Monday, December 14, 2009

The Big Apple: New York City

Every city in the world has a pulse of its own…a fast paced pulse like that of Mumbai or a slow languid pulse reminiscent of any smaller city in India such as Nagpur. It could be a pulse where u see money and opulence everywhere, like Dubai or yet another pulse, that of power, like that of New Delhi where the heart of politics can be felt. It could even have a pulse of heritage, which the great cities of Europe with all their works of Art and architecture revel in. There could also be a pulse which is cosmopolitan as compared one that is very regional like Chennai. Well, the New York City has this vibrant pulse to it…one driven by money from the Wall street, by the power that comes from the money besides its imposing sky scrapers, a pulse that is as heterogeneous as the mix of global cross cultures that inhabit it, a pulse that draws hordes of tourists and dreams from all over the world.

New York or the ‘Big Apple’ was always a city that I looked forward to seeing. After living virtually for several years with the characters of all the television serials, Friends, How I met your Mother, Sex and the City etc, apart from watching a string of Bollywood movies such as ‘Kal ho naa ho’, a movie called ‘New York’ itself etc, Well, I had to go see the place!

As I got out of the subway at the Penn Station, the neon lights of Times Square dazed me as did the sheer vibrancy of the place. The Desperate Housewives and other television stars winked tantalizingly at me from the massive lit up hoardings. Broadway musicals dotted the road and the huge swarm of tourists buzzed around happily in wonder. Everything wore a festive look including the NY Police Dept. and the Subway! It certainly was difficult to tear away from the place in the coming days. I have never seen as many tourists in one place as I did in the Times Square.

New York has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. We took this pass called the New York City Pass, which was quite cool. Most of the entry charges to various places, are indeed quite high (in the range of $20-$40 per head), because of why these passes help save atleast a bit. We had taken a 3 day pass that gave us admission to most places and a metro unlimited pass that allowed us to hop off and on any trains for that fixed cost for seven days…Well, for first timers, it would be helpful to check out all these offers on travel, and sight seeing before they venture out and pay individual destinations. There are options to travel by the metro, by the Grayline sight seeing buses and cabs. It was fun taking up the map of NY City and exploring all the various options.
Amongst the touristy buildings in NY, the Empire State Building is well known throughout the world, and has featured in several movies such as KingKong, Sleepless in Seattle and some older classics. The 86th floor observatory gives panoramic views of the entire New York City on a clear day and they say one can see as far as Massachusetts on an ultra clear day. It certainly is worth the wait of well over 2 hours, after being a part of the hordes of tourists, who throng the place from all parts of the globe. It was awesome to just look and look down below at all those tall buildings! The New York sky ride was also an interesting experience too in a 4D theatre and almost felt like we were actually in a helicopter seeing the city down below!
The other tall building which we saw by night was the Rockefeller center from the 68th floor observatory deck or the ‘Top of the Rock’ as it is called. The illuminated city of NY and the grand Empire State building were another visual treat from way up there.

Coming to the museums, the Madame Tussad’s Museum was a lot of fun, and let us hobnob with the celebrities around the world including our own Gandhiji and Amitabh Bacchan. The other interesting museum was the American Museum of Natural History where the dinosaur loving Ross Geller of ‘Friends’ worked for sometime and where the movie, ‘Night at the Museum’ was set. For Art lovers, the Metropolitan Museum of Art located on ‘Museum Mile’ near Central Park, is one of the world’s largest art galleries.

Another famous landmark, the Central Park is a vast expanse of greenery and beauty, and an oasis among the high rises. With artists sitting around the park, drawing caricatures and portraits for a small fee, horse drawn carriages with horsemen dressed in medieval attires, the Central Park is a wonderful picnic spot where one can sit back, relax and just chill out in the open. We also entertained ourselves at the Central Park Zoo where we unfortunately didn’t see Marty the Zebra or Alex the lion of ‘Madagascar’ though we did see the cute penguins!

Another really touristy thing that one can do, and we did, was to take the Circle Line Sightseeing cruise. This 2-3 hours twilight cruise, took us across the Manhattan shoreline on the Hudson river across the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty, showing us the high power Financial District in Manhattan, Chelsea, our home in New Jersey City :) that overlooks the Hudson etc etc in the daylight, twilight and dusk. We ended the tour with a bang as the Diwali firecrackers took off onto a spectacular show!
There are also interesting regional nooks in the city such as Little China, where the early mandarin population clustered around and where even all the sign boards are in Chinese! A romantic dinner in one of the quaint restaurants in Mulberry Street which is one of the dwindling lanes of Little Italy should certainly not be missed.

I guess, there is a lot lot more to be told and even more to be explored. But I guess, these are some of the things that I found quite interesting.

Apart from seeing the city, its living there that is an altogether a different experience. Cities like NY, Mumbai, cannot be really seen. They have to be experienced. Like I said at the start, it’s the pulse of the city that makes all the difference. Its not just tall buildings and neon lights that make the city’s heart beat but the power that is reflected in the great throng of ordinary and brilliant people who go about their work purposefully day after day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: Eldest by Christopher Paulini

One of the reasons why I bought this book was, the outstanding cover of a flaming Red Dragon with flaring nostrils and baleful eyes. Good thing it turned out to be, for I judged the book by its cover.

‘Eldest’ is a fantastic tale woven with all the elements of mystery, magic, moral values and myriad characters, and not unlike the Lord of the Rings. The book is well researched, and the Ancient Languages, dragons, elves, dwarves, humans, sinister creatures the Ra’zac, wizards with their powerful spells and swords, dangerous journeys, and wars makes this book a runaway hit with fantasy fans.

After the prodigious journey from a simple village boy to the responsibility of being a Rider, Eragon takes off from he leaves in the first book after killing the evil Durza and rescuing the elf Arya. Eragon and his dragon Saphira have miles to go before they can aim to defeat the wicked tyrant king Galbatorix. They traverse to Ellesmera, the elven forest city to be under the tutelage of Oromis to learn advanced magic and secrets of the Riders. Parallely, his cousin Roran, leads his entire village away from the rule of the Empire to the safety of the Varden, the rebel group dedicated to overthrowing Galbatorix. Roran travels with his cavalcade in a spine chilling journey as the sinister creatures, the Ra’zac continuously stalk them. War clouds loom large, and Eragon leaves his training unfinished as he rushes to the rescue of the Varden and its allies headed by Nasuada. A surprise is sprung in the middle of the battle, as Eragons’s old friend reemerges.

What I liked about the book was the amazing narration, and the strength of the characters crafted by the very young author who was only 21 when this book was published. Each of the characters, Eragon, Saphira, Arya, Nasuada, Roran, Oromis, Orik, Elva, Galbatorix, Murtagh and the others leave a lasting impression on the reader. Values and emotions are powerfully etched for each of the characters and they range from friendship, loyalty, love, courage and responsibility to everything evil, betrayal, tyranny and selfishness. I look forward to seeing the development of these characters and more action in next books Brisingr and the yet to be released book and await an exciting finish to this epic tale.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Book Review: 2 States by Chetan Bhagat

When I read the back cover of 2 States, there was no suspense left of course, about the theme or the story, but well, the book was certainly highly entertaining. Of the earlier books of Chetan Bhagat, I had enjoyed 5 Point Someone and had trashed the 3 mistakes of my life as well as 1 night @ the call center... I know this is digressing, but just happened to realise, that all his works have some number in them..ah well, he still has the number 4 before he finishes 5 books. :-)

Anyway, coming back to the book 2 states, its a hackneyed plot of a beautiful and smart girl Ananya and an obviously not so stupid guy, Krish. If you remember the 5 point some protagonist, well that’s him, now continuing at IIMA. They fall in love at IIM and decide to get married. Well, that’s where the fun starts. Ananya comes from a conservative Tamilian background and Krish is a Punjabi with a Mom having flamboyant ambitions for her prize son. Ananya's parents want her to marry the virtuous Tamilian geek from Cisco, whereas Krish's mom wants him to marry Pummy auntijis daughter who'll inherit 3 petrol pumps!

Of course, they brave all the odds, with Krish, making a his prospective Mother-in- law a singer in a public concert, helping Dad-in-law with MS PowerPoint, and Ananya saves Rajji Mamas daughter's wedding from getting wrecked by demanding samdhijis etc etc!  The wooing of the respective in-laws I guess, is more difficult than wooing the girl/guy itself in India!

Chetan Bhagat certainly has done well in his quest to be 'India's most loved writer'.. He certainly doesn’t write great literary works, but he definitely entertains.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Review: The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth

This book published in 1984 is set in an era of the Cold War, a state of ceaseless military, political and economic tension.
A supreme plot of a plan, audacious beyond belief,starts off in Britain, with the not so innocuous theft of diamonds and with them unwittingly extremely confidential high security documents that have apparently been leaked. The documents are sent back by the patriot enough thief to the right people, sparking off intelligence operations. Several thousand miles away at Moscow, a plan is being hatched, that seeks to spiral Britain into revolution. MI5 officer John Preston, leads the operation of unraveling the Russian operation called Plan Aurora, and to stop a devastating trigger that would cause a cataclysmic shift in the balance of powers on the globe. This racy book catapults the reader into the web of lethal power play, covert agents, treachery and spine chilling lengths that people go to achieve their means. I ld give a four star to this book.

A movie based on this book starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan would be worth seeing after reading the book.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Umajoshi ye ye ye

Was just reminiscing about the good ol' days when we used to play those mast games and sing silly songs and clap along!
It used to be so much fun playing in the evenings till Moms had to come and drag us back home to have dinner and do our homework. And we used always shout out our friends' names to come and play downstairs!

"Colour Colour which Colour do you want"!! and then a scramble for the reds/blues/greens on whoever was wearing that colour!
This one was I guess, not too common...a mix of Colour colour and Dongar aur Paani (Land and water) was "Crocodile Crocodile, can we cross the river...Yes if you have Red!!"
Then there was Bachao Sakhali and Hide and Seek and a variant Stop Party, Langdi, Jhipri, the hot favorite Vish Amrit with various names such as Poison and Medicine, Lock and Key!, then there was an indoor, rather inside the building games Corner to corner, one to do with a hanky..with all of us sitting in a circle and chanting "I wrote a letter to my mother and on the way I lost it lost it lost it. The postman came and picked it up and put it in his pocket pocket pocket..",..Well I dont remember the rest!

Selecting the danner was another ritual...we went "Dip dip blue ship..sailing in the water, like a cup and saucer, dip dip dip"!
There were stupid ones like "In pin septi pin, in pin out.." and who can forget ganda songs like "Aada pada kisne paada, mamaji ka ghoda pada...!!..wont say the rest!", then a simple 10 20 30 ...100 (out), or putting our hands facing our palms or otherwise and y elling, Majority!!

And what about the clapping games we girls played...Alas I hardly remember all those songs except my favorite Umajoshi which come to think of it now, couldnt have been sillier!
It went ..
"Umajoshi ye ye ye
My mother told me sixty years ago
There came a lady knocking at the door
With a Ooh, Aah, I want some Pah!!(?)
The Pah is sweet, I want some Meat
the meat is tough, I want to go by bus
The bus is full, I want to go by bull
The bull is fat, I want my money back
The money is green, I want some cherry beans
The cherry beans are red, I want to go to bed
The bed is yellow, goodbye dirty fellow!!!"

the shortest one..."Aaa mina...clap clap clap....super sina...clap clap clap...big boys...clap clap clap...lazy girls clap clap clap...
Aa mina supersina big boys lazy girls ..Statue!!

Of all the Charlie Chaplin songs, I remember only one now..
"Charlie Chaplin went to town, to teach a lady disco dance
A knee, a Toe, A round we go
Salute to the king and Bow to the queen,
O V E R over over over, Statue!!!

Another fun game was "Who stole the cookies from the cookies jaar"...Number 3 stole the cookies from the cookies jar...who me, yes you, couldnt be, then who?...........

If u remember any more rituals and games and silly put them on!!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Marvellous Mahabaleshwar

This time I ll let the pictures do the talking. A picture is worth a thousand words you see!

Branching out

What we ate the most!

Monkey Business!

We in the Valleys

Butta Woman

Strawberries with Cream...Mmmmmmmmm

I thought this was only in kiddies drawings!

Crrrunchy Carrots

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

See the elephant?

At the Summit of Glory

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The little grey cells of Hercule Poirot: Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie has always been one of my favorite authors and her fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot has been an all time favorite character.

Captain Arthur Hastings, Poirot’s friend, describes Poirot as:
"He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible.
The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police."

The ‘little grey cells’ of Poirot have never ceased to amaze me. When the most puzzling of all mysteries, flummoxes all at Scotland yard, and of course, the reader, Poirot, with a twirl of his moustache, clears all the haze. I recently read the stories in ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’, a collection of six superb stories which leave the reader guessing. A valuable ruby hidden in the pudding, a man found dead in a Spanish chest, a dream about suicide come true, all were planned so ingeniously, but ofcourse, just a tad less ingeniously for Poirot to unearth the truth! This book also features a story solved by the adorable grandmotherly Miss Jane Marple.

What has me hooked to Agatha Christie is the build up of the story, the typical English characters, traditional English house holds comprising of maids, butlers etc, the brilliance of the plot itself which seemingly is so impossible, but when Poirot, opens the cards, its all crystal clear, almost as if, there could be no other solution! Wish our police force solving all those murder mysteries such as the Aarushi case, had Hercule Poirot’s little grey cells!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: The Financial Expert by R.K Narayan

Indian Authors have always been high on my reading list. I reckon it is because I certainly can associate with what they write and the very Indianness of the characters. I recently read up ‘The Financial Expert’ by one prolific writer known as RK Narayan. This tale is yet another that is woven in the fictitious town of Malgudi set in Tamil Nadu.

The story revolves around the rise and fall in fortunes of Margayya, a financial wizard who helps out people sort out their financial woes. The colourful delineation of Malgudi is a delight, and brings out several facets of traditional Indian life. Margayya seemingly lacks nothing in life as he progresses from under the banyan tree to a celebrity status with a formidable reputation in money matters. Unfortunately, his pampered son, does not show the same ambition, and spends his time frittering his father’s wealth. The story is extremely simple, but it’s the endearing and humorous depiction of the South Indian characters that takes the cake and differentiates RK Narayan from other authors.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Goaahhhhhhhhhhhh…Goaaa. .Thats where I headed to last weekend after a lot of planning that usually goes and went completely haywire, and eleventh hour decisions that saved the day.

Goa is the land of bountiful beaches, silvery sands and wondrous waters. The desert, I mentioned in my earlier blog was the fourth wonder. The ocean, I say with all its miracles is the first and the most formidable of all. All the other wonders I was speaking of, the vast mountains, the endless skies and the blazing sands are no doubt humongous stretches, but the Sea, has one more facet to it….it Moves. The waves crashing on to the shore, speak of a life in it..a life that is serene at times and utterly menacing at other times when it rages violent storms and tsunamis wrecking havoc everywhere.

Well it's not just the sea that we went to see there ofcourse. Its the vibrancy and vigour of Goa that pulled us to it. With water sports on Calangute beach, romantic candlelit dinners at the Baga beach, lazy afternoons at shacks at Anjuna, the picturesque Vagator and Candolim beaches gives pretty much everything that one would desire wrt beaches! The pulse of Goa is lively and spirited with everyone from the shack waiters to the watersports wallahs serving people cheerfully. Midnight sees all of Goa still buzzing with brightly lit streets, restaurants alive, shops still selling wares off the roads and zingy bikers having a gala time flitting from one beach to another on these conveniently rented bikes. So you see, its always party time at Goa! The Saturday night bazaar or the flea market as they call it, was another interesting experience, with more pardesis (mostly in weird clothes) than desis.

Goa certainly rocks…I can’t wait to have another trip! Go Goa!

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Fourth Wonder

It was a sunny afternoon when I discovered Beauty. I had considered three elements, the turbulent seas, the star studded unending skies and the imposing mountains as the most awe inspiring wonders I had ever known. That day I discovered the fourth. It was the hauntingly starved desert. I had seen the desert on television, the biggest it got for me was 32’’. When I saw the Waheeba Sands at Oman, I discovered another facet of nature previously unknown to me. It was as vaster than I could see, more beautiful than I had imagined it to be. There was so much sand everywhere. Humongous stretches of ceaseless sand were interspersed with shrubs that looked ravaged by the blazing sun. I saw Sand that had built itself into mammoth dunes which looked more like mountains to me, Sand that was so fine that it felt like water in my hands, Sand that formed beautiful waves styled by the wind, Sand which changed colors from red to white to brown as we changed course in the desert and Slippery Sands on which Camels walked on with ease. I was enthralled completely by the beauty of the whole vista.
On the few meanderings I have had in this life, I ve always been fascinated with all that is natural on this earth. The verdant hills, the majestic mountains, the blue seas, the winding rivers and many more, are far more scenic than any sky scrapers or monuments Man could have ever built. Perhaps there is a certain power, a certain life to all that is natural. The sea moves like most other living beings or even the supposedly still desert, has sands that keep shifting and sandstorms that are a powerful force. Hats off to this great Power!

A more detailed blog is also on