In time, i’ve come to realise that planning doesn’t work. Especially when you’re planning a get away with friends. Saturday afternoon boredom and frustration lead to plans being made at lightning speed. By 5, K and I were on our way to a much sought after, if I may add, high profile resort on the outskirts of the city. Long drive, good music and great company! The day ended beautifully on the beach. I dreamt of waves splashing, sand castles, fishing nets and moonlight in my sleep.
The best was yet to come. After some catalog browsing, the next morning, we narrowed down on a catamaran ride. Other than its oft quoted etymology, i knew little else of what it involved. Have you seen that song with Trisha and super cute Siddarth in AE or the one with Kareena and Vivek? With the image in place in my head, i talked K into it. She can’t swim and neither can I. Isn’t that why people wear life jackets. We decided to do it.
The sand was just warming up but the water was still deliciously cold. But i couldn’t even begin to imagine what it might be like to be in the middle of the ocean. A speck in the vast blue blanket that engulfed my line of sight. Swimming pools somehow never look like that however vast and however blue the floor is. The sun is always partial to the sea. She always shines in her glowing gaze. The beach is romantic at night but the sea looks her best in sunlight.
The catamaran took us about a kilometer and half into the sea. We stood holding a not so thick rope as the motor was switched on and we zoomed our way through. My hair was flying, my glasses threatened to jump into the sea and water was spraying in my eyes. We were moving farther away from the coast. The screaming in my head started. It wasn’t the panic scream though. More like, i can’t get enough of this woo hoo. The blue just got brighter and more seductive. The motor’s roar died down and the guy asked us to jump in! Jump we did not but after a minutes hesitation, we slid off the catamaran. We were in the middle of the sea. Well, not really but far enough to disillusion us. We held on to the same dear rope to keep us bobbing along with the catamaran. And then the madness was unleashed. I’ve never spoken so many disjointed sentences. Just sheer bliss. All I could see was the same blue sheet that loving wooed we a few minutes ago. There was water in my nose, eyes, ears and mouth. But we were laughing nonstop! Singing cheesy songs in the sea, just managing to keep my head above the water is not something i imagined i would do. When the cynicism took over, i made a effort to turn back and make sure the catamaran was still there. Oh and also that the shore still existed. Somewhere in all this madness, laughter, excitement, fun, doubt, fear and bobbing, there was a moment of Nirvana. I felt at peace with myself after a long time.


I’m back!

For a lot of reasons, I’ve spent the better part of the last 2 months in Madras. Its been just brilliant. I think I’ve done just about everything but shout from my rooftop and proclaim my love for this city. With a lot of time on my hands, I’ve re-acquitanted myself with this place.

December, is by far the best time to be in Madras. For one, the sun is not out in its full vigor everyday! Surprisingly, this year, the temperature is low enough to even put Madras on the radar of places that truly have a winter 🙂 For another, the music season has kickstarted. With the number of sabhas and performers increasing by leaps and bounds, the choice one has is tremendous. Madras is at its cultural best at this time of the year.

I’m not a die-hard fan of carnatic music. But I can enjoy a 3 hour concert without feeling lost or stumped. I have a few artists that I follow or rather know that I like for whatever reasons. What really draws me to a concert is not just the music but also the crowd and the ambience. I can sit in one of the sabhas and watch people around me all day. This is where the quintessential Tam Brahm crowd meets. The Ambi maamas and the Raajam maamis talk about everything ranging from weather to the latest soap to the performer’s ensemble to what raaga they think must be sung that day to the pallavi and neraval at the previous day’s concert to which artist they think has the most potential to which would the hottest kutcheri of the season!

Another hot favorite is the tiffin menu in various sabhas! The keera vadas and carrot halwas get as much publicity as the performers themselves. When I was too young to attend kutcheris, my grandfather would still take to me to Music Academy at least once every season to snack at the canteen!! I’ve actually seen happening social gatherings at sabha canteens that run their own show irrespective of the artist playing! Its not just the food that draws people to these canteens, its also the ambience. I’ve always associated these places with pipping hot coffee and vada and dosa and bare-chested waiters in worn out, yellowing veshtis and poonal. They always yell their orders to the kitchen and call any man “maama” and any woman “maami.” The girls are always referred to as “endi ma, kozhandha” and the boys, very predictably, “ambi.” More recently, the waiters have uniforms, and the canteens look more hygienic, but the feel remains untouched.

This is again one of those things that only Madras can offer to you!

PS: the inspiration for this post came from the vazhapoo vada and carrot halwa I had at Vani Mahal today!

Amsterdam and Paris

When I was a kid, my life revolved around the Famous Five and Enid Blyton. I wanted to be cool, just like those kids. There’s this one book where Julian talks about this guy in his class who became fluent in French ‘cos he spent one whole summer in Paris. I used to dream about the day I could go to Paris. I wanted to pack picnic lunch and take off on a bicycle and sleep on the grass in the middle of some strange village. I wanted to get lost and spend the night in a barn and talk about it the next day, animatedly. I wanted to wanted to stay on a farm and milk the cows. Then the teenage happened, and Amsterdam featured in that list as well. As luck would have it, my closest friend moved to Belgium to study and she said ‘you’ll come there to visit me, right??’ and that’s how we started planning.

I started saving up money and we made tall plans. Or I thought they were just tall plans. The more we spoke about it, I couldn’t wait to go there. We decided to go to just Amsterdam and Paris due to lack of time and vitamin M. Like they say, when it rains, it pours, I got an opportunity to visit Dublin for 3 months on work. Hence started my escapade almost a month back.

For me, this whole journey has been a culmination of teenage fantasies. Now, I’m here in Dublin. Was it all magical? Maybe not in a fairy tale kind of way. But, the whole experience has been liberating. I wanted to pig out on cheese and pasta and French food. But after 1 week of pesto and cheese sandwiches, when I went to an Indian restaurant and had proper sapad, I almost attained Nirvana. I clicked pictures of the aircraft I flew in, couldn’t stop smiling on top of the Eiffel tower, wanted to just not leave when I saw windmills in Amsterdam, wanted to give up eating when I saw the price of food in Paris, fell in love in Madras local trains all over again when I travelled in the Paris metro for 4 days continuously, never wanted to leave the subway train station when I heard people playing the violin, clicked pictures of the tunnel that changed color in the Frankfurt airport at the risk of being a cliched tourist, went to a casino and just stood there grinning at people ‘cos I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how that thing worked, clicked about 800 pics in 7 days, met people I would never have met otherwise, got pissed off when it rained in Paris and Amsterdam, bought shocking orange shoes ‘cos my shoes were soaked in the rain, ventured out one day on my own in Paris with just a metro map and map of the city, walked into random churches, took the stairs up the Eiffel tower, when I thought I was going to die, I figured I had actually reached the top alive, picked up a conversation with an Italian guy who didn’t speak any English and I, obviously don’t speak any Italian, cooked Indian food for 4 strangers, stayed with an amazing Dutch lady in Amsterdam, and I could just go on.

Can I live in Europe? Never, I love my own country just too much to do that. But, will I come back to Europe? I most certainly will. In fact, I have the itinerary for my next trip already planned. There’s something intoxicating about travelling that introduces you to all these things you can’t even imagine and something so humbling that you will have new found respect for your homeland.

For someone who thought that Ranganathan street was the epitome of confusion, chaos and crowd, I saw something that made T Nagar look like downtown Las Vegas. not like i’ve been there in any case

I had gone to Charminar in Hyderabad on Monday. My room mate had some work there, so I decided to tag along with her. Moreover I wanted my sister (who was visiting me) to see the other face of Hyderabad. We decided to go a little early just so that we would avoid the peak hours crowd. But luck was smarter than us. And woh man! Was it crowded or what..

Some of the rules that would help one navigate through the crowd is as follows:

  • Always move in only one direction, the direction in which the crowd wants you to move. Don’t even think of going against the crowd.

  • Make sure you have a family song or a theme song or something that would help you identify your kith and kin if you get lost there, cos all other ways of trying to find the lost person is extremely useless. and yes, this is inspiration of our very own tamil flicks!

  • Even if you happen to drop your most priced possession, DO NOT bend to pick it up. If you do, that’s the easiest way to die.

  • What ever happens, you must continue walking. If you stop against the crowd’s will, the results will be disastrous. and i mean it

  • If you know your destination is 100 meters away, slowly.. this is the most important part, slowly try to move towards your destination. This requires a lot of skill, as in the process of doing so, you should not disrupt the crowd and earn the wrath of the people on the road.

  • In a road where there is no space for people to walk, there are some thoughtful souls who bring their luxury cars in to the lanes. If you happen to encounter such people, I would advise you to give them as much space as you can. I say this keeping in mind the best of the reader’s interests. Otherwise you are sure to go deaf due to the pleasing sound of his horn.

Coming back to my story, after a lot of trouble, we managed to get into one of the innumerable shops that sold sarees and dress materials and bangles and ghaghras and what not. Being festive season, the shops were really busy. I got some ‘gyaan’ about the latest fashion or the ‘fast moving stuff’.

First of all, there’s the Veer Zaara stuff, and the Kaanta Laga sarees and Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya saree and what not. The way these sales men sell their stuff is mind blowing. If you’re looking at a saree, he not only educates you about the latest stuff but also wears them and displays them. In short, a mini ramp show happens before you buy one saree.

And these shops will give Pothy’s Indha colour contest a run for their money. Pothy’s boasts of having sarees in every possible color. But these people have every possible colour in one saree. Now thats unheard of!!!! To get the shop keeper show you a sober ( or atleast somewhere there) saree, you should assure him that it is NOT your wedding and you don’t want everyone to look at only you. If he is convinced, he might show you something that doesn’t require you to wear anti-glares before you look at it.

What ever said, it’s an extremely unique experience that reflects the rich culture and tradition of Hyderabad. The colors, the extravagance, the richness and the pride of the Nawabi tradition. 🙂