy, his measured histrionics, and his immense charisma.

A complete entertainer, 3 Idiots is worth a watch for the unwinding of a story on friendship that begins abruptly, but keeps heightening your anxiety through the film with an unexpected twist at the end, concluding the movie on an amusing note.

= )

Theatre Review: An Inspector Calls

Directed By: Stephen Daldry

Cast: Nicholas Woodeson, Sandra Duncan, David Roper, Robin Whiting, Timothy Watson and Elizabeth Ross.

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Written in 1945, J.B. Priestley’s play ‘An Inspector Calls,’ narrows in on a typical middle class Edwardian industrialist’s family: the Birlings.

Blaming them collectively for contributing to the death of a young, working-class woman, over the span of two years. The play is watched not only by the audience but a street child as well, who sits at what is meant to be the cornet of the street, watching the events unfold as a silent observer.

Sets

Ian MacNeil’s stage design, which pulls off the coup of setting two periods on stage simultaneously, is worthy of applause. The first thing you notice on entering the auditorium are the rusting old red telephone booth and the buckled, cracked floorboards protruding from under the curtain.

As the curtain rises transcending the audience into the heart of the action from the very start, a gloomy, post-Second World War landscape is revealed. Smog swirls, and street children innocently dance around on cobblestones slick with rain. The 1912 home designed, as an over-sized dollhouse built atop a bomb crater is seen.

The family is celebrating the engagement of their daughter to a young businessman, when Inspector Goole, swathed in an overcoat and wide brimmed hat appears in the street. Upon arrival he begins to question the family.

Thereafter the Birling’s are made to step into a chilly, accusing world breaking them all down. Their refusal to accept any responsibility for the fates of others slowly unfolds, with some nerve rattling stage drama, such as firecrackers depicting fire, further emphasis the impact.

By the end of the play, the once perfectly perched up doll house is now in shambles, with crockery flying around like flying saucers and the beautiful house now in a heap of rubble.

Music

Stephen Warback’s music sets the perfect mood for the play, with low air raid sounds that rise when necessary, while the crunching of glass every time someone steps on broken crockery intensifies the mood. The appropriately chosen music taps one’s conscience, and blends in well with the setting of the play.

Although predictable, the play captivates the audience till the very end.  The cast does a fantastic job at lending to the tensions felt through out.

Commendable Acting

Short and stocky, Nicholas Woodeson’s performance conveys the message of being the voice of reason. His tight performance and the shuffle between being kind to the housemaid and the street urchin, and his strict demeanor in front of the Birling’s, reflect how well he moulds himself into the skin of the character.

Sandra Duncan gives a haughty over-the-top performance that is much required by her character. With an uptight stance and arrogance written all over her face, she has enacted the character of Mrs. Birling very well.

David Roper’s stage presence revives the typical male personality of name-dropping and taking pride in the family’s achievements. Trying to shield the Birlings’ name in society is most important to him, and he goes to great lengths throughout the play to emphasize that.

Marianne Oldham fares best of all as the Birlings’ capricious daughter, Shiela who discovers an unquiet conscience at the end of the play.

A definite must watch, regardless of what genre of plays you enjoy. The performances by the actors leave a lasting impact on the audience, and Daldry is successful in keeping the viewers at the edge of their seat, waiting to know where the play is going to take them.