Monday, December 30, 2013

The Firsts in 2013

    I have never been a reflecting kind nor have I ever made an attempt to challenge myself with new year resolutions. But 2013 has been a witness to several firsts and the experiences that tagged along have not only inspired me to reflect on the year that went by in a blink but has also coaxed me to add a bullet to the list of the firsts by promising myself to take chances and move out of my comfort zone  in the coming year.

The firsts that 2013 offered me:

1. The year began with an end of a longing that had left me restless for years together. The news of moving to Bangalore marked the beginning of a year that offered me peace I had longed for.

2. My association with wine dates back to the year 2010 when I tasted red wine for the first time in an Indian restaurant in Malaysia but I experienced its exquisiteness and the sensory bliss when I attended a wine tasting festival. Music, food, wine, my entertaining (That is what I console myself with for all the craziness) “Gangnam Style” performance and great company. What more can one ask for!

 3. I had brought myself to realize the importance of good health in the year 2010 when I shed the extra pounds that had been my companion for years together and decided to make it a way of life. Determined to be fit, I had worked out in the gym like a crazy woman, had taken the diet under control and had succeeded in motivating myself till the time I reached my target but it was only in May 2013 that I discovered the joy of running. I managed to run a 10k Marathon without training (Met with a small accident a month before the marathon). A healthy way of life pays off in the long run. It was a lesson learnt.

4. Writing has been with me since I was 11 but the energies always spent on trying to fit in led to identity crisis which continues till the present day but now that it has been identified, half battle is won. 2013 inspired me to try my hands on different genres: Travel Writing, Event Reviews, Movie Reviews, Book Reviews to name a few. The blog is livelier than it was in 2012.

 5.Movies have entertained me since childhood but they, for some reason, couldn't induce in me the love and desire to explore new genres, eras and languages. It meant nothing more than a break from school, homework and running around. 2013 enlightened me with the fact that I was looking in the wrong direction, that the movies I had been watching all these years were mere entertainers and not love inducers. I discovered the actors and the directors who are near perfect, the stories that make you one with the characters and the dialogues that make your heart race. I discovered the real meaning of movies.

6. I was bitten by the travelling bug in 2011 when I moved out of my home town. It was the year when, apart from the short trips to Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala, Goa and sorts, I was exposed to the term 'Road Trip'. In the following year, the trend continued. In those two years I managed to touch the Western India, not to the heart's content but as much as circumstances permitted. 2013 took me to the East coast, Auroville. The experience was inexplicable. It deserves to be credited with the inward change I have experienced post the trip and the addition of the the Travel tab on the blog.

 7. 2013 was a year of freebies. I started participating in some contests soon to grow weary of them but managed to win a few prizes in the process. Although I missed on the real travel this year (except Auroville), I virtually travelled the world with the free a year long subscription of fox traveller magazine. Food coupons won by a foodie is as good as an expensive gadget won by a gadget lover.

8. The number of times I have sneezed in the last six months of 2013 if weighed with the collectively measured sneezes in the last 27 years of life, the former would undoubtedly outdo the latter. I did not expect myself to take such a long time to adapt  to the weather of Bangalore.
  
9. Having missed on the Seva cafe experience back in town, I got an opportunity to be a volunteer in Seva's Bangalore chapter. I met some wonderful and inspiring people. It was an enriching experience.

10.The last month of the year was remarkable. It gave me the strength and inspiration  to  reflect on the year 2013 with ease and look forward to 2014 with hope, determination and a new zeal.

      The Resolution:

      Instead of setting direct goals, changing the attitude would be a better strategy to work on the weaknesses. Hence, I would give up on

1.  Procrastination
2.  Negativity
3.  Anger
4.  Comfort zone
5.  Fear

    With the hope of writing new chapters and creating new memories, exploring new horizons and spreading love in the coming year, I wish a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL.




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Movie Review: Sunset BLVD

Movie: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Genre: Drama, Film Noir

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder

Cast: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich Stroheim, Nancy Olson




Feature films come with a certain age of their own barring a few which get etched in your psyche as long as you exist. Sunset Boulevard falls in the latter. A 1950 American film noir, Sunset BLVD is a tale of love, dreams and giving up on them.

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a silent actress after being side kicked by the advent of talkies, lives in a constant state of denial and recluse. Dreaming of a comeback, a term that she hates and prefers a return instead, she appoints Joe Gills (William Holden), a small time struggling writer trying to make his ends meet, as a script doctor. Max (Erich Stroheim), the then director who made Norma a star, is an epitome of love and loyalty. Being her first husband, he chose to be Norma's butler in order to stay by her side for life.

Norma falls in love with Joe and Joe, out of desperation, continues being her companion only to be shuddered out of his pretentious identity by Betty (Nancy Olson), a script reader and his friend director's girl. Towards the end of the movie, a heinous crime is committed ensued by complete madness that haunts you for a at-least a night.

Gloria, a powerhouse of talent, has effortlessly brought her larger than life character to life with her magnificent performance. Her flamboyant nature oozes our through her dramatic gestures and a stern voice except for a few instances when she falls weak. She, at one point says, “I am big. It's the pictures that got small.” reflecting the illusionary life she lives and the fame and glamour she had once experienced. She has undoubtedly stolen every scene of the film. The transition from a comic performance to being in a fit of rage within a fraction of a second in the Chaplin scene is commendable. 




The dark, witty and cleverly written script coinciding with the gloomy black and white makes it a masterpiece. Had it been made in color, it wouldn't have been as enthralling. What allures the audience even more is the metaphorical narration by Joe with a slight tinge of dry humor throughout the movie. "Come think of it, the whole place seemed to have been stricken with the kind of creeping paralysis... out of beat with the rest of the world... crumbling apart in slow motion." justifies the above made judgement.

This queer combination of humor and eeriness makes it a classic film of all time. The closing line of the film, "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." seals the deal making it virtually flawless.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Five Things to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I have always had an inherent fascination towards multitudes of cultures residing in a single place. For the same reason, Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital of Malaysia, stands at the top, with its head held high, in the list of my recommended holiday destinations.

It is home to several religions and races where Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups live together in harmony. This unity in diversity leads to a city bustling with colorful festivals and cuisines to gorge on.

Kuala Lumpur has several destinations with delectable food, beautiful temples, unbelievable shopping, relaxing spas and much more making it the sixth most visited city in the world. It has an old world charm that gracefully sits with vibrant night life. (Read: The Thrill at Genting HIghlands, Malaysia)

Following are the top five things to do in Kuala Lumpur.


1) Witness the Architectural Wonder: Petronas Twin Towers

Being an architecture enthusiast, my first destination had to be Petronas Twin Towers.
Standing at 452 m tall, the Petronas Twin Towers are among the tallest buildings in the world. The twin towers can be seen from almost anywhere in the city and one can expect a jaw-dropping view of the city standing over the bridge which doesn't connect the towers but hangs between them. 

One has to queue up early in the morning as the visit to the bridge, on 41st and 42nd storeys, is on the first come first serve basis and limited number of passes are allocated per day.

The most prestigious shopping centre in the country, Suria KLCC, is located at the foot of the towers. 

The building is based on the five pillars of the Islam, which can be seen in the round shapes of the towers.

Petronas Twin Towers





2) Visit The King's Abode: The King's Palace

My love for history took me to The King´s Palace, Istana Negara. It is the official residence of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, a Malay title usually translated as "Supreme Head”. The palace can be gawked at from the main gate where the Royal Guards, dressed in white Malay as well as red British inspired uniforms, are guarding the main gate on horse and on foot. It is surrounded by lush green lawns and ponds.

The King's Palace


3) Experience Spirituality: Thean Thou Temple

My reason for visiting the temples has always been my curiosity to explore various beliefs. Thean Hou Temple is a perfect place to relax and watch the majestic Kuala Lumpur skyline.

The entrance of the temple premises welcomes you with the fountain of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and statues of gods and lions. 

The Goddess of Mercy












The main shrine with Thean Hou Goddess, the Goddess of the Sea/Ocean, is located on the third floor of this temple spread over four levels.  


Thean Hou Goddess
It hosts more than 100 cultural activities annually with the Chinese New Year celebration, when the temple is decorated with thousands of red lanterns, as the main event. 


4) Shopping and Indulgence: Berjaya Times Square

Shopping in Kuala Lumpur is an experience in itself. Berjaya Times Square is the one-stop venue for great shopping, dining and entertainment experience. It is one of the largest shopping malls in the  and holds over 1000 shops. From the local brands to the international names, one can find it all.

Berjaya Times Square

Berjaya Times Square




5) Local Food: Petaling Street


If you master the art of haggling, this street is for you. Apart from the road side shopping, 
the area has dozens of bistros and food stalls, serving local favourites such as Hokkien mee, 
ikan bakar (barbecued fish), asam laksa and curry noodles. 
Along with the Chinese traders, Indian, Malay, and Bangladeshi traders can be seen as well.


Petaling Street 

Shopping at Petalig Street

Diverse Cultures, soothing spirituality, architectural marvels, shopping, delicious food: All packed in the city of Kuala Lumpur. What else one needs! 


































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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When meditation doesn't work

When Mediation Doesn't Work, Practise Art

Love over Books

The sun seemed to have emerged two shades brighter than usual, the breeze felt like silk running down my skin and the green that usually went unnoticed imparted peace. That day has been eternally inscribed in the book of life since then. For others, it might have been a signature Sunday, a day to relax and gather courage for the coming week. But, for me, it was a defining day of my life.

“Are you going on a date?” Mom inquired in a teasing tone.

For someone who doesn't take more than a minute to get ready, who keeps her hair relatively short in order to escape the tiring process of combing hair and who frowns upon the mere mention of the word makeup, staying in her room for more than half an hour would definitely make it crystal clear. However, even if the time spent by me in dressing up had matched other girls, she would have known. In all these years, the one thing that I have come to learn is, moms are gifted with massive amount of sixth sense. They effortlessly read your mind.

“He is just a friend.” I sheepishly replied in an attempt to avoid the gaze. I knew she knew but I couldn't bring myself to confess. I was plain embarrassed. Why wouldn't I be? It was my first date after all.

I had been introduced to him a few months back by a friend and we had built an instant rapport owing to our similar interests: books, movies, music and the most vital of all, our idea of LIFE. It appeared to be the perfect match. But it was too soon to form a strong opinion, especially when it came to the matter of the heart. Life is much more than interests and ideas. Love at first sight had never appealed to me. In fact, it went against my logic. Hence, although the prospect of going on a date excited me, I had decided to go with the least expectations.

I was 23 but a just born in the land where cupid is the torchbearer. Despite my desperate attempts to brush the nervousness off, it over powered the excitement. Butterflies were having the times of their lives with my stomach as their playground. In the auto rickshaw, on the way to the pre-decided venue, my throat ridiculously demanded for saliva and the mouth uncontrollably stretched wide open every ten seconds, the identical reactions to stress before an exam. It seemed that the notorious clock was playing a prank on me. It had virtually stopped. Ten minutes appeared to be no less than an hour.

I finally reached the venue: A bookstore (The crossword) to which a friend had guffawed.

“You will stay single for life.” she had said with a giggle.

“Tum nahi samjhogi (You won't understand).” was my reply mimicking a popular dialogue from her favourite Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan.

I got down from the auto rickshaw and started walking towards the store. The heart was racing as if determined to win a marathon.

“Relax. You are not heading on a space mission.” I tried to console myself.

I saw him stepping out of the store. We had been talking over phone for a few months now, but were actually seeing each other in flesh for the first time.
“Plus one for the guy” I started rating him on a virtual score card. Perhaps, he might have done the same thing. Raised in a family that has always stressed upon punctuality as the most important attribute, it had always topped my list when it came to a date, rather a pre-requisite to take it any further.

Appearance was ruthlessly placed at the last spot on the same list. Hence, I had expected that factor to be neither overwhelming nor disappointing.
We walked towards each other. I saw a neatly ironed shirt tucked in the black jeans and black polished shoes. Heart beats, by now, had dashed to its peak and the steps had come close to crawling. We finally reached at a hand’s distance.

Did we hug? No, we hadn't reached there yet. Hands met followed by our eyes. I believe, eyes reflect the soul. They have the power to reveal the characteristics of a human being that words often fail to. I could clearly see the simplicity, the clarity entwined with the innocence I would seek in a partner. However, I averted my eyes for a fraction of a second in order to not be perceived as a maniac. But somewhere, deep down, the chord had been struck.




It all began with a 'Hi'


After an exchange of the pleasantries, we decided to do what we loved the most, when alone. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea in the beginning but persuaded myself to give it a chance.

“How bad could it get?” I thought. “I might have to stay single for a bit longer. I haven’t been unhappy anyway.”

He opened the door for me. "Plus one for the chivalry." Together, we browsed through the new arrivals on the ground floor reading the synopsis and discussing the authors for a while. The comfort started to crawl up between us and the nervousness found its way out amidst the smiles and blushes. It was a feeling unknown to me. It is amazing how life comes with multitude of emotions: Joy, excitement, fear, stress, and sadness. But, this was new, different and out of this world.

We climbed up to the first floor. I managed to catch a glimpse of him when he was mesmerized by the shelves laden by books. I saw a childlike inquisitiveness in his eyes and my heart skipped a bit. The cupid was hovering around.

We went up to the classics section. We glanced through O Henry’s, Mark Twain’s and Aldous Huxley’s. Our hands reached The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand at the same time. The classic we could eat, drink and sleep with. The heart, once again, skipped a beat and we burst out in laughter. We went on to find a comfortable place to sit, a red coloured sofa for two on the extreme end of the store.

What ensued not only turned into the defining moment of the date but of LIFE as well. He opened the chapter that had dazzled me to the core when I had once read it. He started reading out to me. The curve sitting close to my lips, escaping my attention, stretched a tad more. This time it was accompanied by a glee in the eyes. I tried my best to concentrate.


The moments of bliss


“But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I've chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. “

I had always dreamt of this moment. I didn't realize when a hand's distance between us turned into an inch. Our arms brushed against each other and a shiver ran down my spine. He paused for a fraction of a second. This was it. This feeling, of love, was overwhelming.

“And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

I was struck by Cupid’s Arrow. Soon the reality surfaced and I realized it could be just me.

“He might be doing it just for the sake of passing time. What if he didn't like the way I look? What if he found me too boring for a date?” The smile that had been accompanying me since the past hour faded away in a jiffy. My heart started pounding unusually with a lump in the throat.

I insisted on leaving. The sudden change in the behavior scared him.
“Is everything alright? Are you OK ” He asked with a wrinkle of worry emerging on his forehead.

“I am alright.” I replied with a slight tone of irritation. These Geminis like me, I tell you, can ruin the most precious moment.

We rushed out of the bookstore. More than alarmed, he looked worried.

“I needed fresh air.” I clarified and smiled.

The wrinkle on his forehead disappeared.

“What a relief. You scared the hell out of me.” He said with a nudge on my cheek. I responded with a guilty smile. The moment had passed.

We entered a restaurant close by. I had promised to bring along the dairy which had  my scribbles written in it. I had once read a poem out to him. That is when he had requested me to get the diary along whenever we meet.
“Time to talk.” I thought.

“What brought you here?” I asked

“This.” He replied pointing at the diary.


Love Struck


couldn't help but blush. We ordered food. I read it aloud, managing to steal a glance at him. I saw it in his eyes too, the love.

That day, we talked about everything under the sun: The things that excited us, scared us, overwhelmed us, disappointed us, motivated us, and taught us. What we intended to do in the future, what we wanted to make of our lives, what could make us or break us and so on. Hours passed. We didn't realize that the sun had bid adieu for the day which meant we had to face the same fate. 

With the promise to meet soon, we parted, this time, with a hug.

“How was it?” Mom asked with her signature tease.

I smiled. She understood.

It has been four and a half years since that day. Together we have crossed numerous high tides. We have survived the frustrations of a long distance relationship and issues way more grave than the usual misunderstandings and possessiveness. Miraculously, we have always been beyond the petty fights and hang ups.


I have heard ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ umpteen numbers of times, directed at me as well as in general. I had chosen to ignore it. All I know is, it has made the relationship stronger and induced a trust that will never dwindle for life.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Morning Glory


Auroville, Tamil Nadu


When the shimmering water shines away to glory,
The day would, without a doubt, end without worry.








Sunday, October 27, 2013

The moment of Realization

Reasons?
There always were and will always be. Perhaps, these reasons keep us grounded. Don't they?

Successful men pray to retain their titles,
A poor man tries to survive his daily battles,
A privileged kid pleads for a PSP,
A child in a slum dreams of a bicycle out of his reach,
A student prays to top the test,
A parent, for his child, wants the best.

Some fold their hands and chant mantras,
Some kneel down and offer a prayer,
Some dance, swirl and some keep silent.

The reasons to pray differ but the motto/intention remains the same: To connect to the entity that provides peace, strength and security.

Like everyone else, I have always had my own reasons to pray. However, the intensity and the reasons have changed from time to time.

At 5: Innocence
Prayer to me, at the age of 5, meant folding my hands and closing my eyes for 10 seconds. At the 11th second, the curiosity in me, residing restlessly, would coerce me to open an eye to catch a glimpse of the people around. It always made me wonder what brought them there, what went through their minds. Little did I know that life is more than watching my favorite cartoon, getting an A in a class test and eating a chocolate that made my life seem perfect to me.

At 10: Competition
Reality crept in. Expectations from life started growing. The favorite cartoon turned into a video game a friend was gifted with, the joy of being appreciated on getting an A in a class test turned into a competition. Innocent joys were replaced by things especially the ones possessed by others. Reasons pretty much remained the same but the intentions and the intensity changed.

At 15: Insecurity
Insecurity of being judged, of failure, of trying to fit in took center stage. It led to an avalanche of reasons to pray. Getting good grades was, by now, an obsession, the dress I had seen on a mannequin and had promised myself to lay my hands on, being noticed by the guy I had a crush on. The list was endless.

At 20: A moment of realization
On one fine day, the realization dawned upon me. It was a moment of enlightenment that changed my life forever. I was praying in my usual way. It has always been a direct conversation with Him. A voice whispered in my ears.

You crept in and…
Opened up the buried,
Enlightening me to my worth.

That’s when I realized...
It was You...
Who always watched me...
Sitting by myself,
Staring at naught,
Sobbing unreasonably,
Pleading for acceptance;

That’s when I realized...
It was You...
Walking with the lonesome me,
Protecting me in a cocoon unseen,
Whispering in my ears all the blessings.

(Addressed to God)

It occurred to me that God is all around and knows what is best for me. Since that day, I pray not for the things I need or want to achieve. I thank him every morning for the roof over my head, the food in my plate, the air to breathe and a healthy heart, a family that cares and someone who will love me till the end of it all.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Better Safe Than Sorry

“But wasn’t it five in the evening!”
She managed an affirmative nod amidst her miserable sobs.

I, for the first time in my life, had left the comforts I had often taken for granted. It was a new chapter in my life and the dreams, the fire to reach new heights and explore the unexplored visible in my eyes couldn’t go unnoticed. But life comes with its quirky shades and surprises and she had always stood by me during those days when life seemed no less than a battlefield. More than a roommate, Seema had been a guide and a friend to me.

30 minutes earlier: 5.30pm     

Two years back, on the same day, our journey as roommates had begun. Unlike the common perception that girls staying together can never gel well, we had turned inseparable.

After a hard day at work, I had managed to leave early. On the way back home, carrying a smile and an expression of a warrior who had won the battle of Kurukshetra in matter of a day, I was making a mental note of what was to be worn to look my best during our second-anniversary-roommates-celebration comprising of a movie followed by a lavish dinner at a fancy restaurant.

It never ceases to amaze me how life holds the power to turn mechanical.  Following the same set of actions, I entered the gate, threw a broad smile at the security personnel which again had become a habitude for the good, walked past the kids riding their bright colored bicycles and their mothers gossiping their hearts out, I entered the lift, took out the keys and finally entered the house with a smirk unlike my mood which has of-late turned erratic.

What I witnessed came as a shock to me. I froze for a moment, silently trying to decipher what had become of her.


Photo Courtesy: bestprofilepicture.blogspot.in

I inadvertently dropped my bag on the floor and ran up to her. Seated in the corner of the room, with her head down, she was in a state of complete mess. I could hear her sobs underneath her head rested on her knees.

The moment I sat next to her, she lifted her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and her usual fearless eyes had turned red. The moment she looked at me, I understood it was more than a tussle with her manager because at such times, she often displayed a nonchalant attitude. She never bothered herself with love affairs so a breakup after effect was a remote possibility. It had to be way more serious.

Holding her face in my hand and wiping her tears, I asked her, “What is wrong?”
She hugged me tight and wept to her heart’s content. I had never, in these two years, seen her so frail.

“Unusual it may sound but the street was absolutely deserted today.” She said with eyes still red from all those hours of crying. What followed filled me with anger and disgust.  

The street that leads us to our home from the closest bus stop is more often than not bustling with commuters. The two wheelers with pillions either sitting close to the driver in order to be audible while talking or strangely holding the rest on the extreme end of the pillion seat, cars honking for no particular reason and pedestrians  either lost in the virtual world of their cell phones or saving themselves from the wrath of the drivers.

“I was walking at a normal pace when a bunch of motorcyclists surrounded me, started making lewd comments and groped me”. I could still see the fear in her eyes, her hands clutching the corner of her trousers. She had been controlling her tears all this while.

“She needs some time” I thought. But she is of a kind who doesn't like creating a storm inside. I let her vent out. I, to an extent, knew how it felt but my tears would make it worse. I held them back.

“I managed to escape from their hold and started running. They followed me. Hit me on the back.” The length of her sentences reflected how scared she was and how desperately she wanted to let it all out.

“Did you cry for help?” I had read an article on how girls can protect themselves when in such a situation. Honestly, at most of the times, they don’t work. 

“I cried for help. I could see some people pass by but no one cared to stop.” Her teeth clenched and the fear in her eyes suddenly turned into fury. 

”The thought of taking a short cut struck my mind. But it was more secluded. Had I taken that route, things would have got worse. Instead, I entered the next gate I came across and climbed up the stairs, stayed there for a while.” She was literally gasping for breath. 

“I climbed down the stairs and ran, not looking back. I knew they were around. I could hear the roaring sound of the bike engines and I ran. I managed to reach our gate and warned the security personnel to look out for those rascals.” 

She hugged me tightly.”I was scared to death” she said.

“You are a brave girl Seema. Did you note down the number? We’ll drag them to the police station and ensure they pay for it.” I said, still hugging her. 

“It didn't occur to me. I was in shock and in pain.” she said. I handed over a glass of water. I knew no words would comfort her. She needed some time to heal.

We decided to celebrate the evening. We ordered Chinese food from her favorite restaurant and saw a movie.

couldn't help but ponder over, all through the evening, what has become of us-humans. In order to gratify our egos, we commit the most heinous crimes. What would they have achieved by chasing a girl who they knew was vulnerable? What would have happened to her if she was away from the house, in a place she wasn't acquainted with? 

It is a sickness, a disease that can be eradicated and done away with, from the grassroots level, only if men are taught to respect women from childhood. The patriarchy has acted as a fungus to the society since centuries. Parents should  not let their son grow up to be a male chauvinist.

A twofold increase in the rape cases have been observed between 1990 and 2008. In addition to these, several go unreported and we claim to be growing as a society, as human beings. What an irony! What bothers me more is the lack of willingness of the people to come forward to help. How can they sleep with themselves at night with the guilt of turning a deaf year to the victim pleading for help? By doing that, they are to be equally blamed for the crime as the abuser.