Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekend trip to Lonavla

There is nothing like driving out of the city hustle and bustle even if it is for a weekend. Driving from Mumbai to Lonavla is a fun journey through the Eastern Expressway. You can easily hit 160 km/hr on the smooth and well made road. It almost gets surreal as you see the scenery whoosh past in seconds! There are trains and buses that take you to Lonavla - which are also convenient and not very expensive. Around 96 kms from Mumbai, Lonavla is a hill station that can be reached in 2 hours flat.

To me, places like Lonavla and Khandala are ideal weekend getaways for many reasons. One they are at a drive-down distance and can do without booking train/bus tickets. You just need to dump stuff in your car and get going! Once there, it's a pretty laid back, predominantly a touristy place and doesn't rquire much planning to look around. You can use your own car to explore the place than having to call a localite to drive you around. The best thing is the quiet at such places. You don't have horns honking and automobiles blaring on the streets outside. And that's exactly what we, denizens of metro cities, crave for!

As with all elevated places, the 'points' from where you can view the valley below are famous. Lonavla has its fair share - Rajmachi point, Lion's point and a few more places that have mushroomed with food stalls and camel rides as tourist attractions. The higher the point, the more misty it gets. And honestly, you look down one of those points and its good enough. The verdant greenery and hilly terrain is a welcome sight to the weary eyes tired of watching the urban jungle day in and day out.

Lonavle mein chikki khayenge, waterfall pe jaayenge - who can forget the lyrics of the famous song. And truthfully so, the experience of Lonavla is incomplete without chikkis in mouth-watering flavours and colours. With Maganlal Chikkis dominating the marketplace, savour groundnut chikkis (my personal fav!) to the calorie rich dry fruit chikkis (my husband's fav!) or chikkis of til, coconut and ground groundnut - made in sugar or jaggery. The soft roles in different flavours of anjeer, mango, dates, pan simply melt in your mouth. Not to mention jelly sweets that are just as irresistible. Once you go chikki shopping in Lonavla, which you must, throw your diet chart out of the your mind and just indulge!!!

Fudge in different flavours is another delectable offering of this hill station. Available in flavours like chocolate, mango and strawberry, you need to develop a taste for them, which i didn't. You get to taste them before you decide to buy them, so you can be sure before to take your pick.

What really becomes memorable through your Lonavala experience is the drive to Aamby Valley City. I had never even heard of it and was helpfully informed by my husband that it is a self-sufficient luxury metropolis built for those who can afford a piece of land in that heavenly sprawl of 10000 acres. You get an idea of the exclusivity of the City through your drive that is breathtaking. It's about 25 kms from Lonavla, nestled among the Sahyadri range amidst verdant greenery and fresh air. The drive through well made and maintained mountainous roads and thick, lush vegetation is a feast for the eyes. As you go higher, mist covers the mountain tops as if leading you to the heavens above. Cruise along at 40 km/hr and thoroughly enjoy the Nature around you and breathe fresh air for a change!

Ironically, it's not the tour of the City itself but the drive from Lonavla to the City that's etches itself in your memory. You need special permission even to step into the gates of the city. You meet with tight security and interrogation at the gate but no permission to enter. No wonder we found tourists happily getting themselves photographed sitting next to the ornate name plate "Aamby Valley City" as a proof of being there to flaunt it to friends.

A little research back home gave me a virtual peek into the city. It not just has villas of different sizes but also a Golf Club, Fitness and Convention centers, Swimming polls, gardens, an airstrip 128 kms long and open spaces with verdant greenery all over. It's worth taking a look and enjoy viewing the pleasures of luxury might own some of it someday!

Though the trip was really short, it did serve as a refreshing break. And now i have to raid the kitchen and bite into one of those delicious chikkis!!!

[Photos of the trip will have to wait till i find my lost card reader or buy a new one :( ]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To do or not to do - that is the question...

All of us face the Hamlet-like inertia a lot of times in our lives. When we know we have to do something but find ourselves incapable of surmounting that sense of ennui that hampers action. This was exactly the case with me for the past one week. i knew i had to post here and kept contemplating on what to write but just couldn't get myself to writing. First I had the excuse of studying for my exam. And then the absence of motivation in the lack of readers kept my blog in abeyance! i knew my not writing here wouldn't make much of a difference to how the world functions. The wheels of time would move just as slowly and Cyberspace would continue to expand at the same speed. No, this is not on a wistful note at all - but plain fact. But i shall try to be more regular in future - my monthly resolution since i started this blog!

i've begun to realise that it is not easy to maintain a general blog like mine. i knew i would run into stone walls looking for interesting things to write about. Who would be interested in knowing what i ate for lunch and how much time i spent simply changing channels on my Tata sky Plus in search of that elusive program. And now i know why people stick to specialised subjects. It not just makes writing easy but also makes the posts keyword rich. i too will gradually move on to the realm of including cyber jargon like keyword rich, SEO etc in due course. But i'd like to first be a generalist before i go on to be the specialist. But for now it is important to keep writing to keep the flow going.

So watch this space!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A baby's smiling face

There's no bigger joy in this world than a baby's smiling face. And the time just flies of in the company of their innocence. It was something similar for me during my trip to Delhi last weekend. My four-month-old niece is so great to be with. My sister had mentioned a lot of times about the lovely and Kute smiles she's begun throwing at faces looking at her trying to engage her in baby-talk. And i was really eager to see it for myself.

When i finally landed in Delhi to see my Darling Princess, i found her to be an absolute bundle of joy. She looks up at you with her big black eyes and looking at you smiling at her she breaks into her kutest smile! Her wide toothless smile simply makes my day! It's such a beautiful phase of life and I often wonder what are a baby's thoughts about the world around. The simplest of things amuse them and make them so happy.

She's a gurgling baby quite happy to be baby talking by herself on the bed.
Her eyes move around taking in the actions around her and legs rapidly kicking the air to show her excitement.

Another of her favourite diversion is to blissfully suck her thumb. It begins by putting in a few fingers and then find the thumb. If her gurgling stops midway you can be sure she's her thumb has found its way neatly into her mouth and she is happy to indulge herself!

But nothing makes her more happy than to have people around who talk to her. That's when you get to see her cherubic smile every 4 seconds. She is thrilled to be talking to you and sometimes knits her brows while making a profound statement in her baby language!

Baby Ananya has her own set of moods as well! She'll stare at you as if angry. And give you a good stare at that! :)

Or simply yawn away with boredom.

She is truly my Princess!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hollywood Bollywood ishtyle!

There have been enough Bollywood movies based on Hollywood movies. At times, the desi version is a frame to frame copy of its angrezi counterpart. Was wondering how would it be to reverse the equation. Imagine superhit Bollywood movies being made in English. i am most curious to know the plight of our famous and cliche hindi movie dialogues. And the reaction of the english audience when the hear lines that are mouthed only in this part of the Globe. Here's my guess:

Kutte, main tera khoon peejaaunga 
Dog, I'll drink your blood


Main tumhare bache ki maa bannewali hun 
I am going to be the mother of your child.

Maaaa, tu mujhe chhodke nahin jaa sakti 
motherrrrr, you can't leave me and go.....

kitne aadmi the? 
how many men were there? 

Basanti, in kutton ke saamne mat naachna.... 
Basanti, don't dance in front of these dogs

Mujhe tere charanon ke sugandh, maa, main us aadmi se badla leke rahunga jisne teri maang sooni kardi
I swear by your feet, mother, i will take revenge from that man who deserted your partition (on the head)

We've grown up dialogues like these but to imagine them in Hollywood flicks is so out of Place! 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Big Fat Traditional Indian Wedding!!

It seems like ages since i sat down to write my blog. i was kinda busy with a big, fat, traditional Indian wedding.  i was aware all my life that an Indian Wedding is nothing short of a mini carnival.  But i seem to notice more of its details since i myself got married. Aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, grand mums and grand dads, family friends and neighbours all descend out of nowhere to stand witness to the union of two bodies and souls.  There's a whole lot of shopping for clothes, jewellery, flowers, fruits, bookings for the venue, caterers, musicians, beauticians (even for men!) and mehendiwalis. Not to forget innumerable items to be bought for the ceremony itself depending on the tradition in which the wedding will be solemnised. Invitations to be selected, printed and distributed to a formidable number of relatives and long-forgotten friends. After all, a wedding invitation is a strong message of solidarity and unity towards all those who get it. (It is of great concern if there is a wedding of someone you know and you don't get invited!!) And then the management of the D-day itself to ensure that duties are delegated and all fronts well armed to handle any mishaps. The boy's side should have no reason to complain about anything. 

i also want to add that we are such slaves of tradition that i no matter where we are in the world, we home home to get married. Guess the feeling of being married doesn't register without the elaborate rituals. i know of a couple who met in the US and settled down there. But came back home to dare a gruelling and ponderous three day long ceremony that was required to declare them man and wife!! Smiling through the misery in the hot and humid month of June! After all, marriage is a social institution and it has to be social event as well! Warna log kya kahenge!! 

i find all this frenetic pace of activity very common across communities. (I've witnessed the union of both North Indian and South Indian souls!!) But then there can be an alternative way of this union. Go to the court and sign a register before the Magistrate (which is also not as simple as it sounds, trust me, but simpler than the traditional jingbang!) But can we ever conceive an Indian Wedding as humdrum as signing a register and it's all over!! Or is it?

At the end of the day, everyone heaves a sigh of collective relief. The coy bride is finally gone with her groom for a happily ever after married life.  The decorations are pulled down and all the relatives are gone into oblivion waiting to re-emerge in the next family congregation. The long day is over and the musicians have gone home. We don't need them anymore because the music will be made elsewhere! 

In the midst of frantic preparations for the event itself, we forget that this is not the end but the beginning for the two people involved. It doesn't matter which way you got married - traditional or registered (Trust me! I have been through both -  with the same person!!!!). Or how many guests ate at the feast or how expensive were the gifts everyone got. All that matters is the course of married life that the couple follows. Ironically, the entire swarm of relatives will be missing from the action when the two actually learn to co-exist with each other. The true challenge actually begins when all the romance of the courtship goes poof in the face of realities. There's much more to life after the initial euphoria of getting  married is over. One can make a good life and justify all the hullabaloo or just give up on the each other and be in the news once again for the wrong reasons - Seperation! 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Men Vs Women

WOMEN SHOP: i just loooove going around the mall because it's so nice to look around. i don't intend to buy anything. Wow! That blue scarf looks so nice, let me check out more of those.

30 minutes later - none of these scarves are worth buying, i think i'll buy that green shirt. Bhaiya, can i see more colours in this pattern? Show me that red one and the blue one also. Does that jacket go with this?

20 minutes later - How much for this peach one, bhaiya? 200 rupees?? That's very costly. i won't give that much. i'll give only 100 rupees. No? ok forget it! i don't think i like any of them. Will try some other shop.

Passing through a purse shop - i really don't need a purse but there's no harm going and looking at the stuff.

40 min later - i can't believe i got such a good deal on this purse. Wait till i show this to Sheela and make her jealous. i think i should try and look at some junk jewellery now. Since i have come all the way i might try somethings out.

MEN SHOP - Walk into the shop. Head to the desired section. Pick up the desired colour. Try. Buy.

WOMEN TALK: You won't believe i went out shopping yesterday and there were these lovely shirts and i couldn't decide which one to buy at all and this shop keeper showed me so many colours but i wasnt sure so i went and bought a lovely purse instead. In between, i actually wanted to buy one of them but that bhaiya said such a high price that i said forget it. You know i tried this new face wash and it really makes my face look so soft and nice, i'll show you when you come to my house. i have so much work to do at home and just not enough time. What did you make for lunch today? i just made $@%^& because it was so boring to cook today. i am planning to order food from outside for night. A new restaurant has come up in our area, have heard that it is good. You know kids are so happy to eat outside food now-a-days. So i don't mind ordering food because kids means so much of more work that i dont get free time at all to chit chat with anyone, not even with my husband. Today i thought i'll clean my room because its been so long sincei did it that i can't find my things anywhere. Oh btw, did you watch the latest episode of &#(*^ what a big twist in the story! i feel so sorry for urvila, i don't know how she's gong to manage now....

MEN TALK - So how was office today? i am fine. Working towards meeting my targets this year. The markets are so slow. Let's catch up for a drink someday after work.Whatsay?

What a lovely saree you are wearing Mrs. Garely! i bought mine from this store in the downtown that has only imported stock. My husband says no local shocal stuff for us. He is going abroad tomorrow and get me imported perfumes from there. Tomorrow i am going to my aunt's house, arre the one who lives in T nagar because she is celebrating her 60th birthday. Oh you should see her the way she dresses up. She just doesn't want to accept that she has grown old. She spends so much on her clothes and make-up i wonder from where she gets all the money. She has so many servants and my bai here does such sloppy work. i told her that if she doesn't work properly i'll kick her out and get someone else in her place. So many girls are available now-a-days. Is that real diamond, Mrs. Dido? oh Solitaire! i like diamonds only from Amsterdam, real diamonds you know. My boss is such a B**** .....

MEN GET TOGETHER - Wonder where our country is heading to with the kind of politicians we have! We have no action plan to fight the recession. Our travel budget has been slashed by half. We can see any hope only if $#@%^ party comes to power. We need young people like Obama to come to power. Btw, i read about this really advanced version of a radio today. It can not just play your ipod and FM channels but also has a remote you can operate it with.

WOMEN UPSET: i just don't have enough clothes to carry for the picnic next week. i also need to buy a matching nail paint with my new dress. $#@$% has such a lovely pair of boots and it suits her also with her slender figure she looks like a chick and all the men must be drooling looking at her. Oh God! i got a fresh pimple last night and i have no clue what to do tomorrow for the get together of our colony society. It should not be too much of a problem because there are going to be only lots of aunties with flabby waists and i can show off my new dress and take their attention off my face and the damn pimple. i also have to go the parlour tomorrow for my facial appointment and waxing i already look like a chimpanzee with hair all over me....

MEN UPSET - i missed the match on TV. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hum Hindustani!!

India is land of festivals. Almost everyday is celebrated by one or the other community somewhere in the country. We have a fair idea of the common festivals like Diwali, Christmas, Holi and Id. We know about lights, cakes, colours and Biryani! But there are a plethora of other festivals celebrated across India not just in other communities but also in our own. But we only have a vague idea about them. And most of us don't have the time or inclination to educate ourselves about the mythical significance or sagas that went into the making  of these special days.

As children, we have been a part of the preparations for special occasions. We have seen our mothers clean and decorate the house (we were only assistants back then!!), make sweets specific to the festival and tell us what to do on those days. We were only happy to gorge on sweets, rustling around in our new clothes! 

Born and lived in Bangalore for 16 yrs, i am at best a pseudo-punjabi and can't claim to be grounded in either culture. As a child, i have nibbled on neem leaves and jaggery for Ugadi, been part of Mahashivratri festivities and burst crackers for our own Diwali. Another decade in Delhi exposed me to a whole lot of festivals, more North Indian in flavour. The fervour of Navratras twice a year is a regular feature up north of the country. In fact, even we began the ritual of making halwa, puri and chhole for Ashtami - something that we didn't do while in Bangalore since that spirit was hardly palpable down south.  The festival Raksha Bandhan that i thought was just tying a thread turned out to be a huge festival in its own right. Sweet makers extend their stalls for at least a week in advance to cater to the demands around the festival. Diwali brought in even more feverish pace of festivities. 

Having been through the khichdi of Indian festivals, i am still not sure if i can really claim to know properly why even one of them is celebrated. What is the importance of the rituals or the sweets associated with the day. i wonder how equipped are we, as a Young Generation, to pass on those values to our kids. Will we, with our busy lifestyle, have the time, energy, inclination and motivation to teach our kids about the rich Indian festivals and why they are celebrated? Will i as a mother, sit my kid down on Onam and make floral rangoli outside my house? Will we be able to educate them about the importance of Durga Pooja, Easter, Vishu, Gudi Padwa? Will i, on my own, even keep track of when those festivals come and go? i don't think i could do justice to days like Lohri and Baisakhi which are festivals of the Punjabi Community - technically my own. 

With the extent of cultural decline in our generation, i wonder what would it be like for the next generation. i wonder how much of that festival fervour will our kids be lucky enough to experience. We have lived a fair bit that our parents handed us town. It wasn't the real thing like it probably was in their childhood with extended families, palatial homes with verandas and the real culture in its true essence still alive and kicking. Folk songs for every festival and home made tasty food stuff. But we have still seen some of that glory and lived it! 

Today, i feel, we are so captivated by the so called modern culture that we are forgetting our cultural roots. This is a double-edged sword. It's not just taking us away from our own culture but also not helping make an alien culture completely our own. It is so important for us to try and retain some of that ardour we have inherited. Because we belong here, to this great nation called India. And no matter how much we laud other progressive nations and ape the west in what we wear and eat, our Dil will still be Hindustani. We need to ensure that our rich cultural heritage is not lost in our generation. We need to do justice to our Indianness and preserve its true reflection for the future generations - our festivals. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aaj pehli taarikh hai!

As i was mulling over what to write, write i had to on the first day of the month....i remembered the punch line of Cadbury's. The world of advertising just got a little more aggressive. My memories of retaliation in advertising go back to the Pepsi-cola war when there were sequels of ad campaigns fiercely trying to outdo each other. And the most recent one being the hit-back of Munch with the proposition that Munch can be eaten on any date, day after day!  i thought that was kinda cute way of getting back. Also the ad of a competing water filter brand has a guy in a yellow raincoat reminding us of Pureit. Maybe we don't have enough original ideas left in the industry that copy writers look at existing campaigns for inspiration. No harm on making fun of your opposition but i think this could be done with more subtlety. 

One thing that i really love about ads today is the widespread presence of kids. From washing powders to selling insurance - kids are all over the place. i feel this makes the ad that much more easy to recall. With most choices made in the family being pegged on kids' whims and fancies, it seems to only reflect the change in our social fabric. While kids provide us entertainment value, whether or not we buy the product and their parents are laughing all the way to the bank, i guess no ones complaining. We can hope to see more cute kids showcasing their talent for those few seconds pulling at the strings of our hearts.