Friday, June 30, 2006

Sexy grey hair and balding footballers

For anyone who ever questioned my taste, GQ magazine claims that 'Grey is the new black'.
Fitting reply to a certain cousin who reacted with absolute horror at my statement that i think Ian McKellen is cooler than Brad Pitt anyday and that he is also the sole reason i would even consider watching trite that is The Da Vinci Code. Her response - why the obsession with old men with grey/white hair? Of course i could not and would not dignify such an ageist comment with an answer. I mean he is Ian effing McKellen (aka Gandalf/Magneto/sheer brilliant actor) if you don't think hes cool you're the one with the problem. Hmpff.

It would be like someone asking why i obsess about balding footballers*^, which is no way to talk about Zidane (as if anyone needs a reason to obsess about Zizou).
On a side note France play Brazil on Saturday and in all my biasness i hope, nay pray, they win. Also rooting for Argentina over Germany today. This should have been the semi final line up. England and Italy are such trash. Hmpff.

Update: ok, i totally need to eat humble pie now, since Italy are in the final (as are France - YAY!!)...and as favourites over les bleus somemore...arghh, arghhh, arghhh!!...allez zizou!!

*I was actually asked this (the horror) and had to draw on all my restraint not to whack the person silly. Idiots abound i tell you.
^I realised Ralph Fiennes is also balding. Patrick Stewart is already bald. Does this indicate a new fetish on my part for balding men? Will bald be the new grey?? Hmmm.....

Friday, June 23, 2006

Yes, I have clicked all the pictures on this blog!

Recently I have been asked, more than a few times, whether all the travel pictures on the site have been clicked by me. Answering in the affirmative I always get this response - Really?! YOU took all these pictures? they look like they're from a travel magazine.
I don't know whether to take this as a great compliment (as in - wow, your photos are good enough to be featured in a travel magazine) or as a great insult (as in - I cant believe you good for nothing no talent person took these pictures surely you are lying). Sigh. Anyway, to clarify, all the travel photos on this blog have been taken by me.
And with that I shall post another collage of some more photos.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Reading, reading, reading...

Two recent realisations.
1. Over the last couple of weeks I have turned into an insomniac.
2. Reading can sometimes lead to bad accidents.

I have been reading like a maniac recently. This explains my insomnia. Since work started i have been trying to catch up on my (fiction) reading as school doesnt always afford that luxury. So no non fiction books for me for the time being. I have had enough of Habermas, Kant, Russel, Smith, Hayek, Freud and the likes for now....and in any case I shall have to return to them come August (arghh!).

The last two weeks in particular have seen me in some kind of frenzied craze to devour as many books as I can (i cant explain this sudden urge to read, read, read as fast as i can and then move on to the next book to, well, read some more). As a result I havent had more than, lets see, 5 hours of sleep any day all this month. I read while walking to the metro, on the train and then walking to office. (I also think i now look like a zombie *can imagine Cranberries in my head going 'Zombie, zombie, zombie'...yikes*)
Which leads to point number 2. Reading and walking is not a good combination. I was so engrossed in my book while walking home day before, I walked straight into a lamp post. *Ouch*. The bump on my head still pains. *Ouch* again. Oh well, i still read on.

Anyway, have finished 5 books since last monday....

My Name is Red , Orhan Pamuk: its wonderful!...but I am biased as Ii am in love with Orhan Pamuk. By the by, I also heard Pamuks "Freedom to Write" lecture at the PEN World Voices festival, which made me like him even more. He spoke about shame and pride, how he has become more political and i especially loved this - "I am the kind of novelist who makes it his business to identify with all of his characters, especially the bad ones." Made me remember Blue from Snow....arghhh, where is his Nobel already?

Never Let Me Go , Kazuo Ishiguro: I liked it, though not as much as his other books. It is sad and moving and haunting and Hailsham is a perfect Ishiguro creation - known yet otherworldly. But there was something missing...the book raised so many questions which i felt changed nothing and were eventually discarded...the characters just went down the road that had been planned since the beginning...

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh: because it is fabulous and deserves to be re-read a million times.

The Palace of Dreams, Ismail Kadare: is quite brilliant. What would happen if our dreams were analysed by the state, as they are at the Tabir Sarrail, the Ministry of Dreams, the centre of power of the Ottoman Empire...its a scary vision. Absurdist, hallucinatory, completely macabre.
Was reading Kadares interview in the NewYorker and was most thrilled to read this one line at the bottom of the page - Kadare’s responses were translated, from the Albanian, by Elidor Mehilli. Made me squeel like mad because i know Elidor...i was talking to him just last month...what a kick...
(i think its the same Elidor Mehilli i know. Hes Albanian, studies European history at Princeton....what are the odds, eh?....ok! I am not going to kill it by analysis, this is my two degrees of seperation from a Booker winner....*make a note to cross check*)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera: i finally read it! and its wonderful!!! I am trying to analyse whether i prefer lightness or weight (i think i am more of a weight person)...which one is better?
don't we need both?(isn't that the answer to ALL philosophical questions??) but really, what can you say about a book that makes you stop and think about how you live your life??
its wonderful.....enough said.....
(on a side note this book has added to my fascination for Bowler hats, it started with the Thomas Crown Affair which i have watched repeatedly just to see that one scene with all those Bowler hats - I cant help it, I'm weird).

Am currently reading The Buddha of Suburbia (its bitterly funny) also trying to get my hands on Eastward to Tartary .... books make life such bliss :0)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Explaining my wanderlust....

Have been back 2 weeks now (wow, its been only two weeks). Anyway, I have wanderlust again!!!....arghhh....I want to go somewhere...

And I am now home sick. I think this is because I know I have only a month to go before work is over and I can head home. And once I am there and relaxed i shall plan my december trip. I have to, I must. Go to Turkey and Israel i.e. (and maybe Jordan?)....I will be terribly sad if I dont....considering I have been saving like a maniac to be able to buy the ridiculously expensive ticket.

Anyway, explaining this to someone I got the following reaction - Wow, you are so rich eh?? - ummm, NO....I am living on eggs and instant noodles to save enough money. And i am serious. Then this - Why do you want to waste so much money? And then on explaining the joy of seeing new places, experiencing new things, this - What if you are content where you are? Don't you think people are travelling too indiscriminately these days??
It was like being hit on the head with a bat. How do you explain the want for becoming a vagabond and your wanderlust to someone who just doesn't get it?? I shall quote Pico Iyer because I dont think anyone does a more beautiful job of explaining why it is that we travel.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.

Wanderlust. Its a most wonderous thing. I pity those who dont feel the same way.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Colour me kirmizi...

Crimson. Red. Kirmizi. Benim Adim Kirmizi. My Name is Red. I just finished reading it and am still trying to gather my thoughts. The book is beautiful, poetic and i loved it dearly.

The book starts with the murder of Elegant Effendi, a master miniaturist and gains momentum with a second, of Enishte, who had been secretly commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan to produce a book by the four best miniaturists of the land (Elegant, Olive, Stork and Butterfly) to celebrate the 1000th year of the Hegira.
Secret for the simple reason that the illustrations are to be done in the Frankish style, with the use of perspectival, representational art not in keeping with Islamic thought. Miniatures were acceptable because they were illustrations, secondary to the text and the images made were generic. The use of potraiture and perspectives also brought about the threat of idealizing people and pictures and depicting things as we see them not as per their importance in God's eyes. The book is shrouded in such secrecy in fact, that even the artists are never allowed to see any painting in whole, simply working on their individual parts.

Red's 59 chapters are narrated by different characters who take the story forward in the form of a murder mystery, a love story (between Black, Enishtes nephew, who is investigating the crimes and the beautiful Shekure, Enishtes daughter) and as a discussion on the meaning and nature of art. It is as such a treatise that the book truly flows. About half of the books chapters do not directly contribute to the story, discussing instead the various miniaturist themes from Husrev and Shirin to Leyla and Mejnun, the different styles of miniature art in Persia, India and China, the differences between Islamic and Frankish styles, as well as the importance of style, time and blindness.
Views are expressed not only by the artists in the book but by the illustrations themselves - acted out by the story teller in the coffee house . A tree (I don't want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning), death (I'm just an illustration. Be that as it may, I read terror in your eyes) and even the color red (Yes, those who cannot see would deny it, but the truth is I can be found everywhere).

Though I found the translation by Edrag Gonkar beautiful and lyrical the book doesnt always make for easy reading. In trying to keep the murderers identity a secret Pamuk tells us very little that differentiates the three remaining miniaturists from each other. I found Black and his marriage to Shekure (and often the triangle with her brother-in-law) often incomprehensible and frustrating. Yet I found Shekure herself beguiling, intriguing and elusive, her motives always just out of grasp.

Though My Name is Red is set in the late 16th century, I think it is very topical,(probably not as much as Snow, which is openly political). Loss of identity and conflicts between the east and the west are common themes in Pamuks work and i think few people have done as fine a job as him in depicting them and that there are few as well equiped as him to do so. To quote Pamuk himself:

"I have spent my life in Istanbul, on the European shore, in the houses looking towards the Asian shore. Living by the water with a view of the opposite shore ceaselessly reminded me of my place in the world. Then one day a bridge connecting the two shores of the Bosporus was built. When I went up on the bridge and surveyed the landscape, I realized it was still better and still more lovely to see the two shores at once. I felt that a bridge between two shores was the best thing to be. Speaking to each shore without completely belonging to either; this unveiled the finest scenery of all."

My Name is Red is proof of that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

One Week Whirlwind Tour - Part II

Lion Monument
Lion Monument - Luzern

Luzern & Thun: It was cold and cloudy when i reached Luzern which ruled out the possibility of going to a mountaintop. There isn't really that much to see in the main town. The very famous Kappel bridge is nice and Lion monument is extremely real, poignant and very moving (the dying lion reminded me of Aslans death scene in the Chronicles of Narnia). I didn't think much of the lake because i feel lake Geneva beats any other lake in Switzerland (of which there are many)hollow....Luzern has a wonderful Picasso museum which has some nice works by him and a wonderful collection of photos of the great artist in his later years....very intimate...
I had to stop at Bern to change trains on the way back and as i had some time i decided to hop on to the next train and see some place nearby. Turned out to be Thun. Thun was small and quaint with the most gorgeously turquoise river Aare cutting through and a very swiss town centre (architecturally speaking). The castle that overlooks Thun seemed to out of the fairy tale Rapunzel....or well my imagination of it anyway....

River Aare - Thun

Bern: Heidiland's capital seems completely unlike one. Zurich and Geneva are more cosmopolitan and business like but Bern - simply disarmingly charming! The rows and rows of houses in the old town, fountains and the towering munster make you feel like its another age. I climbed all the way up the munster (some 500++ steps!) which was a bit spooky specially when i would come face to face with those gargoyles...eeks....but the view was fabulous and it was wonderfully peaceful as the gate keeper of the cathedral and i were the only ones up there....
Bern also has the wonderful, wave shaped Zentrum Paul Klee, with an excellent, excellent collection. One work that particularly stayed with me was called "Exuberance" it was a most apt title. The Zentrum is now my second favorite museum, the first being, of course, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Old Town - Bern

Alpen Villages: I made my way to the Lauterbrunnen valley (not for no reason is it called the valley of 72 can hear the sound of water everywhere!) and visited the village of Lauterbrunnen and then hiked up to the villages of Gimmelwald and Mürren. Idon't think any words can describee just how beautiful the valley was. The meadows were blooming with white, yellow, pink and blue flowers with the little wooden houses in their midst and the alps with Jungfraujoch in the background. Yep, i had to eat my words but at least i finally got why Switzerland is such a tourist destination.

My creation
Lauterbrunnen Valley

Gruyère: a tiny village that made Gruyère cheese famous. The village chateaux offered wonderful views of the pre alps and it was interesting to see how they actually made the cheese. But while the village was the destination it was the wonderful train ride right through the La Gruyère region that was truly special. The tiny orange train cut through meadows such that it felt like one travelingling through a bed of flowers all while crossing lakes, mountains, cows and even deers!

Pre Alps
View of Pre-Alps from Gruyère

Monday, June 05, 2006

One Week Whirlwind Tour - Part I

Tried to see as much as possible in a week without rushing and missing anything. Main reason being that if I go back to Europe as a tourist again anytime, Switzerland will not ideally be on my agenda for some time. I did enjoy the country very much and it really is beautiful....but theres so much else I havent seen....So back to my crazed tour....where all did I visit? let me list chronologically....


Zürich: I didn't spend much time here. Just saw the main sights, walked down the Bahnhofstrasse to the lake and roamed around a bit more. I had thought i might spend some more time here before flying back but dropped that idea. The city was so cold and drab (not helped by the restoration work going on at the river front) and seemed to be the perfect habitat for those no nonsense, faceless, business suit clad bankers you always associate with Zurich....very industrial, little charm....

St. Gallen: I didnt get to see much of St. Gallen during the day(just the Abbey and main city centre) being busy with workshops and all. I did get to see a lot of St. Gall at night (courtesy walking back to the hostel in pitch darkness) and am quite confident that i can find my way across the small town better when the sun is down =)

Jet d'eau - Lac Léman

Genève: I liked Geneva, it was very international and such a refuge from hearing people speak German!! (i do not like that language - its so harsh!)....the Cathedral and old town area are very quaint . There was a celebration of the reformation while i was there and the atmosphere was so festive with everyone cheering a really great street band playing wonderful music (with an interestin mix of instruments - electric guitar, violin and accordians). Lake Geneva is stunning...the view of the lake from Geneva city on a clear day is quite beautiful with a view of the French Alps and the very blanc Mont Blanc in the background with the quite spectacular Jet d'eau in front (pictures really do not do it justice - it is quite nice). My favourite memory of Geneva is having dinner at a small restaurant somewhere near Versoix (this is technically outside Geneva, but well) with a wonderful view of the lake,Mont Blanc and the vineyards tucking in malakoffs, cheese fondue and creme brulée as the sky turned from pale pink to crimson.


Laussane & Montreaux: Laussane was easily my favourite city in the Lake Geneva region. The seat of the IOC, its old town is extremely pretty, very dramatic and very very steep!!....but the view from the terrace of the Cathedral is quite stunning and makes you quite literally forget that you legs are aching and that your throat is as dry as sand. The port area of Ouchy offers a beautiful view of Lake Geneva and the boat ride to the Chateau de Chillon was well stunning, especially when the boat approaches the Chateau which is surrounded by water and has the snow covered mountains in the background....

Chateau de Chillon - Montreaux

Wining and Dining - Swiss Style!

Spoilt silly doesn't even start to cover it...especially when it comes down to the food and goodies!!
We were treated like complete royalty at the Symposium right from our first day hosted by UBS(which has to have been the longest day i have ever lived through...due to ofcourse the time gap flying east to west), with a great opening dinner.....our next day at the Versailles style Swiss Re training centre was an even better spread with one person remarking "If they give food like this to their employees i want to apply for a job now!!"
We also got our goodie bags with a complimentary swiss knife - the only thing i actually wanted to buy from Switzerland which made me really happy as i got to save on that account, that being quite important as i am, after all, just a poor student =)

During the 3 days of the symposium it seemed like the underlying ideology was no one can think on an empty stomach, so we must keep everyone well fed! Right from breakfast - with croissants, museli and fresh, fresh fruits to lunch - with salads, vegetables, fish and of course wine which would start doing the rounds at 12 noon sharp to coffee breaks with all hot and cold, coffee or tea options available....of course if you wanted fresh juice or hot chocolate that was there too.....and did i mention free flow of Lindtt chocolates and marzipan?? (must mention however that all through the food was very light and we were never stuffed so as to fall asleep mid discussion =).... another point to the organizers credit)

The two dinners organized were, well, wow, one being hosted by the Town Council and the other the international buffet with food from Japan to Mexico, and everyplace in between. I also realized during our first dinner, a sit down affair, that a guests wine glass even a quarter empty is a poor reflection on the host (or so i was told) which meant my glass kept getting refilled almost magically, and also meant by the end of dinner i had no idea (nor i think, did anyone else) of just how much wine i had consumed....i counted one glass of champagne and 3 full glasses of wine but thereafter lost track.....not a bad thing, as it gave us enough strength to party on till 4 am, before a 30 minute hike across town and uphill in the cold and even worse in heels(!!) to our quite deserted hostel...

My two firsts at the symposium: smoking a cigar (which is not that bad once you learn how not inhale the smoke and quite fun once you can actually puff smoke out), and eating Sacher-Torte, which i can only describe in perhaps contradictory terms as, either, a slice of heaven or pure sin....its so good i think its almost worth flying to Austria just to eat the original version ......