Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A post that goes nowhere

Packing for a vacation is a tricky business. Some, like the Boy, pack 1/2 an hour before leaving for the airport. Some, like my SIL, start packing 3 days before the vacation. And some, like a friend's MIL has a separate set of clothes for vacations which she packs weeks in advance!

Most people are like me - we start packing about 8-18 hours before our journey, depending on the flight schedule. So, like I have a flight tomorrow afternoon, I'll try to pack most of the stuff by tonight so that I can wake up late, bathe and just leave.

I usually go for one big vacation in a year. It is like an annual event for which I even buy new clothes. We never shop during our trips because, one, the Boy hates to enter shops, and two, because we never have the budget for it!! So before leaving, I'm told to buy whatever I want so that we can spend all the money on food and booze.

This year, however, I haven't done much shopping. I have no idea what I want to pack. The temperature is going to be around 20 degrees and so, a lot of skin show won't be possible! You see, our last trip was with my in-laws. I had to be fully clothed with them. So now, I'm dreaming of shortest shorts and skimpiest dresses. Ha! What is a vacation if you don't do stuff that you usually don't do, hmm?

Now here I am, 24 hours before I have to leave for an awesome trip, having no clue what to stuff in. However, I know everything the Boy will wear. He has the privilege of not knowing what is in the suitcase till we reach our destination. He says that I am too bossy and so he leaves the packing bit to me. I think he's too lazy! Also, I can't wait till the nth hour for him to pack and he will pack clothes from another era and then he will not fold them properly and....

Ok, I'm bossy, but it's for his own good.

I don't know what I want to achieve with this post. I've been trying to write since 2 days but have come up with absolutely nothing. I don't want to talk about NaMo or Rajdeep or Bigg Boss. I have a love/hate relationship going on with Karwachauth because, although I love the festival, the feminist in me hates the idea behind it. But I don't want to write about it either.

Oh by the way, I won a prize on Blogadda and was absolutely thrilled. This month, I also gifted a laptop to my maid's daughter in Lucknow. This was from my petite earnings from the prizes I win through this blog. She called me up and said so many awesome things that my eyes welled up. It made me feel better than how I feel when I win a prize :)

Anyway, I think I should end this jigsaw post and bid adieu to you guys. We will be in Greece for the next 10 days and soon after, we will head home for Diwali. I hope I can update this space and tell you all about the handsome men and women I see on the Greek Islands.

Till then, be good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Women Wear

It’s no hidden fact that women love to dress up. Our entire lives revolve around that one word – shopping. We may or may not be very fashionable, but we love to buy new clothes and flaunt them.

Whom do we dress for is a question that can have multiple answers. If one said she dressed for herself, you should probably look for the pajama she wears at home. If she has worn it for more than 6 months, then probably she doesn’t dress-up for herself. You know, because then her pajamas should be shiny as well.

If she says she dresses up for her partner, she would have an extensive lingerie collection as well. Now, of course, these generalizations are just, well, generalizations and are subject to standard deviations. The most common answer that you’ll hear is that we dress up to look good. Look good to whom? – One may ask. Well, to look good to other women.

How else can you explain the dressing up for Kitty parties? Women buy one new dress after the other bearing in mind that kitty party she has to go to the next month. They think of the coffee mornings, the girl’s night out and the Mommy meets before deciding on what to buy. We don’t want to impress other women, we just want to make them jealous. And somehow, we feel, wearing better clothes is one of the subtle ways to do that.

Women in Saudi Arabia wear abayas in public. But when they are at a party (which usually segregates men and women), they take off their abayas and show-off what they are wearing underneath it. I have heard that they are the most fashionable people in the whole world. If they dolled up for themselves or other men, they would probably never take off their abayas or probably wear basic, simple clothes. But because we dress up to look good, they go an extra mile to buy the most chic clothes available.

I still don’t know any woman who dresses to impress other men. I mean, do men even look at clothes? I assume they have wild imagination and if they want, they can even look underneath an abaya. Of course, most civilized men won’t do that.

This brings me to the whole cleavage controversy between Times of India and Deepika Padukone. If Deepika or any other woman wants to show-off her cleavage in REEL or REAL life, how does it matter? By pointing arrows on her assets, whom are you trying to titilize? Sure, you got a scandalous story on your site, but doesn’t that bother you that an educated lot like you has become like another road-side gunda?

What women wear has been under scrutiny for ages. Most people say women should dress up modestly to keep themselves safe.  Tell me, if men had such little self-control, would there be any nude beaches? Or rather, would there be any beaches at all? How would have cave men got any work done when they have had so many free-shows around them!?

If a woman wants to flirt with you, trust me, you would know. She doesn’t have to tighten her skirt or deepen her blouse to attract attention. We dress-up because we just LOVE to dress-up. You’re probably jealous because you just have that blue shirt and black pant. Pray you become a woman in your next life, because it is only then you will understand why we wear what we wear.

It is unfortunate that this article in TOI is by a woman herself. I really have no words to describe how ridiculous it all sounds. If the newspaper had apologized, it could have become like a ray of hope in our country. A response like this one is unbelievably regressive and makes me hate the newspaper and the journalism behind it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Movie Review - Daawat-e-ishq

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Daawat-e-ishq or the feast of love(!!) is set in the food havens of Lucknow and Hyderabad. Even though the title was repelling, I went in to watch only because I wanted to revisit my hometown and drool over the yummy Aditya Roy Kapur! Since I was able to do both, the movie worked for me.

The movie starts in Hyderabad where Gulrez (Parineeti) is looking for prospective grooms for herself. She is a well-educated, confident girl who refuses to settle for any Tom, Dick or Harry. Her father (Anupam Kher), a clerk in the High Court, has collected over 15 lacs to pay for her dowry. Since the amount is pretty less, Gulrez attracts only less-educated, mediocre guys. This frustrates her and so she plans a rather devious scheme to make her future brighter.

This plan lands her in Lucknow where she meets the charming Tariq who, obviously, runs a Kabab shop. I would like to add here that Lucknow serves the BEST Kababs and Biryani there ever is. I mean, you can make biryani at home, you can order it in restaurants, but the one you get in the streets and the dhabas in Lucknow is so different and sumptuous. My mouth was watering during the introduction scenes, and rightly so!!
They even serve this paratha with Kababs which you will not get in any other part of the world. That combination of succulent, melt-in-you-mouth delicacy is to-die-for.

So, yes, Tariq is not as educated as Gulrez, but his charming personality and humility makes her (and me!) fall in love with him. What follows next is for you to see because I don't believe in revealing plots here.

I thought the movie was fast-paced enough to keep us entertained. The trio acted very well all throughout. The music is awful. I mean, I didn't like a single song!! I think Hindi movies should start having just 2-3 songs for promotional activities and not incorporate these songs in the movie. They really make no sense.

Daawat-e-ishq deals with a very serious subject in a light-hearted manner. There are lots of how-can-this-happen moments in the movie which makes it a typical Bollywood affair. But in the end it leaves you with a smile and that is what really matters.

It also leaves you very hungry, especially for the authentic Indian food, which you will end up eating after the movie no matter what you planned for before entering the mall. So, Bon appetit!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Walk through Vienna and Salzburg - Part 2

Read Part 1 here.
It's only fair to write the trip report of one place before heading to another. We will be going on a vacation to Greece in two weeks and so I should write this one now, right? I say it again on this blog, be jealous! Or not. We might be miserable in our old age for saving so little!!

So, anyway, after walking the lanes of Vienna (and a lot of walk at that since my FIL loves to walk and make everyone else walk with him!!!), admiring its architecture, falling in love with its sculptures, cruising in the canal and enjoying in the parks, we took a train to Salzburg. At this point I should tell you that some Europeans can be very mean. The trains usually have two two-seater rows. I was blatantly refused a seat twice in a packed train by teenage German girls. Now I am a decent looking girl - why would they refuse me a seat next to them!? Your guess is as good as mine. The adults were far more nice, by the way, and this was a two-off incident.

Anyhoo, I tried to focus on the scenery that almost never ended in our 4-hour journey. Austria is actually a mini, cheap Switzerland. The only difference is that in Switzerland the grass is always trimmed because, I think, the residents are fined if they don't maintain it. Austria has fewer rules so probably they don't trim their grass as much. But their huts and hills are equally beautiful. No matter where you go, you will find picture perfect scenery. Seriously, take any turn, no bad spot ever.

I had read that Salzburg is divided into two parts by a river - Old town and New town. We had booked a hotel apartment in the New town, which, upon arrival seemed equally beautiful. Unfortunately the pictures I have from there are all mine, gorging on food and beer.

Oh, beer. The Germans make the best beer in the world. There was this particular Indian restaurant below our hotel that served the yummiest local beer. The second time we went there, the waiter came to us with the menu. The Boy gestured and said hume bus... Before he could complete, the waiter said, haan bus beer chahiye! We felt like such bevadas (drunkards!).

The first day we walked around town and saw the famous old town. It was indeed very pretty. The main lane had such character that I was swept off my feet.

The famous Old Town street of Salzburg
We walked around a lot and just admired the town. There are very few pictures of places without us in the background and so, it's tough to put them up. Nevertheless...

The next day we took a bus to Berchesgaden, Germany which is very close to Salzburg. Our main aim was to cruise a beautiful lake called Konigsee.

St. Bartholoma on Konigsee

One of the most beautiful pictures I've ever taken without
 knowing anything about photography ;)

The lake from the church - this seemed
 like Panong Tso in Ladakh - just as pristine and quite.

Yes, this was nature at its best. But what lay ahead was even more amazing. We hired a car next day to go to a gorge. But as luck would have it, the gorge was closed for the day for some renovation. Thank God we had a car because otherwise switching buses is quite a task in remote villages. We then headed to a waterfall which was not as big but the mist was divine. I've fallen in love with mists from the waterfalls since Niagara - it was one of the most divine experiences of my life.

A picture from the road - told you, scenic, very scenic.

A castle along the road. Unfortunately we were bound by our GPS!!

Gollinger Waterfalls, Austria. Can you spot the couple? I wish I could jump
and reach that spot. It was soo damn romantic!
By the way, we packed yummy vegetable pulao and yoghurt for all of us in tiffins! So everywhere we went it was like a mini picnic. Although I missed trying a variety of foods, this was very important for my in-laws who, although didn't want to eat ghar ka khana, survived on home cooked meals. We packed another pulao the next day and headed to the most beautiful place I've ever seen.

It is called Salzkammergut - the lake district in Austria. The whole stretch is pinned with beautiful lakes and small picturesque villages.That is another reason we hired a car - because we wanted to cover the whole area and stop wherever we wanted. The first stop was Wolfgangsee.


After being mesmerized for the umpteenth time, we headed to the famous village of Hallstat. I can’t describe much in words how I felt there. It was a very touristy village but well, I could see why. Every house was picture perfect. Every spot was picture perfect. It was so, so pretty! I don't know if I could live in a tiny village like that (we walked the whole of it in an hour, I guess) but I could have certainly spent a few more days just admiring each and every corner. Let pictures do the talking for this:



Where was I!? Hallstat has that kind of power on you.

Our last day in Salzburg was a rainy day. It rained non-stop for 24 hours. We took a local bus pass and just saw the whole city. Since we took so many excursions, we missed quite a bit in Salzburg itself. But then, we might return. Salzburg was the first city in a hilly region that had a peppy vibe to it. Normally hill stations are boring in the evenings - Switzerland is. But Salzburg was awesome. All our evening were spent in classy restaurants where we went on dates without the in-laws! It was like college all over again. Only this time we were not sneaking out :)

Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg

Rain, rain, carry on!
Mirabel Gardens, Salzburg

A river runs through it - Salzburg

We loved the fair weather and we loved the rain. We loved just about everything in this cute little town. If you want to see one picturesque area in Europe and you don't want to spend a bomb going to Switzerland/Scandinavia, go to Salzburg. You won't regret it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Movie Review - Finding Fanny

My Rating:

I was very eager to watch Finding Fanny from the day I saw its trailer. It seemed like a refreshing tale and I thought this movie would be hatke.

Well, indeed it was hatke. The movie starts in a small, sleepy town in Goa called Pocolim. The people who live there lead a slow but eventful life. The main inhabitants of this town include the gorgeous Angie (Deepika Padukone), who was widowed within 5 minutes of her wedding. She lives with Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), her mum-in-law, whose 'dead' husband story seems rather mysterious. Her best friend is an old, ex-postmaster, Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), who does little apart from singing in the Church's choir. And then there is an outsider, 'talented' artist Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur), who comes in search of his muse and finds it in Rosie's round figure.

These 4 along-with Savio (Arjun Kapoor) who was Angie and her husband's best friend go on a road trip to find Fanny, Ferdie's love of 46 years. What happens along their journey and at their destination is for you to see and relish.

This movie, for me, was like reading a short story from a great author. It had simple settings, subtle humour, heartwarming characters, easy narration and something to look forward to always. There is nothing that will wow you and nothing that will make you yawn. My husband didn't once look at his phone's screen which itself says a lot about the movie!!

Thankfully the director, Homi Adajania of Cocktail and Being Cyrus fame, doesn't try too hard to add over-the-top humour. The characters play their age and act like normal people do. It is one of the few movies in which none of the actors disappoint with Naseeruddin Shah stealing the show. Well, ofcourse.

The movie is like an easy-going evening on a beach in Goa. Now who wouldn't like that?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Drama in Bargaining

Bargaining is in our genes. We might live in a bungalow worth a crore, but till we don’t bring down the rate of onion from Rs. 100 to Rs.90 a kg, it doesn’t get pureed well in the blender. Not only that, the free dhaniya/mircha is like a constitutional right for which even we can go on a dharna.

When I was growing up, there were no brands as such. We shopped from local shops in Lucknow which were owned by my Sindhi uncles. So we always got a discount of at least 20%. Plus, tea/coffee/Pepsi, gossip and a dinner invite. But when the likes of Shoppers Stop came up, we had to wait for Sale to lure us into the store since arbitrary discount or bargaining was not an option. And damn organised retail, they didn’t even give us free polythene bags leave alone a glass of water.

Delhi, on the other hand, had pirates from the Arabian. Sarojini/Janpath was selling ‘branded’ stuff for less. Shopping was a thrill in these areas because it always felt like a victory after getting an item for less than 50% of its original price. If the Bhaiya said 500, I said 200 and easily got an item for Rs. 250.

This haggling is actually an art. You would see a female falling in love with an item but then pretending that it’s just OK. Her companion, if a man, would stand directly behind her chanting from 100 to 1 in order to spare himself a headache from the cacophony. When will men understand that women do this to save money for old age dentures? Anyway, if Bhaiya would agree to give a 1000 rupee item for Rs. 500, the transaction would be complete. If Bhaiya is rigid, the female would walk away with an air of indifference while praying in her heart for Bhaiya to call her back!

Seriously, when we do that fake walk-away, we feel so awful. It’s like parting from the love of our life not knowing if our paths would cross again. It is a different matter that we might not like the item ‘that much’ when we bring it home. But that moment, that moment feels really sad.

Then comes the theory of buying in bulk. If one item is for Rs. 300, a conscientious negotiator will demand 3 for the same price. It’s such a funny trait but it always works. Both the parties have a hearty laugh in their insides while their face remains totally grim. The transaction usually ends with 2 for the same price and all parties are happy.

In such situations, any lady can give the likes of Smriti Irani/Deepika Padukone a serious run for their money. I am sure if you sit with a road-side vendor, he will be able to narrate hundreds of humorous bargain stories with killer acting by the women in question. I am also sure that he will be able to tell you how he sold an item that was worth a 100 for 500 by quoting a 1000 and still seen immense satisfaction on a customer’s face.

That is why we never feel content even after getting a 50% discount. That feeling of ‘we could have gotten it for less’ always remains. But all’s well that ends well. Our momentary triumphant smile and Bhaiya’s happiness of fooling yet another lady, is a win-win situation for all.

Really, shopping in malls is so boring when there is so much drama in street shopping!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Do you read your old blog posts?

It’s 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday night – a weekday in our Arabic country. We just had this awesome chicken curry that I made. The Boy is watching the T20 match between India and England. I’m sitting on the dining table with my laptop open in front of me. The green tea is piping hot. Since there is nothing better to read on the Internet(!!), I went to my old blog posts and have been smiling ever since.

I see the posts written in July 2007. I wrote 10 posts in a single month. It was beginner’s euphoria I guess. That time I use to drive my bright red Zen and go to this shop in Aliganj, Lucknow and rent out books and review them. I had difficulty in driving a car but that didn’t deter me from going from one place to another. I wish I had started blogging in 2006; then I would have written about the accident as well. And I'm wondering why I didn't write about my first prize - an iPod - which I won because of this post! Maybe I was not as flamboyant as I am now! Btw, I sold that iPod for Rs. 10,000 to my dad, ha!!

In October 2007, I met the Boy’s parents. The post is out there. I was very secretive back then and so there are no details in the post. In February 2008, I had a haircut and wrote a post on that. Someone commented he/she loved my blog and I actually felt awesome!

There are details of my friend’s wedding, and then another friend's wedding. There are a few posts about my wedding. There are silly posts about random days. There are random posts on random things. There is love, there is humour, there is pain, there are inspiring stories, there are poems… in this one website I’ve lived the last 7 years of my life. 

It’s a personal blog and will always remain one. I don’t care how some would see it as immature or boring; I love to document my life here and would continue to do so. You know why? – because on a dull day like this when I go to my old posts it makes me feel so good. Sure, I have memories to hold on to. But the specific details, the thought process that I had, what went on in my mind, the kind of person I was – it’s all here in this space.

Do you like to read your old posts as well? Do you read the stories that you wrote, or do you like the contest entries that you posted, or, like me, do you love the personal posts that say about your situation back then?  

If you want my advice I’ll tell you to write about today. Tomorrow when you’ll read about it, you’ll smile as much as I’m smiling today!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

'This Blog Post will Change Your Life'

“25 photographs that will put your picture taking skills to shame”

“This girl went to the ice-cream wallah. What happened next will change the way how you look at ice-cream.”

“This video will make you kill yourself.”

These are a few examples of what we've been seeing on the web these days. We are living in an age of superlatives. The good old good, pretty and well-written are replaced by jaw-dropping, drop-dead-gorgeous and the best-piece-I’ve-ever-read, respectively. I mean, if I write that I liked your article, I’m made to believe that I don’t really like it enough, or probably don’t like it at all.

Since when did everyone, EVERYONE in this world become like an 18-year-old teenager who needs to be reassured a million times? I think it all started with commenting on pictures. Our social needs require us to not only like a picture but write a comment on it as well. Actually it depends on our relationship with the person. It goes like this - acquaintance = like; friend = you look nice; sister, brother/Best friend = like + you look awesome.

But what do you do when someone above you has already written nice/awesome. You are as good as your thesaurus and so you dig new words. So yes, that probably started the epidemic of superlatives. It also brought along a string of new words – cuteness, superlike, bootylicious…

Since the Internet was replete with videos and pictures, someone out there decided to create attention-seeking headlines because ‘Breaking news’ was not good enough. I think they took lead from India TV and that other channel with Sansani, the one of ‘Aage ki khabar aapko Chauka degi. Baba bana Gunda’ fame.

These titles are actually effective. When I see a girl falling from a roller-coaster, I don’t click on it. But when I see “Accidiant terrifiant blah blah” written on it, I open it even though it forces me to like the video and display my curiosity and velaness to all my 400 friends.

The funniest thing happened with an aunt on Facebook. There was an iffy looking picture in circulation - a man and a woman were getting cosy in it. The caption was – comment mein 8 likhiye aur chamatkaar dekhiye. Now poor aunt, she typed 8. The picture was publicly shared and so the whole world got to know that she was interested in it! Although my day was made, she buried her head in shame for the whole week!

If the word ‘chamatkaar’ wasn’t on the picture, she wouldn’t have written anything.  Hence proved - superlatives lure us; normal is certainly not good enough.  Just like 90% gets us nowhere in boards, 95 and above is what we need to do well.

Even the vacation we go to has to be ‘the best vacation ever’. Even though I know you had written that the last time. I kind of understood the normalcy behind superlatives when I was at a party. A couple who was there with us at the boring bash went home and put a picture of it on Facebook. The tag-line read – the best days of our lives. Now I am all for positivity; but I’m not in favour of white lies!

In all this there is just one solace – that I have friends who would write ‘whistle-whistle’ and ‘you look divine’. Otherwise even a 100 likes and a few nice/good comments would have made me feel like a mere plain Jane.

That would have certainly made a stupefying dent in my super-awesome, fantabulous, stellar life.

P.S.  Surprisingly, a simple comment like ‘I love your blog’ still makes my day :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Month That Was

Soumya of Life of Leo writes these awesome Action Replay posts each month. This time I decided to get 'inspired' and write a similar post. Although I do like 1% of what the world manages to do in this time, I am in love with my life and have absolutely no qualms about doing too little.
Lazy bum.

Well, not really. I came back from a vacation on 1st August and was absolutely refreshed. I decided to dedicate this month to health and I am extremely happy with the results. They are not fabulous but they are a labor of love which needs to be cherished.

So what did I do? I started to walk 3 kms in a park. This is a big deal for me and takes a little less than an hour. The temperature was 40 degrees with humidity levels ranging from 30-60%!!! Wind did help us at times. At other times, it was the chatter. I need to chat non-stop to cover that area happily. So everyday the Boy took me to this sea-side park which is like a 20-minute drive from our place. Why? - because that is the only place where I wanted to walk! He would then walk with me at my pace encouraging me whenever I needed. It's a mere stroll for him and doing that in this heat for someone else really needs a lot of love in your heart. Did I tell you there is no one better than him in this world?

Also, I talk a lot for distraction. Otherwise 3 kms seem like a 100! From past to present to future, we discuss just about everything. As you know, I am a planner. So I would plan the next 20 years for us and he would just laugh and pull my leg. Plans don't always materialize, or so they say. August has also left us very confused with something which you would know soon. Or, maybe not.

Since this month was dedicated to health, I did pranayam followed by exercise every morning as well. It is so hard to sit on your yoga mat. But when you get up, I think there is no better feeling. I did stuff for more than an hour and felt blessed. Breathing exercises are like meditation. Every cell in your body is energized and you feel happy for the rest of the day. We do need positivity in our lives from various sources - this, trust me, is the easiest way to stay optimistic.

To supplement about 2.5 hours of slow and steady workout, I have started a high-protein-low-carb diet. There is so much nutrition our body needs that eating rice, flour, potatoes or bread is not important at all. So eggs, grilled chicken, fruits, spinach and lots of salad has replaced quite a few things in my kitchen. The result - I have lost 500 gms!!! That is very less - you would say. But in my world, it is success!

I took a weeks break to give rest to my body. Hopefully I am rejuvenated now and will start again. The Boy is not keeping well and so gym will be my companion for the next few days. Needless to say, I miss sweating in the park. More than that, I miss the long drive and the endless chatter about nothing and everything.

So August was awesome for me. I am hoping to be as motivated in September because after that 3 trips will keep us very busy. Don't you just love vacations? - I am just crazy about them 'cause they inspire me to stay fit and keep dreaming.