Saturday, December 30, 2006

Year End Post

Am back in London. Italy was amazing. Visited Rome, Florence, Siena, Venice and Milan. Had the most awesome time ever and I definetely have to go back there. It's crazy that one country has sooo much to see. (Apparently Italy has about 50 - 60% of the World's Heritage Sights). Shall post pictures soon but am kinda lazy right now. Still one of Venice at sunset. More later because I want to write nice long posts to bore everyone with.

The flight back to London was uneventful except that it was delayed and I saw Isabella Rossellini at the Milan airort. In London the trains were not running because it was Boxing Day and I had to take the coach from the airport which took almost two and a half hours to reach Victoria Station. Not to mention the fact that the toilet door in the bus kept opening up and caused a huge stink and everyone was sitting with their noses covered. Even though a gazillion people tried the door wouldn't close, till finally this very beautiful Italian guy (he had hair as great as Pirlo, I tell you) went and kicked the door so hard it stayed shut. He got a huge round of applause from the whole bus as a result. Oh and my cab was waiting at Victoria and left because I had no idea the Gatwick Express wasn't running. And I couldn't call the driver because my phone credit was over and the Vodafone top up lines were down. It was a bit of a nightmare really. But oh well, it ended ok.

London feels almost like home now. Have been here for what seems like eons now. I don't need a map to get around anymore. I remember the general directions and haven't gotten lost yet. The other day I walked from Knightsbridge to the National Gallery without a map and didn't even once think I might be lost! The city is sooo full of life right now its amazing. The sales are going on and it's complete madness. Oxford Street was almost mobbed on the first day and every time you cross Harrods people are spilling on to the streets!

By the way, did I mention British TV is pretty fun? You can see amazingly cool people like Ian McKellen and Peter O' Toole on random TV programs. Ian McKellen was doing some skit thing for some year end quiz show and I was so terribly thrilled. He is awesome! This was reinforced when I saw The Da Vinci Code recently(it was late night, I was packing and wasn't sleepy). Gosh, was it awful. Except for McKellen of course. He is excellent even playing a charector called Teabing. The man can do no wrong. Oh and on TV here 'Fuck' is said more than 'Crap' or 'Shit'. Even on family type quiz shows. That would never happen in the US.

Ok. This post is longer than intended and has no real point. Before I end one last picture. The London sky day before. Quite pretty it was.
And to end, wishing everone in advance. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When in Rome...

I leave for Florence early tomorrow morning. Rome has been fabulous. Simply Fabulous.

Since I had already done the touristy bits I walked aimlessly today. For close to seven hours. From the Bocca della Verita and all around Trastevere. The Jewish Ghetto. Largo Arentina, where Ceaser was killed. It isn't open for humans, but is full of cats. I counted close to thirty!

There are small meandering cobbled streets. The river Tiber and bridges every few miles. The autumn colours can still be seen. In the afternoon people spill out into the Piazzas and the cafes surrounding them. The coffee here is the best.
I found my way back to the heart of Rome - Via del Corso and made my way to the Scala de Spagna. It's full of tourists and not the best place to people watch really. I heard too many American accents for my liking. Off the Spanish Steps is the Via dei Condotti. My favourite street in Rome. It has all the most fashionable, swanky designer shops. The display windows are gorgeous and the men shopping at Fendi, Gucci and Zegna the most beautiful ever. Terrible fun.

I also stumbled across Via Margutta in one of the by lanes from Via dei Condotti. For those poor souls who don't know, Gregory Peck's Joe Bradley in Roman Holiday lived at Via Margutta 51. It exists. But its only a door. Undergoing renovation to become some fancy museum or so.

Oh and the gelato here is amazing. I never thought I would say this but pistacchio gelato is fabulous. It is one the most popular flavour in Italy apparently. Along with cioccolato and nocciola (hazelnut). A mix of chocolate and pistacchio is heavenly. Really.

The Italians are wonderful as well. I take a long bus back to the suburbs and am often mistaken for an Italian. The only thing I can say is "Si, quaranto quatro" if someone asks me the bus number. They often start talking to me animatedly after I answer them and I keep saying "No Capito". I found very, very few Italian who can speak English. (this is unlike the French, who often can but don't). And when you tell them you can't speak their language they look at you with such pity! (Again, unlike the French, who would just look at you with disdain). Almost like they are saying you poor thing you don't know what you are missing.
It's really fun to hear them. And to watch them. On the bus people talk to each other like they have known each other for years. Though they have just met! (I can understand enough to make that out). And when their stop comes there are huge goodbyes. "Arrivederci, Ciao!!!"

Oh, and in all my time in Rome I kept looking for Vespas. And I couldn't spot even one. Not one Vespa in Rome. How terrible. Then today on the bus I saw one. A white Vespa parked in one tiny little road corner. It's a surprise I even spotted it. Its terrible that I was on the bus and couldn't take a photo. But really, there should be more Vespas in Rome. Some of the cars I spotted were interesting.
Roman traffic is really bad though. I kept wondering why it felt so weird. And then I realised because Italy is technically Europe. And its just weird to hear so much honking and such little regard for traffic rules. It is very much like India and the Italians really do remind me of Indians. You can apparently even bribe people to jump the line at the Vatican Museum!

Rome also has its own version of the changing of the guards. I just happened to be there. It was five minutes till the ceremony was to begin. Unlike their English counterparts however, the Italian guards were busy finishing their smokes. Someone called out to them to get in order and they shrugged it away. A couple of tourists came by and asked them what was going on and they shrugged at that as well! Sigh, it has been fabulous fun. Hope Tuscany is as well.
They really know how to live La Dolce Vita here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Only my first day and I still managed to take some sixty pictures. It's glorious! The weather is fabulous. Sunrise at 7 am!
Saw a bit. Well, quite a bit. But thats still a puny amount by Roman standards probably. There is just so much history everywhere. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a place like this perpetually. Oh ya, there's a Bernini. And there a Michelangelo. Artistic overload!!!

But I love it!!! Piazza Navona has been taken over by Christmas Stalls (selling stuff that is 'Made in China'). But it's still great fun. There are a lot of tourists but it's not half as bad as I expected. The food is fabulous. And there is gelato everywhere. Oh, and the clothes!!!! I think Italian fashion is better than French fashion. There I said it. The clothes!! And the bags!! And the shoes (which, would never fit me, but still)!! Not that I have any money to buy anything much. But I still spent time trying out stuff in D & G. Muahahaz. Am Evil.

Am exhausted from the non stop walking. And dodging cars at the zebra crossings. Waving my hand like mad, screamin 'Scuzi, scuzi!!' to avoid getting hit. And being on the guard against pick pockets and thieves. Have another three days here. It's magnificent!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

London Colours

It's not true that there are no colours in London. Because black, grey, brown - those are colours too. And these are the colours of London. Even the trees are bare and stark. If India stands for colour, London stands for greyness. It says something about the city that it is so welcoming even despite the dullness, the rain, the perpetually grey skies and 3 pm sunsets.

I tried to find some colour, and had some success at Camden Market. Quite interesting it is. Not a stretch to say you could easily find anything there. Including food from all over the world. At a reasonable price (by London standards anyway). Loads of punks. Really. Loads of them. With mohawk's, funny platform shoes and pink hair. And here I thought the punk movement was passe. There were tons of roadside tattoo parlours. And stalls selling really weird stuff - like furry handcuffs. I asked A who the hell buys that stuff. She just pointed to crowd lined up waiting to pay for their purchases.

Camden was the exception of course. There isn't much colour in London. It is a vast expanse of brown and greys. Almost everyone wears black. There are only occasional splashes of colour to break the monotony.

Like the pink London taxis. Florescent Pink. You cant help but notice them because they stand out like a sore thumb. Or the area around Leicester Square. Because theatre lends itself to neon signs and billboards.

The vast expanses of green in the heart of the city. Woods, gardens, squares, even the courtyard in Westminster Abbey. The lush green contrasts with the brown of the abbey giving it a dash of colour.

With London that's pretty much as good as it gets. If you like browns and greys, this is your city.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Photos from Londres

More here.

Also am just back from watching Cillian Murphy and Neve Campbell on stage. He was excellent. We met him afterwards as well! And I really liked him in 28 Days and Batmans Begins. So now have meet Hollywood types in London as well. Heee....

Friday, December 08, 2006


Is really great. It's bustling with life and people busy doing their Christmas shopping. I reached early, early morning and by now, late evening, the signs of a jet lag are cropping up. I am tired.

I walked like mad. From Baker Street all the way till Westminster. On the way from Trafalgar square to the Parliament it started to pour like mad. And my umbrella was of no use because it was so terribly windy that it kept getting upturned. I resorted to using the umbrella as some sort of shield keeping it in front, rather than over my head, to keep the wind away. I had to eventually take resort in a corridor of the Old War Office!

Hadn't planned on visiting the National Gallery today but decided to because of the rain. There was a great ongoing exhibition on Impressionist, Neo and Post Impressionist painters titled "From Manet to Picasso". It was a fun day. And it's cold and I love that! Plus it's actually nice to see a European city properly after dark, when the lights are lit up. I have always visited in summer when the sun refuses to set.

A will be in from Lj in a couple of hours and I get to meet her after almost six months. And it is my birthday tomorrow (i.e. the 8th)! Am happy.

*Will try and post pictures

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


This post by TR got me all nostalgic. For me Roshan Seth has and will always be Jawaharlal Nehru. I didn’t think any actor has been as good as he has, playing a particular historical figure.

Of course, I wouldn’t really care much about how good a job Roshan Seth has done portraying Nehru on the big and small screens except of course for the fact that I really like Nehru. I always have. I think it all started when my mother bought me an abridged version of Letters from a Father to His Daughter when I was in class three. The unabridged some 1000 pages plus book is today known as Glimpses of World History. I don’t think a nicer, more intimate introduction to history has ever been penned. It kick started my fascination with Nehru. How wonderful I thought, that even while he was in jail he wrote these letters to his daughter covering everything from the beginning of time till the Russian Revolution.

In class nine, I discovered an old copy of his Autobiography in my library. I struggled with it for a month and reissued it thrice, before I could finish it. Of course it helped that there was no waiting line for people wanting to read it. My cousin once told me reading the autobiographies of Nehru and Gandhi offer such a contrast of character. Gandhi could come straight out and write things like, I wanted to give up sex but couldn’t (I am paraphrasing of course, but the gist remains). Nehru on the other hand would take some two pages to say anything concrete about, well, anything, by which time you have forgotten what he is trying to say. It doesn’t matter though because it is a wonderful read anyway. Then there is of course Discovery of India. I am so possessive about my copy that I was even reluctant to lend it to my grandmother when she wanted to borrow it for research!

Now that I am older and have a bit more intellect I think I can look at Nehru’s politics a bit more dispassionately. When I was small I would always fight with people who criticized him and because my argumentative skills were at best limited I would eventually break down in tears because I didn’t understand why people blamed him for everything wrong in the country. I still don’t. I think Nehru failed more than he succeeded, but I don’t think Indian politics has or will ever have a statesman like him. I think he is to blame for the license raj madness and a lot of other policies but, really, his daughter (and her thuggish son!) don’t get even half as much blame as they deserve. This is not meant to be an analytical post or some such. Just a sentimental one. I think my judgment when it comes to Nehru shall always be slightly biased

By the by, in school I once had an argument with someone who said Nehru had no moral character because you know he had an affair with Edwina Mountbatten. I mean, really!! Not like that was the only affair he had anyway. Though the story of Lady Mountbatten in her negligee, caught by the paparazzi opening the door of her house for the Indian Prime Minister in the middle of the night always makes me grin.

* The first picture is of Roshan Seth as Nehru in Gandhi. The second, a potrait of Nehru himself. The third is the utterly cute picture of Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten sharing a joke. Her husband looks so oblivious.

Friday, December 01, 2006

... anger, despair and what else? ...

A couple of days ago a friend of mine and I were talking about feminism. He mentioned some of the blogs on my sidebar saying that well, the posts always generate such heated arguments but it was hard to believe everyone commenting felt that strongly about feminism. It would be nice, he said, to believe that feminism was an idea men floated so that women would be more open.*

I hate the idea that feminists in general are often caricaturized as men hating, bra burning types without a sense of humour. Isn’t it about time we moved away from that stereotype? I don’t doubt that men can be feminists too, I dislike male bashing and I do think it is very important to have easier communication amongst genders. And I think most feminists would agree.

It’s easy to say feminism is over rated. Then you have to read stuff like this and feel at a complete loss as to how to react. Is there even a way to react? When you say patriarchy is still existent isn’t this a real life example of that? I think a lot of us are lucky because even as girls we have had freedom to live life the way we choose to. I always thank my stars that my parents are so liberal. And it makes me wonder – I need to say thanks for freedom? I still need to argue against people who think that wearing revealing clothes means I am asking for it? What feminism fights for are women’s rights. Bringing attention to issues that everyone knows about, but, if a hue and cry wasn't raised would be swept under the carpet. Like any movement feminism has evolved over time and in relation to the issues that are facing women today. It’s not always femi-narcissism. And it is still important. Whether it’s fighting against abuse or for a woman’s right to wear a hijab.

* Ok, I have been asked to clarify that that was a jocular reference and I very nicely took it out of context. I apologise. The whole point is that it is easy to write off feminism but the fact remains that in spite of all the progress we have made there is still so much left to accomplish. Feminism is as important today as it ever was. Having more people believe in and supporting feminist ideals is important.

P.S: This post was just a very knee jerk reaction to reading the NYTimes article. If it came out as a rant, I apologise because it isn't meant to be one. And I would have put more thought into writing this, but I have my Advanced Macro final on Monday and, therefore, a barely functional brain.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Good Food, Bad Day

Would you want to live a long life without good food?

Chanced upon this article. (via).

Very timely. I have been on a calorie restricted diet for the past week plus. Ok, I should state that I am not at all a careful eater. I am, in fact, quite an indiscriminate eater. I hate mentally counting calorific and nutritional value of each and every food item I put in my mouth during the day. I really don’t know if that is a good thing. It’s definitely not the way we live back home.

I think it’s more or less true for a majority of people that they tend to put on weight when they move abroad. It’s especially true for students. Stress, no cooking skills, junk food everywhere and also the cheapest available. Well, at least as long as I exercise regularly I don’t have a problem with what I eat. I have however, pretty much given up trying to look skinny, because I really don’t think I could ever look skinny without looking sick. Last time I tried that I got told off by my mom who said my face looked dried out and dehydrated and why the hell did I want to look like 30 year old in my 20’s.

My exercise routine this term has been awful though. When I was working last term I used to go the gym five to six times a week. I thought school would give me more time, which is not at all true. There are group meetings, deadline, papers, mid terms, exams and my schedule is all over the place. I have probably averaged two visits a week to the gym over the last three months. Of course, I do walk as much as I possible can, which is a pretty decent amount.

So anyway, little exercise + eating anything I want = bloated me.
And say anything you want, a calorie restricted diet is the easiest and fastest way to loose weight. But it’s a short term quick start solution and definitely not a long term plan. And I just think that advocating it as a lifestyle is a bit scary.
From one of the blogs mentioned in the article:
“Last night I finished high: at 1687 calories. Its funny, I woke this morning with so much guilt….”

Of course there is also the small matter of us actually knowing very little about how food and nutrition actually work. Well, we all know that a lot of the junk food out there is really, really unhealthy but beyond that it’s a big grey area. Remember when nuts were considered completely unhealthy? Now they are healthy because they have ‘good’ fats – just don’t eat more than ten of them in a day. There are new trends every few moths almost it seems. No carbs, good carbs, no sugar, no eggs, no proteins for dinner. Nowadays, eating a little bit of ghee is actually recommended. Who’d have thunk? Oh and what about that study that said a low fat diet didn’t affect a person’s health much?

I do believe that there is value in a lot of the nutritional research out there. But one needs to take it with a pinch of salt. Plus why would I want to live till for a hundred or so years if I have to critically analyze every tiny morsel I put in my mouth? It’s like what they say about smoking. You don’t live longer…it only feels longer.

Have you ever had one of those days which seem like such a complete waste?? I feel like that today. I had to go to the Italian embassy today around 2 o’ clock (they don’t open in the mornings on Thursdays!). So I spent the morning getting all my papers in order. Only to land up at the embassy and be told that I needed a travel insurance with a $60,000 coverage and another letter from my school. Gah!!
So I rushed to the travel agents to get my insurance and badgered the school administration no end in the hope that I would be able to make it back to the embassy before they closed. Small problem – I (for some reason) thought they closed at 4.30. Only to reach the embassy at 3.56 and find out they actually close at 3.30. Sigh. What’s up with this one and a half hour opening time?? I just spent the whole day running around and have nothing to show for it. Except my taxi and insurance bills. Will trudge back to the embassy tomorrow. Hopefully everything will work out. *Prays*
P.S: I also came home and found out I had lost my cash card....crap day....

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Travel Woes

I really should be studying. Exams start in ten days. I have no motivation. At all. All I can think of is that I leave for my holiday in three weeks. Three weeks. And then my mind snaps and all I can think of is where to go and what to see. I am also worried about my visas. My passport has been lying with the British consulate for the past ten days and I still haven’t gotten my visa. Every time I think “Ok, That’s it. They can’t possibly require anything else” they come up with some new anal requirement. This photo won’t do. We require your bank statements for the last three months, one moth won’t do. We need your bank to confirm that this is your account. WTF!! Not to mention I can only apply for my Schengen visa once my passport is back. So, now I’m worried sick praying that everything gets processed in time.

Then there is the trying to figure out where to go. England isn’t so bad. Italy is another story all together. I really wish I had another twelve days there. There is so much to see and my guide book is no help! I want to go everywhere!! *wails* Oh, well since it’s my first visit to Italy am sticking to the main sites. Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. Venice is a bit iffy, hopefully it will work out. I have a day to visit a Tuscan town and can’t decide between visiting both Pisa and Lucca or spending the day in Siena. All the Italians I know recommend Siena over Pisa (which doesn’t have much other than leaning tower anyway and is something of a tourist trap apparently). So I guess Siena it is. And I give up the mandatory picture of me trying to push the tower back straight. I have two days in Milan and I don’t know whether to spend both days in the city or take a short trip to Lake Como. Everyone keeps cribbing about how there is nothing much to see in Milan, but I don’t know. I am such a mass of confusion!! Gah!! I need help!

My friend in Amsterdam asked me to visit. He said I could stay with him and I am so tempted to visit. It’s just that the cheapest option would be to catch a budget airline from London and the prospect of running around airports seems completely unappealing. Not to mention I do want stick to a budget. And I really might as well make the most of the British visa. It is so ridiculously expensive. Plus I don’t want to be so tired from my vacation that I need another vacation to recover. Especially since school will have already started when I get back. I know the Italian leg of my trip will be crazy. But I do just want to relax a bit. Roam around London. Visit Windsor, Bath and the Oxbridge towns. Catch a play at the Shakespeare globe. Stuff like that.

Sigh. Is it any surprise that I really can’t concentrate on my work? I have already gone back to worrying about my visas. Blah! By the way all travel suggestions are welcome. Also, will anyone of the few people who read my random, muddled posts be in the places I mentioned in December? Let me know ok?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Kara Kitap

I started reading Pamuk’s The Black Book almost a month back. Well, I was reading the old translation. Mid way through it, my cousin, who was visiting, gifted me a copy of Maureen Freely’s new translation and so I started from scratch. The translation by Freely is excellent. The Black Book, unlike the stark prose of Snow, is lyrical and full of imagery. It reminded me of My Name is Red.

The book tells the story of Galip, an Istanbul lawyer whose wife Rüya has suddenly disappeared leaving only a nineteen letter goodbye note. Somewhere down the line Galip suspects she has run away with their cousin Celal, a famous newspaper columnist. The key to locating them he believes is understanding Celal and deciphering the clues that he dots his columns with. The blurb on the back cover of the book says, “Dazzling…turns the detective novel on its head.” Apt perhaps, because the book doesn’t follow the conventional detective style in the least. At one point Galip tells Rüya that the only detective novel he’d ever want to read would be the one in which even the author doesn’t know murderer’s identity. There would be no planted clues or red herrings. Needless to say, that is the book that Pamuk has written. The book follows two paths. The chapters alternate between Celal’s columns and Galip’s search, eventually converging.

Celal’s columns are what made Black Book special for me. They are so wonderfully written that each one of them reads as a beautiful short story. Fantastical stories about the Bosporus, ottoman sultans, and mystic Sufi sects, they are all here. One of the most beautiful is “A Story About People Who Can't Tell Stories.”

“When you look into the faces of these quiet creatures who don't know how to tell stories - who are mute, who can't make themselves heard, who fade into the woodwork, who only think of the perfect answer after the fact, after they're back at home, who can never think of a story that anyone else will find interesting -- is there not more depth and more meaning in them? You can see every letter of every untold story swimming on their faces, and all the signs of silence, dejection, and even defeat. You can even imagine your own face in those faces, cant you? How many we are, how much anguish we all carry, and how helpless most of us are in the face of the world! ”

At its heart The Black Book is a book about identity. About Galip whose search for Celal becomes a search for himself. And Celal’s columns which chronicle a city’s history, Istanbul’s identity. One of the stories in the book is about a nineteenth-century prince who tries to become himself by getting rid of people, books, furniture, anything that might influence him and make him less of himself. He envies the “stones in the desert for just being themselves,” until he dies in an empty room painted white. From a book rich in mystical Sufism, it’s a not so subtle hint at the politics of the Turkish Republic. I also found it amusing that both the protagonists of the story are named after Sufi saints. Their object of affection Rüya, a dream.

More than Istanbul, it’s The Black Book which is a true tribute to the city. Turkish movie stars, prostitutes, dolmuses, jetty rides on the Sea of Marmara, people sitting in cafes and eating helva -its almost like living in the Istanbul of the late ’70s. I am still undecided on whether The Black Book works as a “book”, rather than as a tribute to Istanbul or as an encyclopaedia on Sufism, but then that’s beside the point. It’s a glorious read.

P.S: Today’s New York Times travel section has a wonderful article on Istanbul. One of the Turkish exchange students in school refuses to believe that I have never been to Istanbul. “But you even know the streets!” Blame it on Pamuk. And also the fact that I read the Lonely Planet guide to the city cover to cover. I am still upset my trip didn’t work out. I want to visit so much! *wails*

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Look Familiar?

Freaky is it not? Talk about like father like son.
I do have high expectations from Dhani though... (ummm, unlike a certain Sean Lenon). And the bar is set high. George is my absolute fave Beatle. By far. I don't think I am capable of explaining why George and not Paul or John. There was just something real and true about him.....
I even like My Sweet Lord. Almost everyone I know has an active dislike for that song.
Sigh, I need to go look at my folder of Harrison photos and indulge in nostalgia. You can go hear some Dhani.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I have been meaning to write about Turkish pop. But every time I start thinking of what to write I reach a road block. Hmmm, Turkish pop – it is good. What more is there to add? When it comes to music that’s all that matters. As long as it sounds good, I will listen to it.

Other than that, well I might as well admit it; I started following Turkish pop because of Tarkan. Omfg, he is totally not my type but he is so pretty, it’s a crime. And duh, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Roswitha once blogged “Ooof. This man reminds me of how heterosexual I am.” Not to mention Panacea who is prone to making declarations like “Once Tarkan figures out his sexuality, I'll be his slave for life regardless of what he decides.”

Of course it helps that he can actually sing. Yes I like his Simarik number (do not gag!!) and no, that is not his best song. (I am partial to Sikidim and Kuzu Kuzu - don’t ask). And don’t even get me started on that absolutely god awful Holly Valence Kiss Kiss version of Simarik, the song is so, so, so much better in Turkish.

Oh, and did I mention the man can dance belly dance? I kid you not. I think it’s the video of Hüp where at one point he lifts up his tank top and does a dance that would shame even the best belly dancer in the Middle East. There went all doubt about him being straight. I think I was sitting with my jaw on the floor and wondering how to react; it was hilarious. In any case, in my book Tarkan wins over Justin Timberlake any day. No contest. Tarkan’s latest album Bounce is in English and I was amazed by how fluently he sings in what is actually his third language. And though I think his Turkish songs are much better I am quite taken with his Start the Fire track. Tarkan is mind numbingly good dance pop. No two ways about it.

As good as Tarkan is, my two favourite Turkish songs haven't been sung by him. The first -Isyankar by Mustafa Sandal. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that it would rank as one of my favourite songs in any language. The beats, rhythms and I love the flute in the background. It’s fabulous. Oh, and it says something about the song that I like it even after TPF trashed Mustafa Sandal on one of my comments page. Not to mention, ruined the experience of listening to another Sandal song I like, Araba. Now every time it comes on on my iPod all I can imagine is Mustafa Sandal singing “Car, Car, Automobile!!” (Because Araba means car in Turkish and the song is about how Mustafa's rival has a great car but not a great heart and how Mustafa will get the girl in the end because he' has a good soul even if he’s not rich). Well Isyankar doesn’t have inane lyrics. I checked, they are quite nice.

The other Turkish song I really adore is Aman Aman by the Turkish rock band Duman. It’s very grunge and Kaan Tangöze’s raspy voice adds great texture to the song. The funny thing is both songs (Isyankar & Aman Aman) have a very Indipop feel to them. In a way they remind me of what Indian pop could be but rarely is. No thanks to the remix cum semi porn brigade. And I don’t have anything against Himesh Reshammiya, but there is only so much nasal singing one can take.
Oh, and before I end. Çakkıdı by Kenan Doğulu. Because that is catchy music.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Yesterday in the gym. A girl running on the treadmill. Wearing a black see through vest with a bikini top acting as a bra. Thoughts in my head:
1. Wow, that has got to be uncomfortable.
2. Hasn’t she heard of good support?
3. Only someone with a 32A (probably 32AA) cup size could do that.
4. WTF??!!!

Other news. Is it possible to be in love with someone you have never met and don’t know because of the way they write? Pamuk in the Guardian:
“For what is a novel but a story that fills its sails with these winds, that answers and builds upon inspirations that blow in from unknown quarters and seizes upon all the daydreams we’ve invented for our diversion, bringing them together into a meaningful whole? Above all, a novel is a basket that carries inside it a dreamworld we wish to keep forever alive, and forever ready. Novels are held together by the little pieces of daydreams that help us, from the moment we enter them, forget the tedious world we long to escape.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


In my comments here I told TR that my next post would be on ‘turkopop’. Which I currently have a very unhealthy obsession for. Well I started by wanting to write a post on Turkish pop and raï, another genre of music I absolutely adore. I started with raï which I am more familiar with and have been listening to for quite a while now. And well, midway through writing the post I realised I had written enough to dedicate one long post to raï itself. So that’s what I will do. This post is about Raï. Turkish pop next.


I think I have a thing for world music. I love new sounds and I love songs sung in languages that I don’t really understand. Fusion is cool. No surprise then that I love Norwegian Wood (the book also) and the Buddha Bar compilations (though they have been getting progressively worse, the first couple of albums still sound unbelievably fresh). As of now my world of music is revolving around Middle Eastern sounds. I now have an entire play list of just Turkish and Arabic songs. Good reason for it too, it’s great music.

So, raï. It would be quite impossible for someone not to have been exposed to raï. Remember the song Didi(by Khaled)? That’s when the genre made its big break. I remember visiting my cousin in Bombay over summer vacations and all the silly teenage boys singing “Didi, didi, didi…”after the girls. What with the double entendre Hindi – Arabic meaning and all. (If you don’t know already, didi in Arabic means darling. In Hindi it means sister.) Or even more recently Desert Rose by Sting?

I really became aware of raï music as a genre, sub culture and a complete way of life when I visited Paris. It’s strange the clichés that one has of Paris, because if you look a little beyond the tourist traps and French bistros, the Algerian subculture is all over. A wrong turn somewhere near the Sacré-Cœur at Montmartre and you will find yourself in lanes with Arabic graffiti on the walls, women wearing hijabs shopping at street markets and boys in loose jeans looking like the stereotypical misguided youth. I think I was probably more aware of it because my favourite area of Paris was Le Marais (no, not because it’s the gay/lesbian area of Paris). It has such great atmosphere. Great Museums, the Place des Vosges, the innumerous number of maghrebi food stalls. I spent a ridiculous amount of time there. And then some at the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Paris Mosque (which, by the way, serves amazing mint tea). In all these places you will hear raï. It’s everywhere.

It is very difficult for me to describe how raï sounds but the beats, the instruments, the entire feel of it affirms its origins. You can imagine people singing this kind of music in the dry lands of Algeria; you can smell the salty sea breeze and imagine the sapphire blue of the sea. Well I’ve never been to Oran, but I’ve seen pictures. And read Camus. And when I listen to raï that’s what I see. Maybe, I just have an over active imagination.

In 1998 Khaled, Rachid Taha and Faudel, the three great raï masters got together for a concert in Paris. The live album 1, 2, 3 Soleils is a classic example of what great live performance should be like. Check out the video of one of my favourites Abdel Kader (actually youtube doesn’t do justice to the instruments and the music, so do try and get the track).

Oh and don’t miss Rachid Taha (pictured above) in the red shirt being his usual badass self. He is übercool. No one who has heard his version of Rock el Casbah would ever doubt that. He transcends genre. His track Ida is the perfect example. It’s a terribly bouncy and happy and the background instruments sound just like the bands from those loud Punjabi Delhi weddings - I kid you not. And somehow it sounds fantastic. It makes me want to jump around and dance and that’s saying a lot because I never dance. OK, not never, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have danced in my life. Now if they actually played music like this I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be part of a wedding baarat.
Damn, I wish there was some way I could upload some of these songs.

By the by, Aicha is still the most played song on my iPod. I’m amazed by the fact that I’ve been hearing it for years and am still not sick of it. No wonder they call Khaled the King of Raï. I made C listen to it and she really liked it. Though when actual Arabic raï (Ya Rayah) came on she said, “It sounds vulgar!” Well, it does not. It is fab. Maybe it’s just easier for me to digest because I am Indian and some of the sounds are so familiar.

Oh, and coming back to what I mentioned earlier, Paris is also the hub of raï because almost all the great raï artists live there. Reason? The Islamic fundamentalists back in Algeria oppose raï because you know, it’s irreverent and the songs are about romantic love, drugs, alcohol etc. And it’s not all threats either. In 1994 they murdered Cheb Hasni, a great raï artist.
Now, why do fucks like that exist? Does music bring people anything other than happiness?

Update: I tried to upload some raï but for some reason the hyperlink didn’t work. Anyway, I was googling for sites where you could listen to raï music and stumbled across this one. You can listen and download! Definite must.
Highly recommended Ana Oualache by Cheb Mami. Just listen to it. Simply fantastic. Full of soul. And to think it took forever to download and it’s just so easily available on the net!
Khaled is almost always good. My favourites: Aicha (but of course) and N'ssi N'ssi. Also Taha’s Oh Cherie Cherie. There are also some tracks from the 1, 2, 3 Soleils concert including Abdel Kader.
Hear them out. Tell me if you liked.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Belated Diwali Post

Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears –
To-morrow? – Why, Tomorrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand

Perhaps it was apt that I was reading the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam on Diwali. I generally end up in school working every Diwali, but this time I decided (on the urging of my mother) to at least have a bit of fun. So in a bout of getting rid of homesickness et al my room mate and I ended up watching Don, which to my surprise was decently entertaining (just please forget about the original Don though). And we walked back home at one in the morning signing "Arre diwano, Mujhe pehchano, Kahaan se aaya… Main hoon Don!" It’s important to have fun like that once in a while.

I also realised why sometimes going along with the rituals of festivals is important. Can you imagine every day being the same drab, boring routine? It’s important to have a day that stands for new beginnings. Well, for me at least. So that I can say, Ok, from today I will do this or that, and at least try to achieve that. I will try and make every day count and at least try to live a slightly more carefree life. Because even though I might fail I can start from scratch again. Its tiresome to just keep on going sometimes.
Oh well, the post was basically to say:
Happy Diwali Everyone! Have a great fun year ahead. Make the most of it.

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and - sans End! *

* The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Rendered into English Verse by Edward Fitzgerald.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Feminism & I

When Roswitha tagged me for this meme, I thought it would be easy to articulate just how important feminism is for me. It wasn’t of course. Feminism had already done a lot to change the world much before I was born and a large part of the way I live my life and a lot of things I take for granted I owe to feminism, even if I haven’t had to fight for these.
I think this is an incredibly difficult tag, but I am trying anyway.
So, here goes. The five things I owe feminism.

Freedom: To do what I want. Live the way I want to. Not to succumb to stereotypes and do what people expect me to do, but to know that I can do anything I want to, and do it darned well too. To challenge myself, increase my knowledge. To be open to ideas and experiences. To Travel. To learn.

Mom & I: I have a great relationship with my mother. I once told her that it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t living with her during the worst of my teenage years. Well, that is true to a point. A lot of it also has to do with a fact that she is simply fantastic. She is pragmatic, liberal, widely read and I can bring up any topic under the sun only to find out that she already has an opinion on the issue. One that I usually agree with.

Liberalism: I am unashamedly, unabashedly liberal. I don’t think it’s possible to be anything else if you are feminist.

Reproductive Rights and Sexual Freedom: Well, for one I greatly dislike small children and I can say that openly without people thinking its some affront to my femininity. I think it’s important that women can say "Maybe I really don’t want to have a child", without being judged. And that I can say that I would happily turn homosexual if I met someone who looks like Penelope Cruz in Volver. Or Angelina Jolie, Rachel Weiz or Paz Vega. Not to mention, can you imagine life without my absolute number one guilty pleasure Sex and the City? How drab.

Political Rights: I can vote. And had I lived even a few decades ago, I might not have had that right. It is important of course because my vote, any woman’s vote, is just as important as any mans. I still believe that women should be more involved in politics (I am not yet. But I am often accused of having an opinion on everything. That’s a compliment.), but the fact that they are at all is great.

I don’t really want to tag anyone else. But all you feminist women and men should give it a shot. Let me know if you do.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

OMG...Pamuk Won!!

Orhan Pamuk Won!! He won!!!
Wow…I am actually thrilled. Pamuk has been on the top of my list of favourite authors since I read Snow some two years back. He is a fabulous writer and the Prize is completely deserved.
When the Economics Prize was announced a couple of days back I remember thinking that the Literature Prize would be announced in a couple of days and “I hope Pamuk wins it.” (Apparently, the committee was in a deadlock over him and Pinter last year.)

I have raved constantly about Pamuk to all and sundry and on this blog numerous times. (His official site is linked on my sidebar, do have a look). Since I always gift my friend’s books, for the last one year they have all received a Pamuk from me, without fail. There is a beauty, sadness and sense of poetry to his writing that is simply mesmerising.

The only Pamuk book (available in translation) that I have yet to read is The Black Book which is staring at me, lying on my desk as I write this. I have been planning to get down to reading it for ages, but coursework and midterms have made me postpone picking it up. Pamuk is not to be read in a distracted state of mind. He demands and deserves complete attention.

Not surprisingly the prize has received mixed reactions in Turkey. I find it strange that I have yet to meet a Turkish student (and I do know many) who has anything nice to say about Pamuk. Most of them haven’t read his books but are put off by his statements on the Armenian genocide. I find that terribly sad and really hope that I have had a biased sample.

In an interview of his I read a while back, Pamuk said that he had his next ten books all laid out in his mind. Well, Mr. Pamuk, please do write them fast. I for one can’t wait to read them.

An Update & A Tag

I finally stopped being a lazy arse and updated my blogger profile, added my email and made a blogroll! Considering this is midterm break and I have basically turned into a slob I am very pleased that I actually managed to get at least this much done.
Also, Edmund S. Phelps won this years Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Which is cool and freaky. He was my macro profs PhD advisor at Columbia and they collaborate on a gazillion papers. My one degree of separation from a Nobel Laureate. I still don’t think very highly of economics though.

Ok, moving on, I have been tagged by Panacea. The task is simple enough – to list the ten most played songs on my iTunes player. So here goes:

Aicha, by Khaled. I love raï music and I absolutely adore this song. It is a million times better than the rehashed version by Outlandish. French and Arabic make for a potent musical combination. Who’d have thunk?

Omkara, from the OST. It’s my favourite track and I loved the way it was used in the movie. Gulzars lyrics are fabulous (as always). He is hands down the best lyricist and poet in the country and he really outdid himself with the songs in Omkara. On the other hand we have Javed Akhtar who has taken to writing stuff like 'Where’s the party tonite?' *Cringe*

Sinnerman, by Nina Simone. I first heard this song (eons ago now) in a Nokia commercial. And that was how I discovered Nina Simone. Oh and I loved that scene in the Thomas Crown Affair where the entire song plays in the background and the police are trying to figure out which of the many, many, many men in bowler hats is Pierce Brosnan. I have always seen repeats of the movie to catch that scene and listen to this song. Fabulous.

The Rising, by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss. Nothing much to say. Except that I think The Rising is his best album and I still can’t believe they gave the grammy to Norah Jones that year!

Rang De Basanti, from the OST. Can A.R. Rahman do anything wrong when he’s in form??

Dicholo, The Constant Gardener OST. Ahh, one of my favourite movies of last year. And I cannot believe Fiennes wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Though I really shouldn’t have been surprised. (I mean they gave Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar for The Fugitive over Fiennes for Schindlers List. I mean, COME ON!!)
Anyway, back to the song. It’s terribly catchy and was extremely difficult to get track off to download. So for a long time I kept playing it by fast forwarding the copy of the movie I have on my comp to the credits just to listen to it!

Govinda, by Kula Shaker. Hmm this is a bit of surprise. I used to find the song and the video terribly amusing but it slowly grew on me. I think I was listening to it a great deal before my macro exam. Perhaps a subconscious bid for good karma?

Moon River, by Henry Mancini. I know Mancini didn’t sing it. But every time I think Moon River I think Henry Mancini. And Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And Holly Golightly.

Thank You, by Dido. I quote J.D. from Scrubs: "If my heart could write songs they would sound like these".

J'y Suis Jamais Allé, Yann Tiersen from the OST of Amélie. If I ever feel sad or low, I watch Amélie. And I feel better and happier. The soundtrack of the movie reflects that. It’s wonderful and heart warming.

In turn I tag TR, MT, Roswitha and Cyberswami.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Italian Lovin

In keeping with the bimbo theme...
Also, I’m bored and couldn’t be bothered to write a post of any value (so head butt me) and spent the better part of the day watching football videos on youtube and all that footer watching must somehow find a way onto my blog.
And I feel the need to share, via a useless post, my new wallpaper – Signor Andrea Pirlo.
Because I was fed up of staring at the Tower of London on my screen. Because I’m looking forward to visiting Italy in December and I need to get out of my French fixation. And because there’s only so much resistance I can put up when a man has hair like this.

Picture Courtesy: De Ludo Globi

Ok. This has got to be the most random post on my blog, like, ever. But its 3 am and I am in the weirdest mood possible. So, if need be, please ignore.

No more bimbotic posts....For a while atleast......

Friday, October 06, 2006

I am so NOT surprised

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

More ammunition for Grace who says that I am the most predictable person alive.
She also says that I come across as a bimbo on my blog.
I don’t know how to respond.
No one ever called me a bimbo before!!!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The one in which Szerelem realises she is royally screwed.

I shouldn’t even be blogging. But after spending the whole morning working on problems like the one below (and that’s an easy one), I desperately need a break.
I have blogged about the pain that is my advanced macroeconomics class. But as of now it’s simply killing me. I have my midterm early next week and I thought it would be ok. Despite that fact that its 40% of my grade. And then at the end of class this week I asked my prof “It’s an open book exam, right?” and he looked at me with raised eyebrows and as if I had gone mad and said “No”. How was I to know??!! He never specified and in all the courses I have done under him the exams have always been open book. Well, that was that.
C and I looked at each other. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Not helping is the fact that there are people in my class who can solve lagrangians mentally. I mean what kind of alien freaks are they?? Anyway, I have till Tuesday to study like mad and pray that this exam doesn’t turn into the unmitigated disaster I have a feeling it will be. So, wish me luck!!!

TR, in response to your comment here, my current love for econs is a grand total of zilch. Partly because I spent the most frustrating last two hours trying to mathematically derive the econometric regression equation for growth. And somewhere in the midst of it realized that Edith Piaf on my ipod was crooning La Vie On Rose. Even the universe was conspiring to mock me. And then, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. So not true. What I regret is thinking I am smarter than I actually am and taking a grad school course. GAH!!!

I also ditched M and cancelled our meeting for tomorrow. Because, I explained, having a relaxed conversation is best saved for a time when I don’t have integrals and difference equations floating in front of my eyes.
M: So, next you’ll tell me you saw an indifference curve crossing the road?
Szerelem: That is SO not funny. Do you realize this exam is half my grade??!!
M: What’s the point of doing well in a subject when it turns you into such a paranoid maniac? You are already complaining you don’t have enough time to read. I can imagine you’ll soon start gushing about Jeffrey Sachs instead of Albert Camus.
S: What?? No!! Sachs is an idiot. And undergrad econs was fun. This is different.
M: Well, videogames are fun too and less stressful.
S: I am totally not in the mood to have this conversation again. I need to study.
M: Fine. Run along. Channel your inner geek. I know you can do it.
S: *groans* Can you not mock me??!!!

Before I take off to solve more economics. The New Yorker has a really nice article on string theory and the problems physics is facing now. (Also, read Brian Greene people. He’s brilliant.) C and I were talking about physics in macro class this week. How math is the language of physics. How physicists are driven by a certain sense of ‘beauty’ and ‘elegance’. And as rudimentary as my physics is even I can see the beauty in E = mc2.
It may be my frustration of having spent most of the day working with clucky mathematical equations, but beauty in economics? I just don’t see it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rant! Rant! Rant!

What I want to know is this: Wtf, no seriously, wtf were the people at Nike thinking when they decided to commission this ad??!!
Were they thinking at all?? I would venture to guess not. Sods. When I saw it for the first time I wanted to take my Nikes and burn them(1). Rest assured, I’m not buying anything from Nike anymore(2).

Then again, on repeated views there’s a ridiculously funny side to it. Zidane is more lethal than bowling balls, American football players, trucks and aerial swinging machines. Is that what you’re saying Nike? Cos Marco boy went down like a ton of bricks with that one head butt. 'Every athlete has his own inner armour'(3), my foot.
Meh. And where are they going to air this craptacular ad? In Italy? And where else? And so much for everyone moving on(4).

Whatever, I just needed to rant to get this out of my system.
Materazzi, I don’t care if you were paid $50,000 for the ad. The bottom line is this: Zidane owns your sorry ass. So there.

1: Well, I’d really like to do that but they are the only running shoes I have. And I don’t have money to buy new ones. It’s the thought that counts right?
2: Well, not for eons anyway.
3: That’s the tag line.
4: I demand Adidas come up with a re-butt-al ad.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Economic Thoughts

You’d think that a Nobel Prize winning economist would have had some fabulous brilliant insight that had actually won him that Nobel Prize. Then you go for a lecture and hear stuff like sound institutions and governmental will are very important factors in determining economic growth. (Unsaid: Of course measuring these factors is very difficult so we just ignore them in our models.)
I mean seriously. I don’t need some Nobel Laureate to tell me that. Jeez. No wonder I’m getting fed up with economics.

Anyway, Ill be bitchy and state that the speaker was Michael Spence. Who as M says won the Nobel for stating that people in a market don’t have symmetrical information. In his words "Duh!!"
Also speaking was Paul Romer, whose New Growth Theory I applied to a specific country for my first ever economics paper. I told him that when I met him. And was questioned by my Associate Dean as to what I had said that caused Mr. Romer to grin so broadly. Oh well, he deserved to be flattered. I don’t analyze just anybody’s work. Heh.

I’m not usually so harsh on economics and economists. But a lot of what they say has become terribly redundant. Not to mention the fact that economics research is just pure math and in a conference, well, it’s very hard to present that. So many generalised, common sensical, dumbass statements tend to be made.

I should know about the math. My advanced macro class is driving me nuts. I don’t know what insanity possessed me to take the masters level class. Arghh. All these lagrangians and hamiltonians, perturbations and exploding equations. If I had put in so much effort studying math in my class 12 exams I would probably have topped the CBSE.
How was I to know economics would descend into this?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Let's Objectify: Zinedine Zidane

Roswitha has very kindly asked me to blog about Zidane as part of the ongoing “Project Objectify”. And me being me, Zidane being Zidane and this being a legitimate reason to dedicate a long rambling post to him, how could I ever say no?

So, Zinedine Yazid Zidane. Or, why I started watching football.

I don’t think there is any aspect of Zidane’s life, his skill, his technique that hasn’t already been analyzed to death. And therefore, nothing I can say about Zidane on any of those would be new. In any case, what I do want to blog about is my absolute adoration for Zizou.

Growing up, I wasn’t much enamored by football. Cricket was my sport of choice. My first cogent memory of football is the 1998 World Cup. I remember watching the final. Brazil vs. France. Everyone I knew was supporting Brazil. I was supporting France, for no other reason than that, well, it was France. I remember those two goals. I remember thinking that Zidane made for such a strange footballer. That bald patch on his head – it just didn’t fit. I didn’t become a football convert after that though. But I did remember Zidane. He was one of the few footballers who I knew by name. Frankly, who can forget a name like Zidane?

Then, I came to college. Cricket was non existent and everyone followed football. And one day I sat with a friend and watched a recording of that Champions League Final. And, omg, was I convert.
To see Zidane score, to watch him on the field, his roulettes - that is pure joy. And pure sport. There is such beauty in his movements, such grace, fluidity and elegance.

That Zidane has often been compared to a ballet dancer is not strange, because a dancer he is. And then there are his close ups during a match. Sweat drips off him by bucketfuls (it’s a result of his thalassemia). There is rarely a smile. Only complete, absolute focus. It’s almost as if you can watch him out thinking his opponents, strategizing. Zidane wasn’t at his best during his last couple of years at Real. He admitted as much. But he was still better than most players could dream of being.

And then there was the World Cup. How could people write him off?? I didn’t. Though I sat in perpetual fear of France being knocked out during stage one. And then in the knock out stage, it was almost like he was another player. He was back.
Before the final, Zidane said he wanted to dedicate the team’s great run to their fans – but only those who supported them from the beginning. I read that and squeed “Me!!Mememememememe!!” Yep, that was a shout out to me from Zizou himself.

When I started watching Zizou play, his head wasn’t yet clean shaven. That bald patch made his moves seem even more surreal. He was gawky off the field (He still is. Andrew Hussey once wrote that he sits delicately. Like a girl, with his legs crossed.) And he wasn’t considered cool or a hot football stud.

And I ask you this: did anyone see this mans face? Have more gorgeous intense green eyes ever existed?? I think not.
He is beautiful. Does he not look like a Michelangelo sculpture? The chiseled face, square jaw line, intense eyes, bald pate. And he has the cutest booty. Ever. And when he smiles the way his eyes crinkle. Gosh, I just drool.
As final proof of Zizou’s utter desirability, the picture below. How many people can manage to look incredibly hot and sexy in a purple and white t-shirt? I rest my case.

I know it’s become almost impossible to mention Zizou without the World Cup finals being brought up. In any case, I have already blogged about the final and the craziness that followed before. Gosh, I miss the way my blog had turned into a mini Zizou shrine during the WC.

Also, Zizou’s moved on and I wish everyone else would as well. Please take note Marco (
he was supremely arrogant and physical taunting doesn’t count) Materazzi and Sepp Blatter (Robben Island, my foot).
I just have to say though, can you imagine if Zidane actually didn’t have a sister? He could’ve turned around to Materazzi’s comment of “I’d rather have your sister” and said “Well that’s too bad, you little jackass cos I don’t have one!” GAH!! Oh well.

Other ‘Project Objectify’ posts on
Theirry Henry, Fabio Cannavaro and Rafael Nadal.

Monday, September 11, 2006

December is booked!

The trip has been planned. The tickets have been bought. I am now almost completely broke. And quite happy with myself.
It hasn’t quite worked out as planned. Spain was getting a bit impossible. It was expensive to fly there from Italy and traveling within the country would have been very time consuming. So, Spain is out and England is in. Italy and England for one whole month. Two weeks each. And I get to spend my birthday and usher in the New Year in London. Am terribly excited.
Nitty-gritties of the trip are being worked out and all travel advice is welcome! Also welcome, recommendations of places to see in England and around London.

In other news, my cousin was in town over the weekend, which was therefore spent eating fatty food and drinking cocktails at 11 am in the morning. Needless to say I didn’t manage to get much work done. I did however manage to spend time with my favorite Englishmen – Ralph (Fiennes) and Daniel (Day-Lewis). I do not feel the need to use surnames.

Speaking of Ralph Fiennes, I am wondering about the probability of running into him while in London. I am hoping that he might be on stage at West End at that time, though I highly doubt it (especially since the since the Faith Healer has just finished its run on Broadway). Hmmm. Perhaps I should consider stalking or the like.
Omigosh, I need help!!

Monday, September 04, 2006


I had forgotten that I live in a city where sudden rain – no, make that sudden torrential rain – can never be ruled out. Its one reason I always, always carry my umbrella with me. (That and the fact that I was once stranded in the rain and had to pay $15 in cab fare for what is actually a two minute walk.) The two weeks I had been back however, were marked by clear blue skies and warm, balmy sunshine.

So, I guess I wasn’t to blame when I decided last Wednesday that carrying an umbrella around was a bit unnecessary. Especially since I was going to the library (a fifteen minute walk from home), it was wonderfully sunny and I was carrying a tiny bag which looked bulky and overstuffed with an umbrella in it.
I walked into the library in sunshine and walked out forty minutes later to be greeted by grey skies, thunder, lightning and yep, torrential rain.
Arggh! I was stranded in the library for half the day. Which, come to think of it, is a great place to be stranded. But still, I had errands to run and couldn’t finish any of my work.

And to think I should’ve learnt from my previous experience of being caught in the rain. Anyway, my umbrella is back in the bag and nothing can make me venture outside without it. Even if rain has not been forecasted for the entire month.


Over dinner a couple of days back, A (new French student in class) and I had the following conversation:
A: So which part of India are you from?
Me: The North. Why?
A: Well….you don’t look very Indian
Me (strong sense of déjà vu): Oh. Let me guess, I look more Moroccan/Algerian/Iranian/Turkish/Spanish right?
A: Yes!
Me: Yeah, well this is like the zillionth time I have had this conversation with a French person.

Oh, what the heck. I am the poster girl for multiculturalism.
The conversation was fun on the whole. We discussed, among other things, the upcoming Presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, Ségolène Royal, Jacques Chirac, Camus (am reading Exile and the Kingdom), last years riots, Zidane, how the World Cup was healing for France and showcased a new Germany, Michel Polnareff and Indochine (the region and the movie).
Sigh, I love the French and I really, really want to go back to Paris!!


It seems that I can not mention Ralph Fiennes’ name without adding, or rather blurting out, “He’s so hot!” It’s often quite embarrassing and I wish I could keep my tongue in check, but I can’t help myself.
I am helping T with some research work this term and was in his office when I saw a DVD of The Constant Gardener lying on the table and dissolved into a fit of gushiness.

“Have you seen it? Isn’t it really good?? Isn’t Ralph Fiennes fabulous in it??? Isn’t he so hot????” I think poor T was a bit taken aback at my enthusiasm. Though he recovered quickly enough to ask “What is it with this guy? I get the same reaction from my fiancée every time she sees his picture!”
I was about to say she has great taste when he mentioned his ‘observation’ that apparently Fiennes appeals only to women over twenty-five. GAH!!! I completely disagree, good taste has nothing to do with age and any attempt to correlate the two is pointless.
Needless to say I am not, repeat not, twenty-five years old!


Andre Agassi ended his 21 year professional career yesterday. It was sad and made me want to cry. Agassi was one of the last remaining sport stars I really admire and who I grew up watching, still playing professionally. And now he has retired as well. He’s such a class act. So much heart, so much life, so much spirit. Love him. And I love that he is with Steffi Graf. They seem so perfect together. He should have and deserves a fabulous post retirement life.

First Zizou, now Agassi. It’s been a sad year for me sports wise.

Talking of Zidane (yes, that was a cheap way to change topics - so headbutt me), he was at the Danone Nations Cup final in Lyon yesterday. He sponsors the tournament and seeing him with the kids was just so adorable. I completely drooled and died. According to the Guardian he has been having a nice quiet life, post the World Cup. Taking his kids to school and watching Madonna’s concert in Paris!

There was also a post match interview yesterday where the interviewer tried to act smart by asking Zidane if fair play was a value he would like to impart to the children?
Zizou’s answer (roughly translated): “Of course, and I am not the only one who promotes it. Children have to learn from things and it forms a part of their education. If this question is referring to my red card, let’s just say that is the past. I hope that these children will never do something like that in their lives. I will say it to them, as I say it to my children, never do that.”
Awww… I just drooled and died - again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Indian Travels

My computer has been in a complete mess of late. No order to my files whatsoever. So, I decided to sort things out, only to open up my 'My Photos' file and spend the entire day going through all the pictures I have on my hard disk. And once that was done I started playing around with Flickrs mosaic maker so that I could put some up here. (And to think I should have been working!!).

Looking at all the photos I have clicked while travelling around India made me somewhat sad about the non eventful holidays I had this time I went back. I have almost always wiggled my way out of Delhi on my previous vacations to make a trip somewhere. Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra. I had hoped to visit Varanasi this time but somehow things didn’t work out.

I always maintain that travelling in India is absolutely fantastic. There is just so much to see, and I don’t mean that just in terms of the diversity in art, culture, clothes, food, religions and what have you but also in terms of just literally seeing and watching people. There are just so many people everywhere that observing them on the sly is so easy. To see them in the midst of their daily routines not really caring about your presence is such joy.
People in processions, in gullis, just sitting around or even children in school.

Then there is India’s spirituality that everyone talks about; everyone from the west comes searching for. Some find the idea itself ridiculous. How can one find spirituality in the midst of dust, dirt and scores of people?? Some can’t see it and come away disappointed, demanding a refund. But there is a spirituality that is inherent in India and her people. You only need to look a bit closely to spot it. In between the hustle and bustle and crowds. A lone man offering his prayers to the Lake Pushkar. A lone Llama boy in a secluded monastery in Ladakh. A woman reading namaz in a corner of the durgah at Ajmer. I haven’t failed to find a oneness with nature, a oneness with ones self.

Of course travelling in India is not easy by any means. The roads aren’t always in the best condition. It’s hot for a large part of the year. It’s crowded with people and cows. And there’s the perpetual possibility of being ripped off. But in spite of all of that the rewards of travelling in India are so rich, that even the worst situation possible becomes bearable. Because there’s hope that there is always something wonderful, something special right around the corner.
Isn’t that how travel should be?

P.S: In a shameless bit of self promotion am linking some of my previous photo posts on travel in Kashmir, Ladakh, Agra. Say nice things, will you?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Great Artists Muse: Lump, The Daschund

Today’s New York Times has an article on one of Picassos muses. Not one of the many women in his life, but a little daschund called Lump.

Lumps owner, the photographer David Douglas Duncan is not only considered one of the last century’s most outstanding photojournalists (he is renowned for his war photographs, especially those taken during the Korean war) but also probably the only photographer to have had free access to Picassos home and studio and to have had the chance to photograph the artist at work.

The article reminded me of my visit to Luzern earlier this year. In addition to Picasso’s sketches and paintings from the private collection of the Rosengarts, The Picasso Museum houses some 200 pictures, by Duncan, of the artist at work, relaxing, with his family, with his pets. And well, I remembered Lump as well! The photo on the left was one of my favourites on display at the museum.

The Times writes:
That very day, he did his first portrait of Lump, a signed and dated portrait of the dog that he painted on a plate while having lunch with Jacqueline Roque, his new partner, whom he would marry four years later.
In so many ways it shows the human face of the artist. One who was entranced by the little daschund, one who happily painted him his very own plate. It also hints at why Picasso is considered one of the most prolific artists of all time, what with some quarter of a million pieces of artwork to his credit. Almost everything Picasso touched has some artistic value, I’d be curious as to how much Lumps plate would cost at an auction.

I also think I wouldn’t mind trading places with Lump. Can you imagine being immortalized in Picasso’s paintings? Being called one of his muses? Having him paint you your very own plate? (The closest I come is having M.F. Hussain gift me a sketch of his signature horses).

All of this also brings to mind the fact that this year we celebrate Picasso’s 125th birth anniversary. It’s also been 25 year since the "Guernica" arrived in Spain. The Prado and the Reina Sofia in Madrid and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona are celebrating.
Another reason to visit Spain this year, isn’t it?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sweet-Bitter Thoughts

So holidays are over. And, well, my quite long work stint is over as well. So am back in school, which is surprisingly not bad. I do feel sort of lost though. Given that I took the last term off and the new freshman have invaded campus, I keep thinking "Wow, I seem to know so few people" and "Why are these new students everywhere and creating such a ruckus?” It’s irritating and distracting. I guess it’s a sign of being a senior.

It’s nice to have a student’s routine again though. Work meant getting up really early and slogging till really late - everyday. Now I have a four day weekend.....whee.....and though all my classes are the early morning ones I don’t really mind as they are terribly interesting. It’s kinda nice to be a student, there’s so much to learn and I always feel I know so little that there’s a perpetual motivation to read more, learn more, discuss, debate and I love that. It was something I missed while working. I also love the fact that I have some absolutely wonderful professors this term, even though I often feel incredibly dumb around them!

Also, after my month at home, where reading was negligible, I now have access to the library and gazillion books. That makes me happy. Am currently reading Calvino and Shakespeare.
So, everything’s rosy right now. But given the super heavy courses I am taking this term I guess it’s only a matter of time before the work load turns nightmarish. Anyway, till then everything’s good.

Leaving home was bitter sweet. The stay was good in the sense of sleeping till late and eating till I felt my stomach would burst, but non eventful otherwise.
It was also frustrating in terms of what was happening in the country. The Bombay blasts had just happened. Mulayam Singh Yadav gave SIMI a clean chit which was further affirmation (if we really needed any) of the fact that the politics in the country is reaching new levels of utter rot. Then the blog ban - such idiocy. Opening the newspapers and reading of Naxalite violence almost everyday. The security threats around Independence Day. I think it was the first time I actually had to think twice before going out to a crowded market place. It was startling that I was thinking that way and terribly upsetting.

Given the situation within the country (and I have to say here that though I do have tremendous respect for our PM, I feel the current government has fallen woefully short of any expectations I had from it) not mention the madness that’s going on in the world I think things are going to get much worse before they get better. That makes me sound pessimistic and cynical and I hate that, but it is what I feel. And I really hope that I am utterly wrong.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Absurd indeed

George Bush's choice of holiday reading that is.
Albert Camus' L'Etranger.
Oh well, the symbolism is absolutely precious. As Maureen Dowd writes in her New York Times column:
''The Stranger'' is about the emotionally detached Meursault, who makes a lot of bad decisions and pre-emptively kills an Arab in the sand. Get it? Camus's protagonist moves through an opaque, obscure and violent world that is indifferent to his beliefs and desires. Get it?

I generally feel a sense of camaraderie with people who have read and liked, nay, loved Camus' books. And as the Guardian points out finding out about W reading Camus isn't perhaps the most comforting news. Oh dear. Perhaps, chaps, George is one of us.
Or perhaps he is as daft as we imagine and didn't get the book at all. Contrary to what Bush thinks the book is after all more absurdist than existentialist.

And what's more absurd than George W reading L'Etranger?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Destination Next

should have been Israel (via Istanbul).
I had planned to visit in July, but given the heat during the summer decided to postpone the trip till the winter break. Which in hindsight was a good thing.
Given the current situation in the Middle East though, visiting Israel seems, well, not the best idea. Things might (should) calm down by November end (if not much earlier and i really hope that they do), but still. And planning a trip just to visit Turkey doesn't make much sense as December is generally rainy around the coast and freezing in Anatolia.

I am of course terribly, terribly sad about having to scrap this entire plan. Considering i spent eons reading up on the countries, sites, planning the routes, blah, blah.... and of course, considering i was and still am obsessed with visiting Turkey. Go there i will, but there's still a long list of countries that i am dying to visit and the current plan of action is to land up in Europe - again. And alone - again. Wonder why i always end up travelling alone in Europe.

Anyway, given that i don't want to be stuck in negative temperatures and snow (i don't really mind the cold but packing and luggage become a pain!), i have happily settled on Italy (most definitely) and Spain (maybe, still working out the details).
So i am now back to doing what i love and do best. Planning a trip. Spending hours on the net, reading books and travel guides, deciding where to go, how to go, what to see. I am traveling in my imagination (well i do that perpetually), but planning for a trip is absolutely fantastic. Even if like my planned middle east jaunt it doesn't work out, what you learn in the process is invaluable.

As of now the plan for Italy is to visit Rome and Florence (and places nearby such as Pisa, Sienna, Pompeii). Have also added Venice to the list, even though the weather is fickle and cold in winter, but what's the points of flying half way across the globe and not visiting?
Spain is still iffy but i really, really want to go. The shorlist is Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada.

Lets see what works out. There's still time and i don't want to get over enthusiatic and jinx my plan. The only thing i know for sure is that i shall be totally broke if this trip works out. But what have i been saving for eh?
Oh well, given my yet to mature plans, all ideas, feedback, tips are very welcome =D