Tuesday, July 06, 2010

My fave Seinfeld videos

My favourite Seinfeld videos

Thursday, October 15, 2009

16 things I accomplished in my 25th year

I turn 25 end of this month. And while the big five-and-twenty is bound to induce a severe quarter-life crisis (or not), I thought I might as well deal with it beforehand by listing things I did this "silver" year.

Here they are, categorised:
  1. Changed jobs despite the recession
  2. Got involved in an entirely new area of work: online/ digital/ social media

  3. Personal
  4. Lost seven kilos, 28 inches all over, and losing some more
  5. Learnt how to swim: breast stroke, freestyle and now on backstroke
  6. Made new friends (RK, Amtak) and kept in touch with old ones (Cin, Megs, Sam) :-)
  7. Dared to cut my hair really really short and chic!
  8. Began enjoying my singlehood (that's never happened before)

  9. Geeky Stuff
  10. Made great progess in Spanish: can speak fluently, can read faster, and I cleared Level 1 of DELE!
  11. Revived Verbalist
  12. Started a fashion blog and manage to keep it somewhat updated
  13. Taught myself to draw... kinda!
  14. Learnt a few car how-to and technology basics

  15. Writing
  16. Got a few bylines
  17. Entered M&B Passions Writing contest (didn't win, but liked the story)
  18. Entered Vogue Young Writers contest (again, didn't win but got hooked to fashion and fashion writing)

  19. Indulgence
  20. Saved enough to buy myself a brand new Toshiba Satellite L510 laptop. It's sleek, classy, fast and turning into an addiction for me!

PS- May add to this list later.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rajasthan April 2009: Days Three and Four

Tuesday-Wednesday, April 7-8, 2009

It was time to head to Jodhpur- the Sun City. After twiddling thumbs at the airport for more than two hours, we finally got on to a tiny plane that took us to Jodhpur.

Jodhpur is like any other town in India, with simply-dressed people, crowded market places and poor public transportation. But what I missed (and liked) the most was the lack of screaming outdooor hoardings that hit you in Bombay. There were no messages to urging me to watch a regressive TV programme or buy an expensive laptop I don't need. However, the few outdoor ads that I saw were mostly exhorting me to vote for an old man trying to become PM. Other major differences- the non-existent skyline, the easygoing attitude, and the fact that their autos don't have meters! So this is how it works: you tell the auto driver where you want to go. He quotes a price. You bargain or you agree. Either way, you go.

That evening, we shopped, and we shopped, and then we shopped some more. A family friend settled in Jodhpur led our expedition through the land of cotton and handmade fabrics, bandhini, leheriya... you name it. And we discovered that this inconspicuous town has amazing stuff at great prices.

Next morning, we headed to Mehrangarh Fort, built on a hill. Built in the 15th century by Rao Jodha, it overlooks the Blue City. (The Blue City is an area with a large number of blue homes- indicating that Brahmins reside there. Yes, the caste system still exists.) Encircling the blue houses is a 10-km long wall which served as a deterrent for possible invaders, and closely resembles the Great Wall of China.

I was happy to note that the fort is one of the cleanest public places in India I have seen. The guide was made it clear when he said- the fort is run by a private trust. No wonder! :-)

There is lots to see in the fort- the royal family's weapons, ornate silver palanquins, the bedrooms and entertainment areas and the open courtyards. Needless to say, the fort is well-preserved. The fort shop is worth a visit too.

From there we went to nearby Jaswant Thada, the tomb of earlier kings of the region. The architectural style is similar to that of the fort, with small gardens as you walk toward the main tombs.

As the sun beat down on us from the noon sky, we went shopping again. This time for bangles and jootis. The marketplace was crowded, and the lanes are too narrow for even a small car. Wiser to hail an autorickshaw. I noticed some signboards in French at the entrance of the market. And tourists were lurking around. But further inside, even tourists disappear.

Anyone in Jodhpur will tell you proudly that Maharaja Gaj Singh lives in the palace his grandfather built over a period of 15 years starting in 1928. It's now called Umaid Bhawan Palace, and after a series of ownership changes, is now run by the Taj group of hotels.

We weren't staying there, but visited the museum. You can't go to the hotel unless you're staying there or having a meal. The museum is not grand, but you can see several photographs and artifacts. They have an entire gallery of clocks and crockery! The lifestyle of the erstwhile Maharajas was entirely luxurious, resplendent and they left no stone unturned in ensuring everything was impeccable and to classy taste. Nothing OTT, classy yet understated.

Well, I knew I was coming back to Jodhpur in three days, so left some shopping and other good stuff for Saturday.

More on that later...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rajasthan April 2009: Day Two

Monday, April 6, 2009

The first stop for Day Two was the main purpose of the trip- visiting Nathdwara, a temple dedicated to Lord Shreenathji, a form of Lord Krishna. Approximately 55 kms from Udaipur, it was mom's idea that praying at this famous temple will get me married soon. :-)

Nathdwara temple wasn't crowded, perhaps due to exams, as the priests claimed. But the crowd management was abominable, to say the least. Queueing up is meaningless because you get to see the shining dark Vishnu idol from at least 20 feet away. Thus, in the quest for heavenly blessing, I was pushed and shoved by women, a fat woman placed her sumo-wrestler bicep across my neck till I choked, my dupatta was all over the place, and I even fell once. And oh, mom's purse was literally in shreds when we were done with the spectacular darshan.

After this mind-boggling experience, we headed to Ranakpur, couple of hours' drive from Udaipur. Ranakpur houses a 15th century Jain temple, built during the rule of Rana Kumbh of Mewar.

We first had lunch there- a filling meal for a mere Rs 20. They served puris with subzi, chutney and dal, gurudwara-style, except we were seated on long tables and benches.

We headed to the temple after lunch. A notice informed us that visitors must be decently dressed. I saw foreign women putting on loose pyjamas over shorts, jackets over their tank tops and ghagra skirts over their itsy skirts before entering. One American student had to cover up with a pink nighty!

I didn't think much of this grand marble temple at first glance. But a closer look quickly changed my mind.

Once inside, it's easy to lose your sense of direction because their are imposing pillars, ornate ceilings and separate "sections", demarcated only by steps and change in levels. Lining the temple's entire inner perimeter are statues of the Jain tirthankaras. They all look similar, but each tirthankara is identified with a symbol just below the idol. The sculptural style of these Jain gurus closely resemble depictions of Buddha- the lotus pose, half-closed eyes and a serene expression.

Other than that, there were sculptures of elephants, Lord Krishna with Radha and kalpataru (the wishing tree). And when I looked up at the ceiling and inner domes, I realised that this temple was a class apart from the Dilwara temple at Mount Abu.

The large number of seriously-interested foreigners accompanied by Indian multi-lingual guides surprised me. But nothing prepared me for the following conversation:

Temple priest to a European couple (after hearing them speak): "Are you from Spain?"
Man: No. From Eee-taa-lee.
Priest: Oh! Ciao! ("Hi" in Italian)

The priest had observed the couple talking, and like most people, confused Italian with Spanish (it's happened with me earlier too). Which means the priest had an ear for recognising languages.

The same priest gave pithy explanations of the temple's main features to an American student group while some of us eavesdropped. He pointed out that some of the sculpturing on the pillars was actually hollow, and that the temple location was ideal- far away from possible invaders and sheltered from wild animals.

As I left the temple, I tried to capture the temple's length in a single photograph, but just couldn't get it right. Capturing the entire temple in one photo is possible only if you're standing far away, hence losing the important details.

Rajasthan is synonymous with history, so it was time for a real history lesson. Haldighati was to be our learning ground. That's the place where Maharana Pratap Singh I's army fought against the Mughals in 1576. The place is called so because the mud there resembles the colour of turmeric (haldi used in cooking). In this battle, Maharana's loyal horse Chetak died defending his master. What happened was this- Chetak was struck by a spear in his hind leg as he attacked an elephant(!). On just three legs, he limped more than three kms to take his master back to safety, even crossing a stream. In his memory is Chetak Smarak. I was touched by Chetak's story, and thought he was great competition to Lassie.

Further up the same road (or what could pass for a road) was the Maharana Pratap Museum. It's a small place with paintings depicting his life and ancestors, small-scale models of his fort and Haldighati, and a short film about the battle. There was also a "light and sound show" during which we passed by scenery that came to life- with striking lights and sound. Not a world-class affair, but passable and a good attempt to create a somewhat realistic experience.

At that point, I wished we could have more funding to make better museums- there could be so much more edutainment for the people. And as expected, the place was devoid of foreigners. Outside the museum was a rose processing unit, so we bought a bottle of rosewater. There were also some cultural depictions of the Rajasthani life, but nothing interesting. And a couple of small touristy souvenir shops- which were well-stocked with stuff I would never want to buy.

The sun had almost completed its east to west journey by then. We drove back to Devigarh, exhausted. The candlelight dinner on the terrace was the perfect end to a tiring day of history lessons- all infinitely more interesting than my school texts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rajasthan April 2009: Day One

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The day before I set out on a trip, I am in an ecstatic mood. But by the time I'm on the plane, the excitement disappears. This time it was different. Saturday was a crazy day. I had to balance work with last-minute errands and shopping. On the way to the airport next morning, I wasn't even sure I was really going somewhere. Mom and I checked in, sleepwalked through security check, boarded the plane.

High in the skies, I became a child setting out on an adventure. And then we landed at Udaipur. There I discovered- horror of horrors- a CLEAN public toilet. The bathroom didn't have great interiors, but it was sparkling clean and completely odour-free. Not even a hint of some tacky air freshner. Admirable.

But Udaipur was not our destination. We were headed to a small town called Delwara, where Devigarh is located. Devigarh is a boutique hotel which was earlier a fort. Built in the late 18th century, the fort was in a dilapidated state before it was bought by the present owners. I can only imagine the kind of work they must have done on restoring the fort to its natural glory before opening its doors to the public in 2000.

The first glimpse of Devigarh is stunning. As you go up the winding road to the fort, the peek-a-boo builds an aura of quiet mystery. From afar, it looks like an old empty building, waiting to be conquered by people and objects. It looks the kind of place where you would expect ghosts to be roaming the corridors.

But the warmth of the staff is enough to shake that notion aside. A few things struck me as Mom and I explored the hotel that evening: firstly, the designer and architect have taken painful steps to ensure that everything is just right- the decor and ambience are tranquil, but not boring. This perfectly suits the hush surrounding the fort.

Secondly, hats off to their restoration team for fashioning a look that is contemporary and goosebump-inducing at the same time. The room design is minimalistic but luxurious, modern yet centuries-old. The soothing white finish of the room is complimented with old bronze statuettes, artifacts and paintings.

Lastly, thanks to the hotel's apparent emptiness, geographic isolation and its quiet domination over the surrounding hills, I could not help but feel that we were alone in the middle of nowhere. But when I walked around the empty Durbar Hall, lazed by the vacant pool and dined in an almost-empty restaurant, I could sense the reassuring personal touch. It was there in the refilled marble dry fruit tray in the sitting room, the soft fabric of the lounge chairs, and the flickering candle flame at the dinner table.

Sheer bliss!