Friday, October 27, 2006

Being in Goa...

Why is it that every Goan wants to come back to Goa at every chance he gets? Why is it that even a decade after I left Goa, every visit back to Goa is just like the fist one - something I look forward to desperately, and try and live every single moment I am here to the fullest!

Here's what being in Goa means to me...

1) Being in my ancestral home which has been my only real home every single day of my life - a place where I always have lots of company, from family, from my cats and our dogs - and yet have lots of places and corners where I can sit with a book and a cup of tea, completely alone and at peace!

2) Watching the kittens play as the mom cat sits in my lap, purring with pleasure as I stroke her

3) The smell of the earth, the weeds, the farms, the rain, the spray from the sea, the sand beneath the feet, the cows, the crows, the wind, the chirping of the birds everywhere you go

4) Seeing true warmth and open arms everywhere you go and everyone you meet - from the waiters in the small cafe, to the taxi driver, to the fisherwoman, to the traffic policeman, to the grocery storekeeper - where wishes come from the heart, where smiles are not just curly lips, where true happiness comes from sharing and giving. Where you can have a real conversation with just about every one, where you can just pop into any random house, uninvited, and be sure you will be offered a hot tea, a soft drink, some chilled limbu soda, or maybe even lunch! Where you can wave out at just about any one - the children, or the elderly - and be assured of a warm smile and a wave in return

5) The awesome fish, the mussels, the crabs, the prawns, the "pokshe paav", the "bhaaji-pav", the "kalwache tonak"

6) The clean roads, the smiling people, the majestic Portuguese buildings jostling with the shiny new stores cropping up at every nook and corner

7) The multi colored busses with names like Raegan Baba and Rocket, or Shantadurga Prasanna, the conductors hanging out of the doors, their whistles ready, always pleading with you to "faati woch" (go behind), where there are no tickets, and everything is about trust!

8) The beautiful temples, where even the athiest will experience true peace and serenity, where the bhatjis do not run after you for your donations, and where beggars do not pester you for alms. The numerous chapels and crosses dotting the villages and roads, where you will find a devout Chistrian or two offering candles, or just stopping by for a quick prayer, while their Hindu and Muslim friends stand by to continue the conversations

There's a lot more that is Goa - but isn't this enough to tell you why a Goan is always gonna be a fish out of water any where else?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Movie Review: Don

Awesome. Whether you are a SRK fan or not, whether you have seen the original or not, whether you like it or not, I don't care - I loved Don and I think you will too!

Here's why:

1) SRK - he's the King of Bollywood, and Don once again shows you why! He is at his best - you simply cannot take your eyes off him when he is on screen. His attire is sexy - he looks super hot, and the scene at the end of the movie when he flips the cigarette butt, with the evil smile on his face - aah, sexy sexy sexy! The paan song sequence is cute, though he didn't really look like he was drunk on bhaang :) His fight scenes are very nicely done, too - and the jump from the plane - very nice!

2) Pinky Chops - sweet and sexy, she is really much better than the original Roma! Check her introduction scene... check her out when she stands atop the ambulance dressed in white biking gear..

3) The theme song - the ultimate for a super high feeling. Can't wait to blast it on my car speakers.... Mujhko pehechaan lo - main hoon Don!

4) The story - while it is closely based on the orginal Don, the twists added by Farhan Akhtar make this a completely different movie! Do not miss the end!

5) The fight sequences, the locales, the cars and the chases, the aeriel shots over Malaysia - very very slick, very different. Check the ambulance scene, the reverse car chase at the beginning of the movie, the jump from the plane, the end sequence... setting new standards in Indian action cinema, this makes the new Don a completely new experience from the bland original.

Boman could have been better used, Kareena is a waste, and so is Isha Koppikar. The Ganapati song is an unnecessary overhead, and parts of the movie start dragging when SRK and PC are off the screen - but all in all, it's a movie I want to see again and again and again.

Cafe Real

Went to Cafe Real today.

Cafe Real is the quintessential Goan restaurant, where you can enjoy some delicious bhaaji-pav, with kanda-bhaji, topped with a cup of steaming tea. Options include the suki (meaning dry in Konkani, and refers to the batata bhaaji), paatal (meaning dilute, referring to the chana masala), salad (meaning the tomato and onion preparation), and mushroom. And yes, all combinations including the favoutire mix (paatal + suki), and salad-suki. A full stomach will cost you around 15 bucks!

Similar to the Irani restaurants, you can share seats with goivernment ministers, fisherwomen and the common Panajimite, engage in some light banter, and generally have a great time! We used to spend so much time here back in the mid-nineties, and our favourite waiter still works there, still recognises us, and still enjoys giving us his recommendations for the day!

Aah, what would I not give to have Cafe Real in Pune!

Picnic to Rustic Retreat

On Sunday the 22nd Oct, the day after Diwali, we went on a picnic to this beautiful nature resort called Rustic Retreat, nestled in the unspoilt hills of North East Goa. Around 50 kms from Panaji, close to the lovely forest town of Valpoi, Rustic Retreat provides a fantastic getaway just an hour from the city.

We hired a bus, filled it up with 30 odd relatives, and one dog, and off we went.

We started off at the resort with some refreshing pineapple sharbat, and then went off to the stream for an hour of bathing and frolicking in the chilly waters, then shifted to the pool for some polo. An awesome lunch of chicken masala and fried fish, with fresh mango and icecream, was followed by a relaxing 45 min long body massage in a small hut by the banks of the stream (Sorry, the pics are censored :)).

I did a bit of Steve Irwin with this beautiful creature...

... but this one was best left in it's bottle!

This tree-tent was simply awesome! Very cool, and very very relaxing to sit inside its dark interiors!

And check out this bathroom - open air, in the company of plants, an experience in itself.

Tired but refreshed, by 5.00 we wrapped up an awesome day with some refreshing chai, and returned home - a game of dumb charades keeping us engrossed, making sure we didn't feel too bad about having to end the day!

Narkasur In Goa

Diwali in Goa is all about the Narkasur. While other parts of India celebrate Ram's victory over Ravan, Goa celebrates Krishna's victory over the demon Narkasur.

Diwali in Goa is a wonderful example of communal harmony, the assimilation of so many cultures and religions into one common celebration of life - the warmth and the happiness and the wishes so clean and pure and genuine - complete strangers warmly wishing each other, broad smiles greeting you everywhere, dance and music and happiness permeating every where. I was at the shop... one elderly Christian gentleman walked in, asked another how he was, and then wished him Happy Diwali. Was so beautiful to see that! I do not think you would see this any where else in India.

Thousands of Narkasurs dot the landscape, with excited and happy people milling around, enjoying the atmosphere.

You have the typical demons scaring you with their bared teeth and weapons, but also those that shake and scream at you, demons dressed like terrorists, and there was also a Himesh Reshamiyya.

We made our own Narkasur this time too - a giant effort, loaded onto a TataMobile truck, paraded through town all night long accompanied by slogan shouting and drums, appreciated by all and sundry with big smiles and cheers. We got captured by a local TV crew too, getting almost a whole minute of coverage coming on prime time the next day - instantly making us super stars.. well, atleast we loved to believe so :)

We came back home around 230 am, and then consigned the Narkasur to the flames, and went to bed - and while the rest of India was waking up to Diwali day, Goans went to sleep, content in the knowledge that one more awesome Diwali had passed by, and looking forward to the next!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thinking Big...

India is thinking BIG.

Look everywhere around you. Construction going on everywhere - roads, buildings, flyovers, viaducts... there are gleaming cars on the roads, mobile companies vying to attract customes... India is growing, and booming.

But the most exciting part is - we are thinking BIG.

We are no longer content building a new road through difficult terrain - we now build 100 meter high viaducts.. no more road widening, we build 6 lane expressways.. no more setting up shop abroad, we are making billion dollar acquisitions... no more industrial estates, we now have multi-crore investments in SEZs, no more Pananis, we now build Persistent Towers..

I had been to the Kakade Magnum Mall in Camp a few days back - walk into the atrium, and you will see the grandeur of the GREAT INDIAN DREAM. Fully air-conditioned, a 16-speaker rack piping out peppy music, hundreds of happy shoppers and visitors alike enjoying just being there, large super stores like Pyramid and West Side, side by side with international chain stores like Marks and Spencer, Pizza Hut, Mac Donalds, Yo China - and see the smiles on people's faces - we are a HAPPY population - I have been to so many cities in Europe and the US, and I have never seen a more vibrant population!

Yes, we do have poverty and corruption and dengue and malaria - but hey, we are getting there!


I was listening to my newly acquired Audio CD of Saajan while driving to office today - Tumse Milne Ko Tamanna Hai, Bahut Pyaar Karte Hai Tumko Sanam: SP Balasubramanian at this romantic best - brought back a flood of memories of my college days....

Life was so different back then..

My earliest memories are as a child in a world of green Bajaj scooters and white Fiats.. endless power cuts (and LOTS of candles and kerosene lamps built out of empty medicine bottles and "sutli")... waiting for 600 pm, for Doordarshan to start its programmes.. the Saturday Marathi movie, and the Sunday Hindi movie... Chayageet and Chitrahaar... Bruce Lee and Amitabh Bacchan on video... going to school in my cycle.. cricket and swimming in the evening...

Then came the Gulf War.. and along with it, cable TV... CNN, BCC, DD Metro... Aamir Khan and Salman Khan.. SP Balasubramaniam, Alka Yagnik... we started tracking "new releases"... Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Maine Pyaar Kiya, QSQT... The Fiats and Maruti 800s started giving way to the Maruti 1000s and Ford Escorts, the Hero Hondas replaced the black ubiquitous Rajdoots, I got my Kinetic, followed by my own Hero Honda.. our 2 digit telephone changed into 3, then 4, and then 6 digits..

Things have changed now.. I have a made-for-Indian-conditions Ford Fiesta, we have 3 mobiles, and 3 land lines at home, we watch a new movie almost every weekend, and many more on DVD (yes, VCDs are already passe!).. are it might not be long before we have DTH.. my house is now secured with infrared intrusion detection devices.. the flat world has arrived!

Those days gone by still attract - once in a while, an old song comes on TV.. those tunes, those dresses, the get-them-by-the-dozen-for-50-rupees-a-day dancers in the background being offered as college kids, and guests at the wedding... the innocence of those days.. aah, how much I would give to have them back!

Or would I..?


T9, as all serious SMSers know, is the dictionary service built into your cellphone that allows you to reduce pressing the buttons on your keyboard by providing you the likely spellings, and allowing you to select one of multiple possibilities.

For example, press 4663, and you will get Good, Home, Gone, Hood, Hoof and some others as choices. These choices are what I called T9grams, and I have found some really interesting sets of them:

Select and Reject (Very interesting!!!)
Saree and Raped (One of my friends once messaged to say I am getting saree in the shop - but forgot to use the right T9 word!)
Lips and Kiss (So apt!)
Gone and Home (and for Good too!)
Love and Loud
Onsite and Morgue :)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Nature's Secrets...

A cute flower I clicked on my camera at the Kamath Residency, Nagothne....

One hour later, its curled up buds were beginning to unwind... while the leaves came together and went to sleep...

And this is how it will finally look, just a couple more hours later... unwound, grown up, ready to accept the bees!

Here are some lizard eggs in our kitchen attic in Pune -unfortunately, by the time I saw them, the eggs had hatched, and the babies were nowhere to be seen.

How small can the eggs be? Well, here they are lying beside my gigantic 2.5 inch tall cell phone.

Teamwork. Do you know ants can typically 40-50 times their body weight? If we were as strong, we could carry our cars to office!

This is a butterfly, hardly a centimeter across from tip of one wing to the other - found it on our hotel bed in the morning - and it stayed there till we checked out.

I found this bird to be a regular visitor to my terrace.

And then I realised why - three little eggs, waiting to be hatched, resting in the nest she had built for them in my fern pot! Here's the first of them hatching...

Hey, they have grown up! Just three days later, can you see the hint of feathers?

A week later, they are ready to fly!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another Weekend, Another Outing...

This time, we went to Konkan. My cousin Yogesh, his wife Deepa and kid Jai for company, we left Pune in the afternoon on Saturday - our departure delayed for a few mins by the arrival of the super-elusive LPG cylinder, ending a 10-day dependence on the oh-so-dependable microwave!

Konkan is a beautiful place for a long drive - rolling hills and dales, the rain, green fields dotted by cute houses, and the occasional waterfall. Here you can see Reona enjoying a short break...

Our first stop was just after Mulshi - a lovely spot with a huge cliff rising high above you on the left...

...a deep valley stretching in front of you on the right.

Then down into Konkan through the Tamhini Ghats, reaching Kamath Residency in Nagothne at around 3.15. Kamath's is a no-frills motel by the highway, set in the middle of nature.

Check the view from the toilet - rolling green fields. It's a very exciting experience just "sitting" there :)

We had a late lunch, then the rest hit the swimming pool, while I clicked some pictures and hit the bed! Yes, Reona's a darling to drive on the ghats, but hey, I had been up since 5.30 am!

Here you can see a pumpkin flower I clicked.

We went to check out the hot springs nearby at Unheri, but were pretty disappointed - the water was HOT, but at the end of it, it looked like just a very dirty stone well with a nondescript temple nearby. Also made a quick stop at the Pali Ganapati temple.

Then it was time for a good dinner, and sleep. I had a butterfly for company!

Early the next morning, we were greeted by heavy rains, and kingfisher birds - you got to see the rain in Konkan to believe it. Giving up this rain for the rain in Pune is like moving from your jacuzzi to a municipality tap!

We drove down to Alibag, enjoying the drive through the heavy rain and the mist. Alibag is a nice beach, with a very interesting fort that you can walk to during low tide, but gets cut off by the water during high tide.

Finally, we hit the road to Pune - from Alibag, to Pen, to Panvel (where we stopped for lunch), and then hit the expressway. The expressway is an amazing example of the grandeur of human engineering mixed with the beauty of nature. With heavy rains, mists rolling across the highway, speeding along at 150 kmph, the only way to describe the experience is "pure thrill".

Now we are back in Pune, very happy, very satisfied, making plans to go to our favourite mall! After all, we are city-dwellers now - nature can only excite us so much :)