Monday, December 24, 2012

Hunger Games Trilogy

I wasn't planning on reading the trilogy since I wasn't happy with the first book. I would rather wait for the Jennifer Lawrence movies.
However, London celebrates pre-Black Friday and Black Friday even though it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, all thanks to consumerism! So Amazon had these deals spread around, emailing us, friends passing links to each other and I came across the trilogy set. And there was my early Christmas gift...

The story is rather bland. It still continues to be a show with few acts of heroism from anyone at all. Those from Gale are rather dumb than heroic. Their Mocking Jay would just turn up and shoot a few scenes. Sometimes during the shooting she would get into a bit of trouble and then would survive anyway.
The twist with Peeta was a little too much drama may be. The twist with Snow was rather expected but good. It added to the story and gave it some weight that was missing.
The climax was rather at odds with the rest of the trilogy. The Trilogy itself I thought lacked any depth or emotion and little character building. But the climax is the complete opposite. It's beautiful. The way she pulls back from everything and finds comfort in little things that she now understood mean a lot more. The time she realizes the need to find something stable and unchanging in her life.
But one thing that is a little weird is that her emotional trauma stays on while Peeta's brain though all crazy becomes totally normal.

Nevertheless, the idea is good. The plot good. The delivery bad. The movies will be great. And the climax, beautiful.

May be if the movies trilogy becomes a super hit or something, our crazy reality shows might stop ?

Oh and by the way, it still has nothing to do with archery. Really!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

4 years in one picture

No, my name is not Pranav! No, it wasn't my birthday. And I'm far from 3 years old. Yet the cake was for me. You can imagine it was a big surprise!

My birthday fell in the summer hols during my IIT life. More like the monsoon but nevertheless, holidays. So I never celebrated it with my little gang of girls. Actually we didn't have many campus birthdays. Only one of us has a birthday during semester and we celebrated hers. For the rest it off the sem yet somehow it happened that over the four years we celebrated everyone else's once. Except mine!

On my very last day on campus, and I have never gone back to campus since so truly my last, my friends came into my room with this cake, apologised for the spelling mistake in my name and celebrated my non-birthday to make up for four birthday's I never had with them making it the most memorable day ever. And most importantly the most surprising.
Actually I had to act surprised. They couldn't really keep it a secret from me. One of them was so excited, she told me the previous night and asked me to act surprised. It only made it sweeter.
So there it is. Fours years of togetherness and all my insti life transformed into one cake, on one unexpected day, captured in one picture.
True, pictures do speak more than a thousand words!

I have been following WOW for a while but this idea caught my attention and I started browsing old pics.

God only knows how difficult it was to just pick one. And god only knows that a trip I took into the depths of beautiful memories. Thanks to Blogadda.
I had written about this incident earlier, when it actually took place. But to remember it, is far more beautiful.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Milano. European. City.

My visa would soon expire and I wanted to take another trip to Europe before it runs out. I planned with a friend to go to Greece but the vacation got longer and the people lesser. I planned to go to Budapest with another friend but the plans were never finalised and finally ditched. And then I came to know both of them are meeting up in Milan. On a whim and a fancy, I decided to go to Milan. It doesn't beat the whim of going to Prague. But the purpose beats it. I went to Milan simply to go because I have been planning for a while and not going anywhere and to catch up with friends I haven't met in a while. Prague is a beautiful touristy place. Milan is not supposed to be. I come back to work on Wednesday and everyone at office thinks I went to Milan on work. Really!

So I went to Milan to catch up with friends and see how Italy looks like in general when it's not decked up for the tourist or the pilgrim or the lovers. Simply the way people live. That's what you get in Milan.

A little of what you expect in London.
You see tourists and scammers alike at the Duomo (and I guess even at Last Supper but we never went there). You see gardens that have and have not people and victory arcs everywhere you can walk to.
You see the office crowd in the metro busy with their lives, reading newspapers, etc. You see the rich fashion on the beautiful windows of high end stores. You see the occasional awe of it's fans at San Siro stadium.

You see the discomfort of a new big city at the station and the daily ritualistic traffic of people as well. You see the traffic rules are not as crazy as people tell you but you are likely to get killed if you don't care. You see that the beautiful canal area of Navigli neither has a canal nor is it beautiful. You see the language enchant you into just wanting to hear the sound of it whether you understand it or not. You see a big European city mingled with history, riches and the urban mechanical days.
A little of what you expect in London.

So that's for the last of my European travel this year. I haven't really used my Schengen much, have  I?
But may be the travel bug is actually wearing off. Though I am happy I went to Milan. I woke up on the day of my flight to Milan and I was not really excited about. I was more annoyed that I needed get out of home. The lack of enthu could be because of the cold too! And of course when I woke up the day I needed to catch my flight back to London, I just did not want to leave!
[The airlines granted me the wish of hanging around more. I was stuck in the airport for 2.5 hours. I roamed around the airport and found one of my friends and spent sometime.]

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hunger Games

The games | The books | The movies | What's with Archery ?

It's hard to find a film as good as the book it's based on. It's harder to find one that beats it! I know most people would disagree with me, but Hunger Games, the movie was far far better than Hunger Games, the book.

I'm not saying the book was not good. It had a plot. A plot that can gather momentum and put together a running story that runs all the way to the end. "Easy to read and full of masala". That's how a friend described it to me when I asked if I should read it. What I felt the book lacked for was description, imagination in words and the punch. It left a lot for the reader to imagine, not because it wants the reader to think but because it forgot to put it in words.
How the hell did they even give a girl 11 points when she shot at the judges ?
I almost missed the importance of not having a victor. Really? What's the big deal for the games if one year they did not have a victor. They had games in barren lands where once a lot of players died out of cold or lack of water. So now they have a year without a victor. At least the girl who challenges them dies. The next year they would not have District 11 or 12 victors and have only District 1 or 2 surviving till the end. Worse still, they can take their revenge on Katniss and get Prim the next year into the games and kill her. Really! If they didn't have a victor one games it would not have been much.
And why would you think Katniss the surviver take the berries? She might as well pretend to and not take them while she waits for the chubby boy to die and emerge a victor!
And so much more. The author could not explain clearer.

The movie took advantage of these gaps and filled them in with their ideas. The characters from Capitol were so well created. All those that lacked any character in the book were beautifully done up in the movie. There were some occasions where you would feel the movie changes the plot and does not do justice to the book but that's only because the book was written from the girl's perspective and if the movie was the same it would have lacked in telling the story so well told by the movie. In the ending where the Gamemaker is made to eat the berries that Katniss was about eat, that was a classic. Lots more masala and filminess but classic. The woman who acted as Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely fabulous. The revolt in District 11 instead of the gift of bread was clarifying a story!
The movie surely outlives the book!

However, neither has anything to do with a bow and an arrow. And I have no idea why anyone would be inspired to take up archery as a hobby based on this plot! So yeah, that was the reason I read and watched. To get more inspired and continue with archery.
Doesn't matter. Self motivation is the strongest kind!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Take a bow

... Hold it outstretched, pull an arrow through it and let the arrow fly. That's pretty much it.

If someone would have told me the Olympics would make me learn a sport or a skill I would have laughed once. But now I know.

I haven't watched archery in the olympics. A friend did. He got inspired and picked it up. And when he talked of it I wondered why I should not be doing it. It is a cool hobby to have!

So I learnt it last weekend at a beginners course. And it was fun. Awesome fun. My arm still hurts but I still wish I could try today.

But alas many a times I tried stuff and let go very soon, may be too soon. Just hope it's not one of those things.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Heading ahead...(600)

I need to tag in the title that it's my 600th post. Else I lose track.

So once every now and then I feel that need to turn around and look back at all the blogging I have done. Usually, it's a milestone or a birthday or simply new year. This year, I forgot my blog's birthday, like I did my sisters, like I did my parents, like my parents did mine, and like I nearly did mine! So apologises to all my friends whose birthday I forgot and congratulations to all those who wished (facebook is very dutiful).

Hence, I look back at my last hundred posts (and even older). But when I do look back, it was meant to be a soul-searching sentimental feeling. So as I sat to write this post down I was struck by writers block for hours. I have indeed changed. I haven't lost the capacity to write, just to be overly sentimental. And just like that I could write again.

When I look back, I often feel sad that I have changed so much, even though change is the in thing. Looking back to when I celebrated my 100th, so poetic used to be my writing style, it amazes me. But I guess, posts like that come out of a bubble. If you think of it, it lacks in it's imagination. The sea has always been a part of me and I miss it terribly, I make do with London's South Bank now. But to romanticise it, like it has been done for a million years is poor imagination. Not to belittle the young me's effort or far less to belittle the impact of the vast seas and oceans. But it is true that I thought little back then and my world was tiny.

My 500th will show you a different side of me, having experienced different worlds outside mine own. A city me though, all the glitz of London and more of so of New York City struck me dumbfound and excited. When I tried to look back, I looked look beyond that.

But the last 100...
They have been fascinating. I experience snow. I have understood the meaning of travel. Not to say that I have done enough of it. I have never truly travelled. Once or may be twice in my past journey's have I felt I did but not through a trip. My excitement for life hasn't reduced though. Every weekend I look at a new possibility. Every week I plan for a new trip. It may be beyond my country or to a different city. But London itself celebrates so much. Visit I did however. Asia and Europe and UK. And I noted down all my visits that I call travels. I was introduced to the world of sport. I follow champions league and watched Wimbledon in real and watched hockey at the Olympics. I read a lot and even got free books in return for a review, first through BlogAdda and later directly from debut authors. I worked for an NGO called Samhita. And BlogAdda also inspired BSR (Blogger's Social Responsibility).

And now I need to change my header and write a lot more.
Here is my new header symbolising new worlds...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Channel Connection

When I was still studying in IIT, and we called up a European alumni for something, her mother said she went to France in the morning for some work, and should be back later that evening. It was so fascinating to me that you can just say you want to go to another country and just go and just come back all in a day and all with no prior booking.
So the fascination never left me... till last weekend that it.

On Thursday, a friend thought out aloud that it was going to be a beautiful weekend and a trip to Dover might be nice. I thought out aloud that if I go to Dover, I might as well go to Calais ! So I thought I would go on Saturday.

But I woke up late on Saturday and no one else seemed interested. Yet it was a sunny day. So I accompanied friends to Oxford Street for some random shopping, more like window shopping with all the live models posing as mannequins and the different kinds of decorations that turn up only in Oxford Street (check out LV window below, oh, and this pic is from Instagram which I have recently joined as "pranavab").

And later went to my favourite part of London (have I not said it enough number of times already?), South Bank, only to find it insanely crowded. And yet South Bank is always enchanting and full of surprises. Did I tell you the weekend before that I found this shortcut from Covent Garden Jubilee Market that brings us to the Thames (stairs on the opposite side of Strand from the market), and also introduced a friend to the magic of the area.

Anyhow. Come Sunday. I took the tube to London Bridge. I waited an hour on the platform because I missed the previous train in a matter of seconds. I reached Dover. I took a bus from Dover Priory to Port of Dover. I took the Spirit of France to Calais. I walked from the ferry terminus to Plage de Calais. I spent some time there. I walked back to the terminus. I took the Pride of Burgundy back to Dover. I took a bus from Port of Dover to Dover Priory. I took train to London Bridge and a tube back home.

And from these the open deck of Spirit of France, I watched the White Cliffs of Dover with sun shining brightly off of them. I strongly believe I could see them from Plage de Calais as well as I dipped my feet in the French waters, though someone might disagree.

A trip I always wanted to take, and such lovely weather it was! But now that I have done it, the charm is lost.

And a heads up, the next post is going to be senti...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Belfast dAIry

Belfast is not big and not very old either. Yet you can spend a couple of days with much left to be seen. The city has five quarters, not four. And it seemed to me that each quarter is different in so many different ways! The city has drawn out a few "trails". You can find them at any tourist information centre marked out on the map.

The City Hall is by far the most impressive point in Belfast. A massive structure, it has glorious internal design as well. Some of the windows have been commissioned to depict glass paintings telling us of incidents in the history of Northern Ireland. The lawns are dotted with weird cement cows but unlike in Milton Keyes these actually depict people and ideas.

You will find a lot of interesting architecture and stories on the City of Merchants Trail including Belfast's very own leaning tower!

And the other thing that Belfast is proud of is building the Titanic. The largest ship ever built, and it sank. I read in somewhere that it is fascinating how much Belfast talks about Titanic but not all the great ships that it made that did not sink. What about Olympic and Britannic ? Titanic Museum has opened up to celebrate 100 years. But we couldn't go in cos we needed to book in advance. Anyhow we walked the Titanic Trail. Oh, And did I say this is now called the Titanic Quarters ?

Oh one other thing there is about Belfast. The Murals. The freedom of expression manifested. They are not like street art. They are art. They are on the street. They have  a message but more importantly they have a strong message. I never knew anything about Belfast or it's turmoil and that which continues even today in a more subdued fashion.

You must go to the Queen's Quarters to the see the lovely Queen's College and the magnificent Ulster Museum. You can truly spend days there. And the Royal Botanic Gardens. It's quite a different city once you come to the quarters.

Scottish Highlands

Train to Edinburgh
A nearly beautiful journey through the country side of England a bit of Scotland brings you to Edinburgh from London after about 4.5 hours on a train.
Waiting on the train for the view to get better and better we fell asleep till we reached. Edinburgh was on the verge of a fest so everything was shut down or closed out and bus stops were changed and worse of all, maps were removed I mean REALLY !!!

We found our little hotel behind the castle that looked like somehow they managed to keep it together, but it was really nice inside. A spooky look on the outside was pretty cool...
The next day we found Hertz, showed him a license and got a lovely little family car. A car so much like our own that it felt own. A near new Ford Fiesta. And invested well in a good road map.

The Loch Drive
We started off west towards Glassgow and weaved through the city passing by the Cathedral before hitting for the prettier roads. We drove through the Trossachs and past the all the Lochs that come in the way. Loch Lommond was lovely. taking mini detour's through little villages we pass by it was the prettiest little place I have seen. Loch Ness should be called a river, really. It is so long!

And we stopped for the night at a place just off the highway which was a pretty little hospital convert.

The Castle Drive
We had the Scottish National Explorer Pass for 3 days that allows you to visit many of the castles in Scotland for free. 70 attractions for some 28 quid, pretty good deal if you are here for a short time.
The next morn, we went back a bit to the Loch Ness to visit the Urquhart Castle. A ruin but the castle has the locational advantage of being on the Loch Ness bed and more lovelier on the morning we went cos of all the fog. And as the old man would say, Nessy is breathing heavily. The intro film is actually quite boring with blood and fire and steel but the ending is marvellous. Recommend anyone to watch the film and then move to see the castle.

From Urquhart we made our way by passing Glamis and Blair castles to Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle is a fully complete castle very recently made and very nicely maintained. There are stories on how it was built, etc. they protect it and show case it so well. It is definitely worth a visit.

And finally reached Edinburgh, dropped the car and slept in a Travelodge.
The next morning we walked up the royal mile and into the Edinburgh Castle. Very cool very you see the links between the Unicorn with the golden horn and the Lion with the crown. From the wall you could see as far as Water of Leith and a good view of the city as well.

Train back to London
On the train back to London we were sitting on the right side of the train passing by the east coast. Pretty pics along the way. But the best was the rainbow that became a  full semi-circular rainbow and then a double rainbow as our train went around it. Lovely as ever.

Scotland! Enchanting, out of a fairy tale!

Towering Museums and Olympic London

On a splendid rainy Sunday we went to Tower of London. A tower so well preserved but it isn't that old either. It was the first fort/tower/castle sort of thing I had seen. Having been sucked into A Song of Ice and Fire, it felt like the book comes alive. The crown jewels are of course the most important part of the museum. Though we went to see the Kohinoor, what we saw more importantly was the Cullinan I. It was the largest thing eve, as large as an egg and dwarfs anything around it. The wall walk was the most amazing though. To walk around and see the different gates, the draw bridges, the buildings that the walk encloses, it all feels so real!

Monday was reserved for a special purpose. London 2012 Olympics. I picked up tickets because I thought it might be easier to get tickets for a Monday, because hockey is the national game of India and we associate it with the Olympics, because an afternoon session does not require you to wake up early in the morning or delay your return to the night. As it turns out the tickets I picked up were Spain vs Pakistan and Netherlands vs India. Pakistan lost. India lost. But the second match was a delight to watch. My parents have never seen a game live in the gallery. And none of us have ever watched a hockey match. So it was all very exciting and happy. The sun was strong but the wind was cold and there was no rain thankfully. The Olympic park was large and filled to the brim with people. Like a funfair!

Then we went on a Museum Marathon.
The Museum of London is fascinating museum. It starts with when London was nothing to today and beautifully takes you on a walk through history. A lot about this small area of land that was bound by the Roman wall. You even peep to see the wall.
Walk over to the Bank of England museum. It is made for kids to see how money works but there is a bit for adults as well explaining the history of banks and nationalised bank. You also get to try and pick up a bar of gold.
Walk along again to the breath-taking St Paul's Cathedral, the most impressive structure in the London skyline. A beautiful peaceful place.

Walk across the latest construction across the Thames, the Millennium Bridge on to the South Bank to turn around and look at a post card view of the cathedral.
Take a walk into Tate Modern and gaze at the Picasso paintings on level 4. and make your way down passing through the many art galleries that I really don't understand. Not that I understand Picasso's cubism, but at least I recognize the style.

Been and seen parts of London I hadn't seen before!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Weekend in Czech

I came back from Paris on Tuesday evening, halfheartedly. I didn't want to come back. But I didn't want to stay in Paris either. I wanted to travel, far and wide. Who doesn't? My friends carried on to Rome. On Wednesday morning at work, it suddenly made no sense for me not to join my friends at Prague for the weekend. Within an hour, I booked my tickets and hostel for Saturday. See, you can just decide and fly out to a different country all together!

Cheap tickets come with their bane, the airport was in another city, no not city, it was in the middle of nowhere. It tougher to get to than to get to Prague. On Saturday I woke up at 3am and some 6 hours later I landed in Prague! From the airport to the city, I had to take a bus. I stepped into the bus and asked for a ticket to my destination. I realised for the first time in my life I was in a country of a completely foreign language without guidance. But it was not language that crippled me at that moment, but body language. He showed me a thumbs up. In India, the gesture is often used to mean a question, like what or where or why. I thought he was asking me where I wanted to go. I repeated my destination. He showed me a thumbs up again. I repeated. This went on for a few times. I was holding up passengers so I moved aside. An American walked up to him and asked him the same question and placed in front of him a note of 100 koronas. He showed her a thumbs and then a thumbs and the index finger. Then we understood. He counts on his fingers starting from his thumb! Nothing Czech about it though.

The hostel was a bright vibrant place where close to where everything is. However, my friends had seen a bit of Prague already and wanted to go to a place called Karlstejn where there was castle that my friend referred to as the Fairytale castle about 45 mins away from Prague.

The walk from the train station to the castle, crossing a bridge over still water in a valley next to a hill green with rich pasture and the still water reflecting every single detail every so perfectly was so beautiful I wish I could capture it all. Picture perfect! We walked up the castle hill and to the castle. There was no entry in unless you go as part of a guided tour.

A young and pretty Czech girl who knew just enough English to communicate clearly the facts of the tour walked us up to the castle door. She then opened the door with a set of keys, let us and shut the door behind us. She explained to us the map of the castle and how and what and why Charles the IV  built it. She then unlocked another room and took us in there making sure to lock it behind us. In the room we had a lovely woman dressed in traditional Czech clothes playing an flute and singing to us. We moved then from room to room with our guide unlocking and locking doors withe large set of keys she held taking us through the lives of the people who lived in that castle hundreds of years ago, with the preserved clothes, books and furniture. Fascinating experience, like as if someone was still living in that huge castle. On the way back, we stopped to grab a coffee at a cafe leaning on the hill side with nothing for the green trees to look into.

We came back to Prague and walked along the Vltava, past the Charles Bridge and sat down for some dinner by the river. The  river side was full of little restaurants cutely made up with flower pots everywhere.

Next day I convinced my friend to take a tour of the Prague Castle with the Sandeman's group. So tour we did. We went up to the castle stopping on the way at various points up the hill to glance back the city and look upon it like the Kings once did from their cosy bedroom chambers. We learned a lot about King Charles and his mixed roots that define Czech as a kingdom. We learned about its communist era. We learned a lot more about this glorious political leaders. We saw different kinds of architecture, the Roman Gothic and the Bohemian Baroque, a building with both that looks almost photoshopped.We saw the roman style of art on ceramic walls of houses depicting defenestration. We you do don't know what that means, click on it and look it up, it's hilarious!

We took a tram back from the castle to the city, walked on and stopped by at a cafe for coffee. The cafe was so pretty and had this amazing clockwork. Fascinating place Prague is I must say, everywhere you look you see something pretty. Then we walked to the old town square and saw the astronomical clock. By far the most fascinating thing I have seen. And when the hour struck, 4 status moved from left to right, the skeleton of death rang a bell, windows opened up to show four different statues one and a time moving to and away from the window which was pretty spooky. After the hour, a person (real one this time) popped into view at the top of the tower and blew a trumpet which was kind of funny actually.

Then we walked along to sit down at a restaurant and have some Czech food. I had potato soup in a bread bowl and medovino or honey-wine.  What a lovely day.

Now time to goof up. We took a tram to another part of the city which is known for it's many restaurants and vibrant life. If you kept track of time, you would know it was a Sunday. When we reached there, absolutely everything was shut and you could barely see anyone around. We got off the tram and started walking back past the many shut restaurant neon signs that give you a weird feeling. But one restaurant was open, so we popped in for a bit to have a small bite or dessert and fled back to civilisation as soon as we could.

Monday morning, I woke up again at 3, took a night tram and a night bus to the airport, flew back to UK, took a train to London and a tube to office, all the way wondering why I didn't stay back in beautiful Praha!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

4 days in Paris

4 days... one day with an old friend, one day as a tourist with friends, one day at an amusement park and one day by myself.

A beautiful Saturday morning to wake up, pack a backpack and take a train to another country. No, you can't just go to another country in a couple of hours on a train! Well apparently you can.
I gazed through the window occasionally, taking my eyes off the economist I have so begun to love as a part of traveling on weekends. I waited. Sunny and bright it was outside my window. Then a long tunnel so dark I fell asleep. When I woke up it was all a bright and sunny country side. There was no difference except for an occasional hoarding in french. And so I reached Paris.
I went down to cité universitaire to meet an old friend from college. The place was beautiful calm and peaceful. They had a festival on with each country house showcasing their local culture in different forms. I ate Egyptian food and watched some Japanese drumming. My friend and guide (and not yet a philosopher given he isn't pursuing a phd) took me to Louvre, not inside. We walked along the Seine, we walked the narrow lanes of Paris, we crossed bridges, we talked about old times. And in the end, I wondered why I don't stay in touch with my friends enough.
I left my friend to his thesis and waited at my hostel for my friend to turn up worth whom I had planned my Paris trip. She and her three friends finally turned up. Late in the night we hear that Champs Elysées is still open. So we went up there saw the Arc de Triumph and walked down the Avenue des Champs Elysees without realising the historical significance of the place being built my Napolean to mark his victory and to ride his soldier down the Elysian fields of Greek mythological to walk to heaven. So literally the stairway to heaven, not to mention one of the most expensive real estate in the world. Yet we didn't know it. And walked back for the day.
We were excited in the morning to go up the Eiffel Tower. On first site we were disappointed when we approached it. My friend would not even believe that this metal scaffolding is actually THE tower, much like all the Parisians when Gustav Eiffel built it. We stood in the queue for a long long really long time to get up to the third floor in the lift. We eventually did. And suddenly everything was worth it ! Paris looked beautiful and the Seine was twisting and turning through the city under the bridges in the sunshine.
We got off the tower and went back to St Michael's crossed over the bridge to Notre Dame de Paris. It is by far the most fascinating building I have seen. Vast, impressive, Gothic, Roman. Some sacred buildings are built to make you feel small and remind of the powerful existence that is beyond. This is one of them. The we walked along the Seine to Louvre, too late it was closed. But the glass pyramids were there, such an eyesore compared to the rest of the massive Louvre which was a magnificent palace once.
After a tiring day all over the place, what could be more apt than to sit down and relax at cafe on the road on Seine and discuss the concept of true love.
The next day was a trip to Disney Land, where it rained most of the time, all the thriller rides were fun but gave me a bad headache especially when we went 360deg twice, we didn't want to wait 90mins to take a pic with a princess and Sleeping Beauty's castle was far less impressive than inside my head. But the thriller rides were pretty good actually. The one where we fall down vertically in an elevator and the one roller-coaster with Aerosmith singing-shouting in your ears were particularly awesome.
On my last day in Paris, I woke up lazy and relaxed, my Canadian roommate was still there while my Vietnamese roommate had left the city. I had a peaceful breakfast, a long hot shower and went on to the Sandeman's walking tour of the city. This should have been the first thing we did! We started at St Michael's and walked all over. We walked along the Seine, past Notre Dame, across the bridge of locks, through the Louvre, into the Jardin des Tuileries, to Place de la Concorde where the Obelisk was placed in the middle.
Something so fascinating about the Obelisk, everything rather! It's just there, piercing through the sky!  As our tour guide mentioned, it is the melting pot of cultures so symbolic of Paris, the Greek Champs Elysees to one direction, the Roman Parliament building and the Church of Mary Magdalene to two directions and the French palatial gardens of Tuileries final directions, the center itself being Egyptian Obelisk from the Valley of the Kings. We walked on more, but the Obelisk stayed with me. Paris to me remains this point, the octagon of Place de la Concorde.

But that's because I haven't seen Montmarte, which I should. And Versailles as well. Another trip to Paris is required. For now, 4 days in Paris was all I ever wanted.

When I got back to Gare du Nord and thought back at my 4 days, the one thing I will take back is the hospitality of the French. Once when I was traveling in the bus by myself, an older man got up to give me a seat. Said I was a guest to his country and he must be courteous to me. Where else would I encounter an incident of this kind ? An Indian village may be. Not a metropolitan certainly ! Ah Paris !

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Vacation over a Weekend

They say time passes by slowly when you are bored. And 5 mins seen like an hour. But when you manage to keep so busy and do so many things in a day, even though time passes by quickly you feel it was long day wouldn't you?

My weekend started on Friday evening just like all weekends. I came home changed and took a friend around my neighbourhood just to show her around. Dinner was at friends house. We turned up there in time to help out with the cooking a whole load of us (left in time to not help out in the cleaning). We had proper home cooked andhra food, courtesy one of friend's mother. So full and tired we were we just went to sleep.

Woke up early on Saturday morning, my friend and I went our fire breakfast and hit the shopping centre of London and randomly shopped around. Spent a good amount of money. We met up more friends and had lunch. We picked up half price tickets for a musical. We went on to walk around London. Along the touristy areas showing my friend around all the popular places in London. Time finally for the musical. Chicago was absolutely entertaining without even a set. Amazing. After a thoroughly enjoyable night we were all tired abs hungry with a lot of walking. One last stop before we head home was Kaati Roll Company. Discussing how many movies out of those that decorate items walls have we seen. I had seen just one, Lagaan. But the english version of Mayajaal (matrix reloaded) counts a well. After an egg roll and a decently long cab ride (When does London not have traffic! I know, Boxing day) I hit the bed.

Sunday was amusing. We had planned to go to Brighton to enjoy the summer that was finally here. Met to leave London at 8. We reached the station only at 9.45 to see that this small new station had just one person serving the ticket counter and 3 machines. Perhaps they don't usually expect a huge crowd. Or perhaps the sun doesn't done that often. After waiting in the queue for about 20 mins we did get a good deal though, costing us just a little more than 5 quid. We reached Brighton by noon and found out that it was the last day of the Brighton festival. But that didn't change much for us. We just lazed around in the sun. There was a live band, really good. Done Jamaican tricks. Nice chairs. Very crowded beach. Pebble beach. No waves. Bright sun. Nice sun. Hot sun. Hotter sun. Unbearably hot sun. Long queue for the loo. And then it was time for us to go. On the way back all of us were so tired we fell asleep. And it was super fast, the train. We dropped everyone on their own directions and headed home. Some of our friends live closer so I took a detour and a stop over. We watched the last couple of overs of IPL finals and more importantly all the drama of victory while we enjoyed a cup of tea and maggie noodles for dinner. And more friends left on their own direction and I came home.

I came home with the idea a friend had planted. That it feels like a long long weekend or a vacation. The dinner on Friday seems like distant memory. And so many things happened after. And we just came hack after a travel. And everyone had gone their own way. And I was going home along bsback to my own bed. It did feel like a vacation just ended.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Trains of thought

I find the sounds of moving trains soothing. A journey exciting. Of many different people and many different ideas and many different reasons. Moving through the platforms. Moving, walking, running. No luggage. No baggage. Some baggage. Heavy baggage. Take a train. Take the wrong one. Go to new places. Once in a while go back to an old place. Write memoirs. Write books. Travel. Watch people. Watch them play music.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Easter Bunnies

Easter weekend was long. The longest you can get, like in Christmas... 4 days....

We weren't sure if we could go to Isle of Wight, everyone said the weather was going to terrible. But we went anyway. We wanted to leave London by 7.30am but obviously we were ambitious. We reached Portsmouth, dumped our luggage and were super excited about taking a hover craft to Isle of Wight by 1pm. The hover craft was such a disappointment. It didn't look like it was hovering. Even if it was you can't see it. And from in it you can't see anything at all.

So we reached Ryde Harbour

and we grabbed some lunch while decided what other things we could see. Alum beach was one and Needles the other, both of them on a shore across the island from where we were. We found out that it would take way too long to get them and by the time everything would be shut. So there is no point.

So we took an open bus and roamed about the island for a bit and got off literally in the middle of nowhere at the highest point of the island.

 And at this highest point in the middle of the island is a shipwreck museum. Can you believe that ?

We went into this old english inn while we waited for the next bus which if we miss are stranded there for another hour. but luckily we managed to get the bus that took us to Sandown beach.

We lazed around for a while froze a bit, found a restaurant and found our way back to Ryde Harbour. We figure we missed the last hover craft and catch the next ferry.
Back in Portsmouth we strolled around the fancy area next to the beach and found an Indian restaurant for dinner. Had an argument with a manager which was pretty funny.

 The next day we just lazed around on the Portsmouth pebble beach, had some good food and headed back to London.

Oh there were 2 more days to the weekend which I did nothing on.

Quite an uneventful trip but my first trip out of London!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The story retold - Kahaani

The plot is discussed in detail, the way I saw it. So SPOILER ALERT ! But I guess most of you have already seen it..

It all starts with a crying baby in the arms of a woman in the packed Calcutta Metro. A police officer is looking around for a bag, or anything suspicious. Now who would suspect a woman with a baby? And that too the baby's milk bottle? The bottle breaks, a poisonous gas is realised and everyone exposed to it dies.

Fast forward two years, here comes Vidya Bagchi, a heavily pregnant women to the dirty yet beautiful and thoroughly romanticised city of joy. The police officer, Rana, is more than happy to help her, carry her bags, etc. Now, I must admit that Calcuttans are helpful people, but police? I've never met one but in movies they are always portrayed as annoying people. But then again she is pregnant, and people are always willing to help her, aren't they? It seems like an intelligent point. But as the story progressing you come to believe it is the centre of the story, the fact that she is pregnant.

Now the sad part is, she is looking for her missing husband. But there seems to be no person of that kind who ever came to India or worked where she said he worked. Ah, poor woman. How can you tell her on her face that her husband left her. She starts living in this dirty old guesthouse where she claims her husband stayed.
She randomly comes across a name, Milan Damji, who apparently resembles her husband and used to work at the same company (and he had a funny blood group, Bombay blood group). Now, the lady who told her this has to convince the adamant Vidya who is looking only for her husband that Milan does look a lot like her husband and that she should take a look at his picture before she decides not to pursue Milan Damji. That lady is murdered before she shows Vidya the photo. At this point it makes a lot of sense to kill Vidya as well. But then she is not killed. Is it because she is just a poor pregnant woman ?
When Vidya starts asking questions about Milan (again to remind you that she never wanted to look for him), the second in command of the intelligence department, Khan comes to meet her. No formality, no bureaucracy, no notices. He tells her that Milan Damji does not exist and she should drop the topic. She persists that finding Milan Damji will get her answers about her husband. He shouts at her when she insists that he is the answer to her questions. Here is where you assume a normal person would say that she has nothing to do with Milan and just wants her husband back and if Khan can help her. But Vidya continues her pursuit since Khan had called Milan Damji, Milan, so they must be close acquaintances, which means Damji exists. Very smart Vidya.
She finds her way to old company records to get the address of Milan Damji. She finds tea glasses in his house and associates it with the tea shop outside since he does not have a kitchen. Now Vidya is getting super smart. She turns up in front of Khan with the records of Milan's existence. And what does he do? He gives her top secret information that Milan was one of theirs turned over to the dark side. Now that's not protocol is it? Here you get the feeling, he is either a very stupid character or he does believe she is harmless but also that she is far more determined to find Damji and she will.
Ah, the young Rana, still helping her in every step is now in awe of her. But it turns out that he gets caught out by Khan. Rana then tries to dissuade Vidya from finding Milan. And all of a sudden starts helping her again. He gets her in contact with an old police informer. Now if he did that he could lose his job. Yes, he is likes her a lot, but would he put his career in danger for a woman who would never be his?  The former police informer who refuses to help at first, but gives in when the heavily pregnant woman says she is searching for answers about her husband for her unborn baby. Yes, it's again about her pregnancy.

She gets some random information about a face-off between two people but apparently Damji was there as well and about some blood group (which I personally believe is very weird and didn't fit into the story, almost like trying to find ways of creating clues). When the try to chase up the doctor to helped with the blood, he gets killed. Again, isn't it far easier to kill her ? But yes, now the killer is looking for her as well. Our assassin, our extremely sweet, loser of an LIC agent, chubby middle aged man who can't run for a few minutes, gets killed in the chase.
Rana is freaked out for Vidya's safety and tells her that she must let the case of Damji go. Vidya doesn't seem to be listening and she is still plotting and thinking of clues. Rana asks her if death seems like a joke to her. She replies that without her husband, life itself seems like a joke to her. Sure enough. Life is a joke and death is also a joke. So much she loved her husband. So much she missed him. That without a second thought she brushed aside the idea of death. Without a second thought about her unborn baby.
She goes ahead to get more data from the tech head of the company when she find out from the tea shop outside Damji's house that the tech head used to visit him there. Rana and Vidya find their way to the tech head's office after hours, just after he leaves. But our tech head has security systems in place and his phone buzzes an alarm when his computer is turned on. He is smart too. He puts the facts together, that the receptionist is still at work, that the messenger is bringing her three glasses of water, that in the visitor's book she had an entry with visitors when he glanced at it, and rushes back to the office. Vidya has already left by then, yet the tech head catches up with them and follows them till they are caught. Rana tries to save her and fights the bad guy. Vidya here gropes for his gun going out her way. Khan arrives with back-up just as the nervous Vidya kills the tech head with his gun.
Vidya then realises that Rana was working for Khan. Khan tells her that he thought she had a better chance of getting information since no one is scared of a pregnant woman. True, isn't it? Vidya agrees to help Khan. They have by now figured out that it's Khan's boss who is helping Damji. Vidya calls up Khan's boss telling him that she has some documents she retrieved from the tech head's office that ties him up to Damji and she is ready to give it all in return for her husband. He refuses to acknowledge anything. But next moment she gets a call from Damji, asking him to meet her alone with the documents. Rana realises that she will get killed in the operation but Khan who acknowledges it calls her collateral damage and keeps Rana from telling her. Rana slips out of custody in the hope of saving her.
On the Puja Day, Vidya wears a white sari with red border that her husband had once said she should wear like all women in Bengal on auspicious days, that was gifted by Rana who requests her to wear it on the day she meets he husband since that is the most auspicious day for her. The heavily pregnant Vidya meets Milan Damji who asks her for the documents. When asks him he was Milan Damji, he says it does not matter and that she will get her husband back once they have the documents. She asks him if it is in his power to return her husband to her. He realises there is more to this woman than what seems and kicks her right in her heavily pregnant belly. She falls back, her eyes wide with shock, fear and tears of pain. And then she blinks.

She removes her fake pregnant belly, removes a pin from her hair, sticks it into his feet, grabs his gun and points to him. He asks her who she is, she says it does not matter. Shoots him and walks away. (No her sari does not slip, she is trained to tie it in such a way that once she removes her fake belly, her sari is still perfectly in place). Rana and Khan reach the spot to see Milan Damji dead, next to him is a note thanking Satyoki for his help. They can't spot a woman in white sari and red border in a street full of women dressed alike, faces covered in sindoor.

Khan is completely confused. Rana tells Khan that Vidya Bagchi is a story and she never existed. Khan wonders who Satyoki is. Rana replies that it's his real name, meaning Arjuna's sarathi, and smiles an all knowing smile !

Ah wait!The movie sadly doesn't end here.
They go back to show us the story behind Vidya from 2 years ago. Her husband was the police officer who was looking for a bag on the metro train when he was killed by the poisonous gas. Heavily pregnant Vidya loses her child when she finds out her husband is dead. The retired head of the intelligence bureau (who keeps coming up in the main lot but quite randomly) trains her to catch Milan Damji whom he created only to find out he created a monster. The movie makes sure there are no glitches by making Vidya say that having acted like she is pregnant for so long, she actually believe it was true. And then she cries saying she has no life without her husband or her baby. Ermmm. OK.