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.