Saturday, February 27

My Pending Reviews

Hope you enjoyed reading my Pondy trip as much as I enjoyed experiencing and writing it. Gosh, I still miss it…

Hey, I gotta lot of pending issues left to wrap up. The review of My Name Is Khan, for instance, and some well-deserved censure by the balderdash that is Rahul ka Swayamvar… But I’m gona do the MNIK evaluation later in detail. For today, my topics are books, TV shows and recently watched movies.

I read Perry Mason and Agatha Christie recently, and did not enjoy them. I used to like Erle Stanley Gardener earlier, in fact I found Perry Mason and Della Street extremely witty and memorable. Yet when I read the Perjured Parrot case a few weeks ago, I found the plot weak and the writing shoddy. Looks like my taste has changed over the last couple of years.

Agatha Christie, well, I’ve never read her before, but I know folks who’d swear by her writing prowess. I was quite enthusiastic to begin By The Pricking of My Thumbs, what with the ghostly puppet picture on the front cover. Alas, the book’s turned out to be a letdown. The pace is terribly slow, and the descriptions dreary and superfluous. Tommy is an interesting character, but Prudence aka Tuppence is over the top. It’s like a 100 page (or even less) story has been pulled and stretched to annoy the reader who has too much time on his hands. I wonder if this was a feature of this particular novel or whether all Christie’s books are similar. A hell lot of unnecessary characters are introduced and by the time you’re all muddled and disinterested, it turns out that character 5, 29 and 83 are connected and are the criminals. Bah! Waste of time and intelligence…

Nevertheless, I learnt some fascinating things while reading. One dialogue that a Mrs. Packard says stayed with me long after I’d shut the book. It goes like this: “Brainy people are impatient.”

Darn! This explains everything. This justifies my irritation, frustration and brusqueness with people who do not behave as expected, told or taught. Being amply intelligent myself, I consider things easy to do that others might find challenging or confusing. And once I decide somebody is dumb, I don’t think too highly of that person as regards reliability, effectiveness and efficiency. Well, now there’s my confession.

Having said that, I feel some tasks should be cut out especially for those that are a little less bright. Give a competent individual a humdrum task, or give an inept person a novel one, and you got a sure failure on your hands.

Another remarkable observation, one that most of us know but find hard to follow, is that when old people say something, one should not argue or rationalize. Just apologize and say you’ll never do it again. So, the next time Uncle Jerome (name changed to protect privacy) tells me “You just don’t have time for me”, I know what to say.

Are you aware of a word called “tartar”? I’d heard it before with reference to dental hygiene, but wasn’t sure what it meant. On consulting my pocket dictionary (a companion since 1995), I saw that it meant two things. One, it’s the deposit on the teeth, as I knew. And two, it was a bad-tempered or difficult person. LOL. I know, I know, I’m a Tartar myself! LMFAO.

(Laughing My F***ing A** Off.)

Remember I was telling you about the Peter Principle? That thing where competent people are promoted to their post of incompetency? Well, I’ve not finished the book yet, but found this another “Aaha!” thought. Again one that is not really a brand new one… It says that politicians and legislators are chosen more for their ability to charm and inflame the public than any real knowledge and expertise at framing and implementing beneficial policies. So, if a speaker gives a good speech, he’s considered better than the capable candidate who actually does something for the citizens. I think we all know this, still we haven’t been able to find a way to elect worthy lawmakers and public servants. Such a shame!

I now begin the Moonstone, a classic by Wilkie Collins. It is supposed to be the first detective novel in English. Sounds intriguing, eh? I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a disappointment.

Moving on to TV shows, what the hell is Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayega all about? I hope you guys know he’s a divorcee. And an ugly one at that! What were the casting people thinking when they thought of roping him in Swayamvar Season 2? That too after Rakhi’s was such a damp squib. She didn’t marry that NRI Elesh, and still managed to gain TRPs in the original program as well as Pati, Patni Aur Wo – that show where couples (married, engaged or Rakhi-Elesh type) have to rear and nurture kids of different ages.

In the current show, Rahul Mahajan looks hideous and laughs like a maniac. He overacts and repeats dialogues over and over again. A torture on all senses, but my brother seems to have taken a peculiar penchant to that show. (Not his fault, marriage ruins the best of guys… At least he doesn’t watch all the saas-bahu crap like my Dad.)

Oh, there’s a Pune dame on the show – Mrinmayi somebody – a model. I feel sorry for Harpreet who’s barely 20 and fatherless, and dreaming of marrying the madman. There was another barmy woman on the show called Priyadarshini from Mumbai. Goddd… kaha kaha se chale aate hai! Watch this show only if you’ve got nothing better to do… The D-day for the decision is March 6… As if we care…

The worst news is that MTV Roadies and Splitsvilla, this time, are both dreadfully dull. The previous ones were so memorable, I used to love catching them religiously week after week, and even enjoyed watching reruns! Pity pity… There are too many reality shows on too many channels nowadays and so the quality is perceptibly pathetic. Emotional Atyaachar, in the literal sense!

Another pity is Christmas Carol that I watched a few days ago on the computer. I was planning to see it on the big screen when it released in 2009, but did not have any company. Turns out it was for the best. The movie is borrrrrrrring. The animated Disney version was so much better. Mickey and Scrooge and Tiny Tim… Modern versions really suck. Old is indeed gold, at least in this field.

Finally, three cheers for New Moon! Hip Hip… Hurray! Missed watching this one in the theatre, too, as the friends who’d promised to watch it with me went ahead on their own and left me hanging. I downloaded it (where would us cine-goers be without the divine Torrent?!!) and watched it with bated breath. Damn, I love Edward – not physically, he looks quite gay and unattractive to me. I mean romantically and emotionally; the guy’s a sweetheart. The things he says and the things he does, man, he knows how to make a woman feel special… Where’s my Edward? When’s he coming along?

Jacob is charming in the second movie in the Twilight series. He looks handsome and sensual. Bella, as usual is exceedingly pretty and authentic. The graphics are extraordinary, especially the scene where the La Push boys turn into werewolves. The music is awesome, too, so by and large, the film worked for me. A 10 on 10, though the book is a 12 on 10.

I was planning to watch Click, not the Hollywood one starring Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale, but apna Bollywood ka horror release. The disappointing review deterred me from doing so... They say the scenes are very Ramsay brothers type, and the story and cast is also lame... Gotta wait till another terrific thriller comes along.

Some highs and some lows, this post truly resembles life!

Come back for My Name is Khan and Kartik calling Kartik.

Until then,
Cheerio!
Princess

Thursday, February 25

Pondi trip - Day 7

(Check vacation snaps @http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink. Do read the posts below this to get info prior to this day)

My last morning in Pondy…

I was feeling so nostalgic, so sad. I did not want to end this vacation, and leaving for Chennai was the first step in this regard.

I lazily got ready and packed by bags. I’d hardly done any shopping – just a few jholas and some souvenirs. So it didn’t pose a monstrous feat. Somehow even my bag seemed reluctant to go back to hometown…

Returning to Pune wasn’t just about returning to the city of my birth and childhood and adulthood. It was about coming back to the place where I lost my temper with my family, the place where I interacted daily with the same friends and colleagues, the place that I was familiar with to the limit of frustration… I love change that is constructive and innovative, and Pune dishes out the same old life and routine to me. Of course, you can argue that life is what we make it. But c’mon, I can’t just bunk office and head for a picnic every other day! Nor can I ask my parents to take a hike and leave me alone undisturbed by their recurring questions and comments!

Now now… I guess I’m over-reacting. Obviously I love Pune. The wonderful resto-bars in Koregaon Park, the great times I have with my pals at parties and movies, the crazy jokes I share with the colleagues and neighbors. It would be unfair of me to say I dislike the town. But that doesn’t stop me from saying that I thoroughly enjoy a vacation now and then, at a destination where I can be calm and free.

Pondicherryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

Boo hoooooo…

Bahut hua melodrama. Time for me to check out. Good bye Ginger @ Karuvadikuppam (Hush! Finally got the name right!) Thanks for having me all week, I shall be back soon :-)

ECR beckoned and Karthik drove me vigilantly to Chennai. At a location called Vilambur, I ate lunch in a restaurant named Midway. The place looked fairly crowded and well-liked, but unfortunately, the food wasn’t as good. The buffet lunch was cold and costly. There was an aviary outside that housed several cute birds and ducks. Time to move on.

I’d noticed an amusement park called Disney World on my way from Chennai to Pondicherry, and I asked Kartik to pull over when we reached it about 2 hours later. Turned out it was Dizzie World, a theme-based water park with some adventure rides in an area called Muttukadu (weird name!). Had the entry not been 400 bucks, and had I had more time on hand, I would have visited it. Well, gotta leave something for next time!

The traffic scene in Chennai is not predictable, and the airport lies outside the main city. While I did have time to say hello to the Marina beach, I did not have the leisure of some shopping or sightseeing. I got some sandwiches and a chocolate doughnut packed for dinner from Marrybrown and asked the driver to continue driving to the (MAA - Meenambakkam) aerodrome.

With over 2 hours to spare before I checked in for my Indigo flight to Pune, I made myself comfortable at the airport lounge and unwrapped the sandwiches with my eyes glued to Memories of Midnight.

MoM is the story of a woman… actually it’s a story of several people… However, the central character is a woman who has lost her memory, and regains it by the end of the novel. Her story makes up a very small part of the book. The major chunk comprises of Demeris, the baddie who has tremendous power and passion, and his exploits with his family, friends, enemies and rivals. Every tale that involves the rogue is full of brutality and malice, yet he inspires awe and fear. He doesn’t forgive and he never forgets, so he ends up killing most people that he is associated with, and he charms the hearts of women only to destroy them later.

I’m tempted to give out some (not all) details coz I loved the book as much as I did the Prisoner of Birth and Godfather. But I shan’t. Not unless someone here specifically asks for it. The book is a brilliant one, and Sidney Sheldon proves his mettle as a gifted writer. I’m glad this one’s on my shelf.

Yumm… Marybrown is good!

I boarded my flight at 9.15 pm and settled down to have a nap. No such luck. There was a baby girl who’d taken a fancy to my hair and an intense dislike to flying. As she whimpered throughout the 90 minutes, I relived every single moment of my Pondi trip. Right from Rock Beach to Ayyi Mandapam, Le Café to Le Space, Auro beach to Chunnambar, Palak Paneer to lobster, anxiety and adventure to mirth and loneliness…

I’d almost forgotten my English while speaking in telegrams and sign language to the Tamil-Telugu people. My tip to you is, keep speaking to people back home in fluent Hindi and/or English so that your language doesn’t go for a toss!

When I landed in Pune at 10.45, the first news that I got was of the blast at German Bakery. WHAT THE HELL? Pune was always considered a safe haven, a place beyond reproach and terror. The bombing at GB shook the roots of the city and the people. It’s a shame – one of the most popular hangouts in the city is ravaged; screw you terrorists! Rot in hell…

A dream ends and real life begins… Nothing is forever…

Welcome back to Pune, Anuja.


Good to be back! Why?

Later...


- Princess :-)

Wednesday, February 24

Pondi trip - Day 6

(Check vacation snaps @ http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink. Do read the posts below this to get info prior to this day)

Friday.

Almost time to go back.

Time to return to the daily grind at work and home.

And I hadn’t entered the water yet? Shame on me! Time to head to Auro beach again.

I must have told you this before – I love the beach, I can sit and watch the waves for hours and think about everything and nothing at the same time. It calms me, makes me feel relaxed and spiritual. I think about people and places, things and activities with an objective tranquility that I get nowhere else.

On this occasion, however, I was gona do less of thinking and more of action!

I was eager to try out my swimming dexterity in a real live sea replete with salty water, tides and all. Guess what? I could barely move an inch against the water. The power of the waves is so absolute that it takes Herculean effort to even stand in one place, forget move according to your volition. The best way to enjoy oneself is to wear a lifejacket and lie down as the water does a foxtrot under you. The fluorescent jacket I rented for 50 bucks was so worth it!

The guy even took me into the middle of the sea and left me there to float. My heart skipped a beat when my legs couldn’t touch the ground, but the jacket kept me above the water and gave me security. I don’t know why I just couldn’t stop giggling once my initial hesitation gave way; it was as if the water was pumping nitrogen (or whatever that triggers uncontrolled laughing) around me. It was lovely, lying on my back, watching the blue sky and fluffy white clouds, moving in response to the command of the sea.

Not surprisingly, I was baked brown and tanned like an ancient potato thanks to this feat. Worth it, again.

The water’s always rougher at the beach-end than it is in the centre, did you know that? The tide washes you ashore and takes you back in again, and the sand stings. It’s like the sea cannot decide whether to keep you or chuck you out. I love it nevertheless. Have been kicked and stroked by people all my life, so what’s a lifeless water body?!

After 2 hours, I was as tired as tired could be. After a warm bath later, I was ravenous and wanted to feast on Punjabi food in general, and Palak Paneer and Roti in particular. I was ready to be disappointed, but I wouldn’t give up without trying. I asked an obliging auto-wallah where I could get some nice North Indian food. Without batting an eyelid, he said the magic word - “Surguru”.

Surguru is undeniably the MOST illustrious restaurant in Pondicherry. Its visitors include foreigners and localites desirous of eating hygienic vegetarian food, cooked in South as well as North Indian style. I watched enamored as Americans and Tamilians dug into their South Indian thali with bare hands and had their fill of rice and rasam, as sincerely and unperturbedly as if they came here and ate this way every single day of their lives. Sweet! The place looked cozy and clean, and the prices were decent. I ordered a Palak Paneer – Roti that cost 40 bucks and then another extra roti with some fried papad. Aah… Satisfied beyond description…

Once the hunger pangs were satiated, my eyes roamed around hungrily to absorb the different sights, behaviors and experiences. They settled on a typical South Indian pair, and I couldn’t look away for the next 15 minutes. I was conscious that I was staring, and I know it’s impolite to do that, but Anuja does not care when Anuja wants to learn and grasp.

The man was dedicatedly mixing his rice with everything that stood on the table – curd, salt, sambhar, vegetables… And with every single thing that was added to the concoction, he licked his palm, evaluated the taste, screwed his nose and continued adding more. As he acted out this ritual, he kept glancing up to his wife who was talking non-stop, and made a few mono-syllabic comments (just like all men do). His wife looked a little more scary than the demons they show in the Krishna and Ramayana serials, and when she grinned, I almost took to heels.

No sooner had the woman taken a sip of her buttermilk, than the man decided his food was muddled enough and started popping it into his mouth with astounding speed, grace and precision. I was trying to study his hand-mouth-eye coordination but need I say I found myself ridiculously incompetent. He did not even have to look down at his plate as he tossed a ball of rice into his overstuffed mouth. Now that was a WOW moment! Risking being criticized for disregarding privacy of other people, I took a video of the entire sequence. (Have not been able to upload it on Picasa, but would sure love to share it with you somehow.)

I got back to the hotel and curled up on my bed, watching TV and reading Memories of Midnight. This story was so much better than the previous one. Constantin Demeris, the wicked villain was a bloody criminal with no fear and no mercy. I hadn’t read the prequel – The Other Side of Midnight, but the plot was evident in the sequel. Shall elaborate on the story later. But this one’s a book you should surely grab if you love a good read.

Hey hey, almost 9 o clock! I’d spent a great deal of my evening glued to the beguiling paperback. Where was I heading for dinner? Ting tong… Hadn’t I said I’d visit Le Space sometime? Plan in place.

May I be allowed to say that one of the best nights I had in Pondi was at this snug little joint. And that means a lot, since every night of mine here was better than the previous one!

The Space restaurant is indeed little, I don’t think it would seat more than 30 people at a time. And the way it is decorated and presented is so simple, cheery and informal, you instantly feel like you belong! There are a few funny/scary portraits that adorn the brick walls, possibly put up for reasons more sentimental than aesthetic. I settled down in an armchair situated right on the balcony and waited to be handed the menu card. Card, did I say? Well, who could be bothered about all that fuss?! Within a moment, a sweet boy called Ranjit came up with a white-board that displayed their offerings for the day - some cocktails, 1 or 2 snacks and a couple of dishes that could not exactly be called main course but would be good enough for me nonetheless. Not much variety, but I didn’t care.

The atmosphere was so calming and the service so friendly, I bet I’d have visited this place every other night had I known of it earlier. Nee2 – the owner who made it a point to explain to all his guests that he was clad in a lungi-kurta for traditional reasons (it was Mahashivratri that day) – came up to me and was gracious enough to invite me to a party that same night at another hotel. I politely declined, but I asked him to make sure my time at Space was as delightful as possible. And he did ensure that. So, all the Sex on the Beach that came on my table was guaranteed to create a high and the Spaghetti was yummy. Of course, I blundered by ordering Honey Chicken that tasted as if the poultry was a Maal-pua dipped in honey. Yuck! Struck off my list for life. Don’t try this at home… or anywhere else, for that matter.

What was amazing was that the host, staff and guests knew each other so well! They were hugging and chatting merrily, and I found out that some of the people who were waiting on tables and serving the customers were not staff at all, but in reality, guests themselves! How sweet is that?!

I befriended a guy called Felix that way, courtesy a very cute conversation. I am obsessed with being pally with decent waiters and I asked him his name.

“Felix”

“What?”

“Felix, like the cat.”

“Oh, why don’t you smile then?”

“I do, but I am conscious now coz I have braces on my teeth.”

“But that’s awright! C’mon let me see you smile.”

Blinding brightness.

(He was dark as coal, so obviously his skin wasn’t the cause of the luminosity.)

“Cool!”

Later, when I had to use the washroom, Felix ran ahead of me and said “I’m in a rush, please!”

“Sure”

After 5 minutes that seemed like 5 hours to me…

“Hello? Are you sleeping?”

“Nooo, I take time.”

“Dude, get out!”

“Where are you from?”

“Mumbai… Will you come out today?”

“Yes. Do you want to party tomorrow?”

“No thanks. Nee2 asked me but I’m heading back tomorrow noon.”

“Let me know if there’s a change in your plan.”

“Felix, GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE!”

When I reached Ginger at midnight, I was pleased as punch. I was going back home tomorrow. But the sadness of that truth could not mar the elation I felt at having spent a marvelous vacation. A week had passed by like the breeze. I did not wana go back.

I wana live like this forever… Until the sky falls down on me…

The lyricist and singer of Savage Garden knew that life can’t be the same forever, and so did I. Well, things can wait. My departure’s still 12 hours away… Time for a midnight snack at CCD.

- Princess

Tuesday, February 23

Pondi trip - Day 5

(Check vacation snaps @ http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink. Do read the posts below this to get info prior to this day)

A day well spent warrants a good night’s sleep.

And sleep, I did, till almost noon.

Aah, I haven’t done that in a millenium. My brain’s programmed to wake up at 8 am or latest by 9, and if my brain malfunctions, the din created by the family and maids at home invites the same consequence.

I munched on some cookies and Bhakarwadi that I’d carried from Pune, and looked through my diary. Chunnambar beckoned. Apparently it was a resort of some sort situated on Cuddalore Road, and there was a beach (“Paradise beach”) so I put my swimming gear into my backpack and set off.

This venue lies over 8 kms from Ginger, and I hired an auto to drop me there for INR 100. The drive was nice, the road and traffic on the way was fairly decent. But what disappointed me was my first look of the resort.

Cut the resort bull****, the place lay in ruins! There was a dilapidated building that held the tag of “Restaurant”, there was a tree-house that looked cute but scary, and there was a kiddie playground with swings and the sort. A little ahead were the facilities for boating, and that was all. I couldn’t believe this place had been suggested to me by a dear friend.

I took my chance. Having come here so far, I wasn’t going to return having seen nothing. So, I booked myself on one of the motor boats that ferried people to and from Paradise Beach. I had to wait until 5 or more people came aboard, so I lunched on eatable Egg Fried rice and tasty Fish and Chips at the obnoxious restaurant, as there was no other option.

Appearances are deceptive, I’d heard before. And it’s true! The moment we left the resort on the boat, the scenery transformed. It was like nothing I’d seen before. I have been to Goa and the South when I was young, and I’ve done boating several times in the past in different regions, but the backwaters were a novel sight for me. The ripples in the water looked gorgeous, and the coconut trees lining the coastline were breathtaking. Speedboats whizzed past making our boat bob in the water, and a stretch of sand visible in the distance looked alluring and soothing. This was so completely worth the 75 bucks I had paid for the boatride.

What greeted us at the other end was as splendid as a fairy tale. There was a tiny shack and nothing else as far as we could see (naturally apart from a few boats). The sand was clean and soft, and the water was sparkling like raw diamonds. Unfortunately, swimming or wading deep into the sea was not allowed, so I had to lay my enthusiasm to rest and just amble on the seashore that was kissed by the waves every few seconds. That did not deter me really; I found delight in building my castle of dreams.

OK I know that is an exaggeration, but I sure enjoyed caressing the sand and adorning it with shells as I built a fortress that withstood the tidal assault. Creating something is so beautiful - be it a baby or a sand castle, it’s such an exhilarating feeling. Sigh.

Our return trip was due in about 45 minutes, so I left footprints in the sand (literally!) and took snaps of the cute kids and magnificent panorama. How I wish I could build a little house of my own here, a refuge in times of trials and frustration...

After returning to my hotel, I decided it was high time I caught up on my reading, so out came the Sidney Sheldon double novel I’d saved specially for this trip. My favorite SS thriller remains Tell Me Your Dreams as it is linked to psychology and personality disorders, but I can’t say I’ve read her much otherwise. This particular book I had, had 2 stories – The Naked Face and Memories of Midnight. I began with the Naked Face, and need I tell you that the novel had me captivated right from the first page?! It is quite predictable given our exposure to crime and wit in the 21st century, but still I found the story enthralling. Some writers are so gifted that they can make the most mundane of tales extraordinary. Sidney, you are one of them. Well done!

The book kept me engrossed well beyond evening, and then I had to think of a place to have din din. I thought I’d roam around Dumas Street in the area called White Town, and perch at any place that seemed agreeable.

Le Terrasse. I’d read the name in the tourist brochure I’d obtained at Le Café. But I hadn’t put it on my planner. Nevertheless, I walked in and saw the place brimming with foreigners who were digging into their Continental, Italian and Chinese food. Pizza… A nice, crunchy, cheesy one with mushrooms and corn... Slurp! Who’s taking my order, fellas?

The ambience resembled that of a college canteen, complete with plastic chairs and wooden tables. The food was ok, the service was good, and the price was great. After dinner, I took a walk on the beachfront and treated myself to some Butter Scotch sundae at a fresh Italian ice-cream joint. (Well, the board said so, I did not find anything exceptionally “fresh” or “Italian” about the ice cream.)

Friday tomorrow. The end of the week for professionals. Almost the end of my vacation. Time, can you hold still for a while…?

Doesn’t… Never has…


Cheerio!
Princess

Monday, February 22

Pondi trip - Day 4

(Check vacation snaps @ http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink. Do read the posts below this to get info prior to this day)

I woke up early. (9 o clock… what did you think?)

Had to tour the rest of the city today.

But only after I had stuffed myself at A2B alias Anand Adyar Bhavan off M. G. Road.

These Anand Bhavans are a like a chain of little shops across the South that sell sweets and snacks. The taste is similar across all outlets and you can expect hygienic food and service. I pigged out on dosa, medu wada and some orange halwa that tasted a bit like vermicelli. And of course, my day was incomplete without some Mysore Pak dripping with ghee… So, pop it went into my mouth and set my soul at peace.

The first place I saw was not on my sightseeing list – Manakula Vinayagar temple. It’s a Ganesha temple, and it held pictures of the deity in varied forms. What also was attention-grabbing was that there were more than a few foreigners dressed up in traditional outfits (lungi and kurta, with a tikka on the forehead) revering the idol with utmost sincerity. The biggest attraction, though, was a live elephant stationed at the entrance who was blessing devotees who cared to give it some food or money. I fed it some grass and screwed my eyes shut gearing myself for its saliva-dripping drunk to descend on my lovely red-streaked hair. I felt nothing for a good 20 seconds. I opened my eyes and looked at the elephant whose trunk had moved on to the next devotee. Had it blessed me? Apparently, it had. The photograph stands proof of that. Cool.

The Pondicherry museum and Botanical Garden took hardly over 20 minutes each, more due to their expanse than any real curiosity on my part. The museum has artifacts from the Chola and other kingdoms as well as excavated items from Arikamedu. What I found fascinating were the burial urns, and the exquisite French furniture. The Botanical garden boasts of rare and exotic plants from around the world, a musical fountain and an aquarium. I found the Rolland library, Ayyi Mandapam in the Bharati Park and Church of Notre Dame (Our Lady of Angels) facing the lovely Jeanne de Arc statue quite average. Of course, I captured some beautiful pictures at all these places, and the memories shall stay with me forever.

I’d done enough sightseeing for the day, I thought. Moreover, I was dying to get back to Sidney Sheldon. The Naked Face is an intriguing novel about a doctor who is being chased to be murdered. The doc is unaware who that is, and in his quest to find his killer, he does some detective-giri on his own and enlists help from those he trusts. The suspense, though lame and predictable, is presented in a charming way, and it is the style of the writer that keeps you spellbound. You can actually feel the tension and frustration, the fear and the determination of all the characters involved.

Hmm, I'll start the other story - Memories of Midnight tomorrow... Now's the time for a celebration, so I made my way to Promenade – one of the most luxurious hotels in the town. It was located seaside, and the rooftop restaurant had a marvelous ambience.

(You must be wondering why I’m stressing on ambience so much. To me, an eatery is only as classy as the kind of guests that are entertained, and the way they are seated and served.)

After glancing through some paintings exhibited on various floors, I took a comfy seat at the far end of the bar. The candle on my table made everything look extremely romantic and I missed having somebody to love sitting beside me and watch the waves, hand in hand...

Lonely, I’m so lonely… I have nobody…

Aah, wrong track. Time for some wine.

There were no Indians in sight, apart from the staff, and I liked that. It made me feel I was in another country, another continent altogether. I think that’s the bestest part of Pondicherry; it makes you forget you’re in India.

I could see French and Europeans and Americans around me, and a friendly lot, they are. So, when I quietly went up to a waiter asking directions to the washroom, a European aristocratically said "Straight up front and take a right."

Was he talking to me?

"Sorry?"

"Go straight and it's on your right."

Gotcha.

"Thanks"

Either a first-rate eavesdropper or a brilliant observer.

We're all taught to beware strangers and children everywhere are told not to talk to unknown folks. Can't let that kill the humanity, right?

I was in no mood for the mundane, and ended up ordering lobster. Well, it tasted like something between prawns and crab, crispy like most seafood and just as tasteless without the spices.

Relaxing on the beachfront, chowing out on delicacies, not a worry in the world...

This is life!


Cheerio!
Princess

Saturday, February 20

Pondi trip - Day 3

(Check vacation snaps @ http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink. Do read the posts below this to get info prior to this day)

Day 3 dawned bright and clear.

However, it was not before noon that I saw the sun, simply coz I woke up at 11 and spent a leisurely one hour getting ready. On my to-do list today was Auroville – one of the most popular tourist attractions in (or rather near) Puducherry.

Auroville is about 14 kilometers from Hotel Ginger, and an auto ride costs about 150 one way. It’s always better to have an idea about and pre-negotiate fares with auto drivers, who obviously are looking out to rake in some extra moolah from unwary travelers. My usual trips between Ginger and M.G. Road cost 30 to 40 bucks one way during the day, and 50 to 80 during the late evening/night. I’d done my research prior to leaving, and so I offered an auto-walla 300 bucks for a return trip to Auroville. I expected him to take me around the complete township as well as the Auro beach.

So, what IS Auroville? Well, you could check out my pictures to know for yourself. Alternately, you could check out their own website. Basically, it’s a small town built on the idea of The Mother who visualized that there should be unity in diversity and people should live together in harmony without religious interferences. And you can actually see it! Indians, Europeans, Americans and others sit together to eat at the Auroville Visitors Centre cafeteria, and chomp on lemon rice and apple pie. They walk together around the gallery and watch the video and exhibition that tells more about Auroville and the Matrimandir – a huge golden ball, the largest man-made one ever, which houses 12 meditation halls and 12 gardens, each with a unique name concurring with human values and virtues. They walk in groups to the Matrimandir, and feast their eyes on the beauty and peace that radiates within the campus. So famous is this place in so many ways - you can search more details on a host of websites including Wikipedia.

Coming to the point, what’s there to see? As I said, there’s a visitor centre that gives tons of information in the form of videos, displays and exhibitions. After you explore it, you can head to Matrimandir, see the gigantic Banyan that lies at the centre of the township, and then take off to Auro aka Repo beach. I had read online that it’s an unclean one infested with thieves. However, my experience was different; sure the entrance to the beach was dirty and stinking, but the water and the people were certainly nice. I could not enter the water as I hadn’t come prepared, but I returned to this beach on the penultimate (=second last) day and had a gala time.

This outing took about 4-5 hours, and I HAD to hit the bed after I returned “home”. I set out at 8 again and headed to a restaurant called Satsanga, which is touted to be one of the best places to eat in Pondicherry. It was not as expensive as I’d imagined, the ambience and mob were brilliant, the French cuisine and seafood menu were tantalizing.

I decided to try the seafood soup and some prawn dish. The former tasted quite like our usual lentil/pulse soup mixed with luscious pieces of meat that were crunchy and didn’t taste bad... The prawns were all right, nothing worth writing home about. Seafood usually is bland and salty, so I knew what to anticipate. All I’d wanted was to experience something out of the ordinary. Mission accomplished.

I passed a hep little joint on my way called Le Space; it looked like a cozy little place with a young crowd, colorful blinking bulbs and light music. I promised myself I’d visit it one of the following evenings. (Destiny had scheduled it for Friday.)

It had been too long since my taste buds had taken a swig of delicious cold coffee, so I dropped in at the Café Coffee Day outlet at Ginger and ordered a chocolate doughnut with my pet Devil’s Own. One of the best parts about staying in a good hotel is that even if you relax indoors, you enjoy it without feeling claustrophobic or guilty about wasting time.

Time for Sleeping Beauty to set foot in the Paradise of Dreams. Gnite!


- Happy Princess

Friday, February 19

Pondi trip - Day 2

(View my vacation snaps on Facebook and Picasa : http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink.)

Bon Jour!!

So let’s figure out the geography, shall we? There’s basically this main street called M. G. Road (there’s an M. G. Road in every city/town/village in India, and Pondi is no exception), and the entire civilization is based around it. So, on one side of M.G. Road you have the Aurobindo Ashram, Rock Beach, French War Memorial, French Institute, Bharatidasan Park, Rolland library, etc and on the other side there’s the Botanical Garden, Churches of Immaculate Conception and Sacred Heart of Jesus and Grand Bazaar. So, if you hire a bicycle (as I did on Day 2), then you can cover all of these places within a day. The entire commute would be no greater than 7-8 kilometers if planned well (which I obviously did, aadat se majboor!) And at 30 bucks per day, it’s an awesome idea. However, do take note of the timings of different places – quite a few shut at 5 pm, and some are closed on Mondays, so you better plan well.

But before that I had a sumptuous breakfast at Le Café near Rock Beach. The view from the 24 hour restaurant is grand, and the place is frequented by foreigners from everywhere, so the food and service is also pretty good. I dug into my Continental breakfast with gusto and savored the sight of the waves dashing on the rocks.

A short walk away lies the Aurobindo Ashram (click here for more info) and I was stunned by the numerous flowers adorning the villa. There’s vibrant purples, fiery reds, pale beige, pretty pinks and gorgeous greens. There’s cacti and gladiolas, marigolds and so many more. The ashrama attracts people from across the globe, and the silence and peace there is mesmerizing. Visitors are allowed inside during specified hours, and they can only view the Samadhis of Aurobindo and the Mother. There is a publication department that sells hundreds of postcards and books on various subjects in a range of languages. I got one on physical exercise – yoga and all. Need to get rid of this paunch, man!

I noticed a wonderful thing at the ashram – whenever people start making some noise (which they clearly do), they are not told to shut up by placing a finger on the lips. Instead, the ashram folks place all their fingers on their mouth. I found this action remarkably humble and so much better than the usual “keep quiet” gesture. The latter reeks of ego, superiority complex and admonishment while the former is a meek request that touches the heart. Try it!

I pedaled away from Manonmani Cycle Mart on a BSA, smiling as if I’d won a million dollars. It had been ages since I’d cycled – 9 years to be precise; the last time was when I was in standard 10th. The roads were quite congested and the auto and bus drivers were a little rash, but having rode around Pune for a decade, I really didn’t find it too challenging to maneuver my way. My enthusiasm coupled with a city map and my keen sense of direction made a terrific package and I thoroughly enjoyed my sightseeing.

The French Institute was as novel to localites as it was to me; nobody knew where it was. It is a disappointing place, with not much to see – just a pretty backyard, some posters and manuscripts. I don’t even think it is a tourist attraction, but somehow it landed up on my places-to-visit list.

After that, I checked out the Church of Immaculate Conception and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The former remains dear to me because the gong started ringing there when I was praying. It was an extremely optimistic and symbolic event to me. Even at the second church, the service began when I entered the premises; I AM God’s favorite child after all!!

I cycled on to Botanical Garden but it had shut at 5 pm, so I set my bum at rest at Coffee.com on Mission Street - a snacks and internet services joint. The Iced Mocha was as shitty as the baguettes (sandwiches) were amazing, and I noticed a few French-ies ;-) all glued to Facebook. I was tempted to follow suit, but I had promised myself that I would avoid any connection with the familiar, except for an occasional call back home to let folks know I’m fine.

I decided to reward my will power by splurging on some delicious chocolate delicacies at Choco-La. This place guarantees pure orgasm to all chocolate lovers. So, there’s a variety of pastries and candies for you to gorge on – tiramisu, dark chocolate, white chocolate, dry fruit chocolate, you name it. I had the Moksha cake, and it was yummmm… A must visit for sure!

Some souvenir hunting later, I trudged back to Ginger. The vending machine had caught my eye when I’d checked in, and I planned to use it today. That it held Milkybars was fantastic, and in my excitement at using a real vending machine, I bought a packet of Kurkure as well. (Ya, I know it’s cancerous, but what the hell, I don’t always eat and act right, so it’s just one more addition to the poison in me.)

It was a Monday well spent, and there were still 5 days to go. I thought I’d take it easy and relax in my room, munch on some junk and watch TV till late. I was on vacation - no waking up early to the commotion at home, no getting ready for work, no need to look at the time and follow a structured routine! Blissss… And to sleep on a king-size bed with fairy-white sheets and pillows…

The magic of Puducherry unfolds…


Sweet dreams!


Princess

Thursday, February 18

Pondi trip - Day 1

(My vacation snaps have been uploaded on Facebook and Picasa. The link for the latter is - http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink. Let me know your comments on the pictures as well as my adventures!)

4.15 am : The alarm buzzed. I woke up all eager and energetic. D-day was here. I was finally going to fulfill my dream of visiting Pondicherry.

It had taken a little while to decide whether I should set my alarm for 4 or 4.30, but given that my flight was at 6 and I wasn’t gona have a bath at such an unearthly hour, I thought it wise to give myself 40 minutes to get ready and 20 to get to the airport so that I could check in by 5.15.

5.55 am : She was racing like a bird, pounding hard on the runway. My middle seat did not give me too grand a view of the scene under the plane, and it sure was not enjoyable when the flight started jiggling and rattling mid air.

But we got to our destination in an hour and thirty minutes so I wasn’t complaining. Besides, I’d paid just over 4000 bucks for an Indigo round trip, so I was delirious with joy at having struck a great deal. Booking early rocks!

10 am : Pleasantly stuffed with Idli and Dosai, I washed my breakfast down with an addictive and steaming cup of coffee. The restaurant my cab (fare pre-decided as Rs. 2300/- for a one-way trip between Chennai and Pondi, that’s about 3 hours) had stopped at, was near a theatre called Mayajaal, located on East Coast Road (ECR). The websites I’d checked before leaving had said that the ECR was an extremely scenic route, but having traveled on the Mumbai-Pune expressway N number of times, it wasn’t extraordinary for me. It’s true that coconut trees never leave your sight, and the road has no bumps or craters… Good enough…

My first stop after breakfast was at Dakshina Chitra, which houses the culture and attractions of three South Indian states – Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, spread over 10 acres of land. (They have their own website! Click here) It’s nothing short of heaven for those interested in traditions, arts and architecture. To me, it was different… Unusual… Interesting…

Our next destination was Crocodile Park that I have visited before while on my trip to Vellore with the college gang in 2008. The crocodiles were just as smelly and just as scary as the last time. I still managed to get quite a few amazing pictures… And also at Mahabalipuram – the shore temple and Five Rathas. Please take good note of this – an umbrella and an ice-cream can make this excursion decently bearable. Otherwise the sun and the heat will really drain you out.

3 pm : Entered Pondi and even the streets looked special to me! Checking in at Hotel Ginger (a Tata enterprise) was like ecstasy personified. I took some time to unpack and freshen up and set out after a mini lunch at Ginger itself.

My to-do list for the evening read Rock Beach, which is the only beach inside the town. Yeah, there’s no sandy beach within the settlement; you need to travel a couple of miles for that. I took an auto and got to the beach just as all the population started descending there. Let’s face it, there’s nothing much for the common man (and woman) to do in Pondi in the evenings, and what better place to head out than the beach and sit near the crashing waves? The statues of Gandhi and Nehru face each other, and the Old 19th century lighthouse looks on right at the entrance to the beach. I strolled around and enjoyed the lovely breeze as I walked the crowded path. There was an Ambedkar monument near the Municipality building, and I took a few snaps for my history-politics-and-biography-crazy Abba to relish.

The people there are so friendly and innocent. As I passed by, a few girls sitting on the roadside called out to me…

“Helloooo! Helloooo!”

I looked around. They were definitely looking at me. Addressing me, for sure.

“Yes?”

In chorus - “Where you from? What iiiiiis your name?”

I was dumbfounded, I didn’t want a bunch of kids yelling my name in public.

“Sunita”

“Telugu? Where from?”

“France” – Could think of noplace else.

‘”Come photo, photo!”

I glanced about. One snap wouldn’t hurt. Besides, it would delight them.

I wrested to keep my skirt around my legs; the girls were tugging at my arms and clothes in order to be close to me. Click.

“Ok byeeeee, Sunita byeeee. Bye Sunitaaaa.”


:-)


I continued my stride down Rock Beach and landed up near Dumas Street – famous for restaurants, basically the French part of town. I’d heard of a Seagulls restaurant that was popular with tourists. And indeed it was a nice place. I dined at Pier Point watching the waves, the cool breeze caressing my hair and calming my soul. The rustling of the coconut leaves inspired the poet in me, and I enjoyed gazing at the sand and the crowd around me. It did not bother me that others were staring at me, and one guy even came up to me and asked me the time, despite the fact that he had a watch and I did not…

All in a day’s work.


Cheerio!
Princess

Tuesday, February 16

Pondi-CHERRY on the top

Hellooooooooo!

I'm back :)

My trip was super-duper awesome, and I soooo didn't wana come back!

Obviously, had to... There were people, things and events waiting for me in Pune-land.

Well, I don’t really know where to start and what to avoid when I tell you about my expedition. It was the height of awesomeness; everything was perfect, and all that wasn’t was made up for by my peace of mind and enthusiasm.

But leme begin by telling you a few points to note:

1. Carry an umbrella if you plan to roam around in/around Chennai and Pondicherry.
2. Bargaining and negotiating is a given anywhere you go (at least in India) and if you don’t do it, you’re a fool with no sense of efficiency.
3. Keep an open mind when you travel. Be willing to explore new places, meet new people, eat new dishes, do things out of the ordinary and just enjoy everything without criticism or evaluation. Of course, don’t compromise on issues pertaining to your safety.

I’m gona keep adding to that list as an when I remember more stuff… But until then, this is good enough.

So, to put it in a nutshell, I left for Chennai from Pune around 6 am on Sunday the 7
th of February. The Indigo I took departed on time, and was a shaky flight, but we landed well before the scheduled arrival time. (They say the journey’s 2 hours long, but it doesn’t take over one and a half.) On reaching Chennai, I took a cab to Pondicherry. The pre-decided fare was Rs. 2300/- and the driver promised to take me to sightseeing attractions on the way. This included a breakfast halt, Dakshina Chitra, Crocodile Park and Mahabalipuram. (More details later.)

When I reached Pondi around afternoon, my room at Ginger was ready. It was a dream fulfilled. A little rest and refreshment later, I set off for Rock Beach - the only beach inside the tiny town and the hub of all activity and tourism. The next few days were spent in combing the entire union territory and relishing all that Puducherry had to offer – beaches, churches, restaurants and Auroville. Frankly, there’s not much to see, so if you’re the compulsive traveler who needs a list of places to check out and hopes to see tons of innovative and exciting places, then you’ll be disappointed. Yet, there is so much to experience – the culture, natural beauty, people and most importantly, the tranquility.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, which lasted exactly a week : Sunday through Saturday. And not once did I feel that I was bored or that it had been too long. One reason for that could be that I was only looking out for some relaxation and change. The other is, well, I prefer a calm pace during my vacations; I don’t enjoy getting up early and running to catch one place after the other. So I did things I wanted and saw places I wished, at leisure.

When I returned on Saturday midnight, I was baked brown and tired yet rejuvenated at the same time. The horrifying news of the blast at German Bakery in Koregaon Park greeted me, and I couldn’t believe it. I’d always thought of Pune as a pristine place that no evil might touch. Turned out I was mistaken. God bless the souls who were killed and injured in that incident. I hope the offenders get punished.

Another news that I got while still on vacation was that our family had been blessed with a baby boy. Not a healthy one, unfortunately, but it’s fighting hard and so are we. I’m sure everything will be fine soon, my intuitions are all telling me that this time it couldn’t be wrong. None of us deserves this, especially my Bhabhi who’s sucha sweetheart…

And yet another news – a great one, which is that I scored a whopping 118 on 120 in TOEFL. I’d been super anxious about the test and had barely studied, but I guess I did extremely well. Just lost a mark in Speaking and one in Reading, but got a 100% on both Listening and Writing. Woo hoo! Happy, Texas? Take me now! And you too, Michigan – I’m waiting to hear from you after the telephonic interview that took place on Feb 4.

That’s all I’ve got time for today. Shall compile my adventures soon, and post them here. Until then, you can check out my vacation photographs on Facebook (if we’re connected there) or Picasa. The link is -
http://picasaweb.google.com/anuja.rathi/PondiTripFeb2010?feat=directlink

I’m back!! :-)


Betcha missed me ;-)


Tadaaa...

-Princess

Sunday, February 14

Love is...

Remember the cute comic strip Love is... ? It used to come in Pune Times a while ago, before the T-shirt comic started... I used to collect them when I was younger - a cute little picture of a man and a woman followed by a short definition of the different acts and feelings in love.

Love is... is a comic strip created by New Zealand artist Kim Grove in the 1960s, later produced by her son Stefano Casali. It is actually a series of little love notes that Kim Grove drew for her future husband, Roberto Casali. The beginning of the strip coincided closely with the 1970 film Love Story. The film's signature line is "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Incidentally, one of the most popular Love is... comic is "Love is being able to say you're sorry".

I'm putting up here some pictures that I found online... Coz we should never forget that love is the simple things in life that become so unusual just bcoz that special someone is with you :-)

Happy Valentine's Day!

May Love always smile on you and your loved ones...

-Princess


Friday, February 5

Rann ... Till You Succeed

Yup, I've watched Rann, and the movie is so not as marvelous as expected. Of course, all the characters and actors are spectacular, but wonderful performances don't a terrific movie make...

The story is oh-so-stale, but Ramu wanted to take a shot at it nevertheless, before Madhur Bhandarkar came around with his real-life-story clan. (Madhur has done page 3 before, but Rann is primarily about the news channels on air.) Not surprisingly, the movie is about how these TV-wallahs cook up stories to raise their popularity and TRPs*

(A lot of folks, including me, don't know what the full form of TRP is... It's Target Rating Point, and it stands for "a measure of the purchased television rating points representing an estimate of the component of the target audience within the gross audience", says Wikipedia. I didn't quite understand all of it, but for further info, click here)

Amitabh Bachhan plays the very dashing and respected Vijay (again! but not Deenanath Chauhan, this time it's Vijay Harshwardhan Malik), a popular journalist for over 3 decades. He runs a TV news channel with his son Jay Malik (an extremely talented actor - Sudeep or someone) and the gorgeous Suchitra Krishnamurthy who plays a grey Nalini Kashyap. As Vijay runs the show with honesty and integrity, it is no wonder that his channel is not making profit, a fact that deeply disturbs his son who is eager to ace the race in television channels; a position currently held by Amrish Kakkar (Mohnish Behl, as despicable as he was in Maine Pyar Kiya - which means he's a good actor).

Politicians, businessmen and media professionals flock together for personal interests, and Mohan Pandey (Paresh Rawal, under-utilized), Navin (Rajat Kapoor, as brilliant as in Bheja Fry and Mixed Doubles) and Jay start the game of you-scratch-mine-I-scratch-yours with zero morality and high potential gains. Neetu Chandra (dressed cheaply so that the guys aren't disappointed), Gul Panag and Simone Singh have little to do, but they look convincing in their tiny roles. Who obviously takes the cake is the Big B and the small D... Riteish Deshmukh is fast becoming one of my favorite actors because he infuses tremendous sincerity and passion into his characters. As a newbie in journalism, he beautifully portrays the amateur's dilemma of candor versus profit. And to put in a few light moments, the film makes way for Rajpal Yadav, and does the guy need any introduction? He's superb, man.

I guess the story is evident from the prologue above. Breaking news becomes synonymous with breaking trust and misleading the public, who excitedly watches and believes everything they are told by the media. The plot would have been more thrilling if only all of us were not so painfully aware of this fact. After all the drama and evil is done, Vijay H. Malik candidly apologizes to the public and discloses the identities of the no-gooders. Game over.

My rating - 5 on 10.

My dream run for my MBA abroad is going ding, ding, ding... I mean I'm getting dinged (means rejected) left, right, center. It began with Cambridge, was taken further by Kellogg and now NYU Stern. I worked hard on the last one man, the T-shirt that I made as a personal expression of myself, I really put my brain, heart and soul into it. But I guess I ain't surprised. I've been told that there are blokes who get admitted to Kellogg and not to NYU. It's that great. Chalo, theek hai. Ab rahi toh do ummeede - Michigan Broad and Texas Austin. Have to crack both ya. Sala kuch toh choice ho!

I gave my Broad telephonic interview last night. It went well, I think. The interviewer was in a great rush and I could barely make out 70% of what she was saying. The questions were quite repetitive, I felt, coz she began with the usual Why MBA, Why Broad, and then asked me about 5 questions all revolving around teamwork. I was a tad distracted coz of some annoying interruptions, so I don't recall much of what I said, but I'm sure I didn't goof up too bad. Let's hope for the best.

But for now, it's vacation time! Yoo hooooooo... I leave for Pondi the day after. My packing is reasonably done. And what has eased the process is my latest shopping spree :-D

Awrite now, don't oggle people. I HAD to buy a few things for my trip, besides the shorts and tube. Hit Central the other day, there's a wonderful sale going on, very attractive discounts available. I got a couple of casual but cute tops/Ts, and a beautiiiiiiiiiful dress. I've always wanted to own one like it, and its simplicity is so stunning... Wow! Dying to wear it... Come opportunity, present thyself!

Time to say goodbye, people. I'll see if I can drop a line from Pondi, but honestly I don't plan to be connected to anything/anyone in home city Pune. So, don't get too lost and lonely and disappointed with Princess missing :-) I promise I'll dish it out in bucket-loads after I return - all my adventures and fun and realizations and philosophies.

Cool?

Cool.

Take good care of yourself until then!

Love always,
Princess

Tuesday, February 2

I'm Alive

Wazaaaaaaaa, fellas?

I'm doing good, extremely happy coz I did some fab work over the last couple of days. Work as in professionally and academically. Nothing gives you the satisfaction that a good day's work can... Trust me...

Of course, other than going shopping and purchasing something dreamy and exquisite, which I did too :-D

But more on that later... Let me begin by telling you how things have been at work... By the way, I completed 6 months at YB yesterday. Cheers!

Honestly speaking, I've hardly had much to do over the last few weeks. I've just been loitering at work, and trying to look busy and important. (Which most people do so often, that after a point of time, they stop realizing they're doing nothing unusual or productive. Weird but true.) So, when I was told outta the blue that I need to visit a client and evaluate candidates for communication training, I was glad to actually be occupied in constructive work, for a change.

Now, I was expecting about a dozen candidates and I was nowhere close to prepared to being handed a sheet of 60-odd names, most sounding South Indian - you know, the usual Rao and Reddy and tons of snake-god names. I took a deep breath and geared up for the task.

I do enjoy meeting people, and I must say, it was fun. One of the best things about being a trainer is that you can let yourself go wild and encourage the students to explore themselves during interactive sessions. Which is exactly what I did. So, right from the usual "What's your favorite destination?" to "What would you do with a million bucks?" to the more controversial "What would you rename yourself as, and why?" and "Why don't you have a girlfriend?", I went berserk. And the candidates thoroughly enjoyed the interrogation. (I know coz we were both giggling.) Helped me build the required rapport and helped the students relax. Good job.

Tell me something new ;-)

But that's just the basics. I HAVE to share with you the details about the weirdos I meet and the crazy stuff they do... LOL... Omigosh, it's hilarious, the way some folks behave...

So, as I said this group was mostly composed of idli-dosa-people. While their MTI (mother tongue influence) and pronunciation had me grinning and fuming alternately, they came across as extremely sincere and polite. Unfortunately, non-trainable, though. Wana know how chatting with them is...?? Check this out : When I asked "Tell me about your family", they say "My name is blah-blah. I studied at blah-blah. My first job was so-and-so". I calmly guide them back to my original question, to which they answer "My fother (NO typo, they say fOther) was retired and mother was housemaker (HOMEmaker/houseWIFE)." I make a straight face and ask with empathy, "Was? They're there, right?" only to be told, "Ya ya, they in Kannur." Shucks....

And then there was this deadly-looking chap who tells me, "I want to join this company because branded, and then people will give their daughters to me to marry." Ahem, how many you looking for, mate?! Pretty candid and upfront, I admit...

Another reedy fellow on being asked "Why are you so thin?" replied promptly "I will drink Complan." Hehehe... Too late for that, buddy. Should have done that sooner...

And godddd... some of these guys dress in such outrageous ways! I had to blink a couple of times when I saw this dude walk up to me in a bright red shirt. I mean, a traffic signal red of all colors to an interview? It's almost like saying "Hire me or I'll fire you."

This other cartoon in a waistcoat, jeans so ornately embroidered that it could put any fashionable girl to shame, funny gigantic glasses and elfin shoes told me he likes Emraan Hashmi and tries to emulate him, in style as well as actions. God bless you, Emraan, and your marvelous fan following...

And how can I forget those who look upon these one-on-one chats as a means to vent and displace their agony akin a free counseling session? I begin with something as harmless as "What's your best quality/talent?" and end up listening to an entire monologue about how the parents did not allow the child to play and pursue cricket as a career, and after that the child never quite did anything out of his own volition, and he now lives a life completely directed and commanded by his Paa and Maa. Interesting... And worrisome... The psychologist inside me really aches after hearing these stories.

But well, that's just a little glimpse of some things in my profession. It's as much entertainment as it is hard work. After all, training people and raising their competencies in a matter of weeks/months is no child's play. My next Academy batch starts after my vacation (Pondi, yipppeeee!)and I shall be super busy in Feb, what with the family expecting a baby any moment. The stork better wait until Feb 15!

About the TOEFL, well, it was... umm... what should I say... I guess it was OK, I don't really know. I think I did a good job on the entire test, though I was smiling throughout for heaven knows what reason. And then I got bored on the extra reading section, and passively answered the questions in the listening section. The speaking section was not as bad as I had expected; the prompts were pretty good, but I lost sense of time and found the time allotted for speaking short. What I sure did fantastically on is the writing section (no surprise there, right?!) where I gave a free rein to my imagination and language skills. Woohoo!! The TOEFL is gone and done with. Hushhhhh... No more tests for me now at least for the next 6 months! Of course, there's the evaluation bit - my Michigan State Univ (MSU) telephonic interview is on the 4th and I have to make sure I crack it and get an admit. There's also UT McCombs and NYU Stern... All in good time.

And now for the shopping bit - I bought a pair of sexy shorts (something I've wanted to own for a millennium, so what if I really don't have much opportunity to wear them?) My mum all but collapsed when I showed her my latest buy. What with the funky tube top I bought on New Year's and now these glam shorts, she's worried about the direction my fashion sense and ultra-modern brain is taking :-D But she's a great sport, and now she wants me to buy a nice short skirt as well ;-) Wanted to do that, but didn't get anything chic enough...

Another chic-y thing was my evening at Stone Water Grill (or SWG, if you will). This swanky place in Koregaon Park sure is one must-visit. True, it's expensive and I didn't quite love the music, but the crowd, food and ambience is amazing. Particularly the Char Grilled Mushrooms... Yumm, so juicy... and the sauce was just right!

That's all for now. Will keep you posted about further developments.

Asta La Vista!
Princess