Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Wishes!!!

So I'm sitting here right now with a slight backache, but I don't care coz I got it in a great way ...... we've been desperately decking up my in-laws place!!! I'm just thrilled I got to decorate more than one house this year.

And I'm absolutely over-the-moon THRILLED about my hair!!!! My sometimes-curly, sometimes-wavy, always-frizzy mane has been ironed into submission and is now swinging straight and shiny!!!

(I know its only going to last till the next wash, but oh, its such a treat for me!!!!)

That's all the time I have for this post ..... so here's wishing everyone who reads this a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Tricky Picture Tag

I've been tagged by A (thank you!!!) Its another Q & A style tag, but with a photographic twist!!! The rule is that for every answer you have to do a Google image search and pick a picture on the first page with minimal explanation.

I'd seen this on a few blogs and it seemed quite tricky. It is, but its also a lot of fun to see what images turn up and these are what I got:

1. The age you will be on your next birthday: a quarter of a century!

2. A place you’d like to travel to: (so many, where do I begin???) Top destinations though: Italy and Ireland.

3. Your Favorite place: where the heart is!!!

4. Your favorite food/drink: CHOCOLATE all the way!!!

5. Your favorite pet: No pets allowed!!! (Don't mind them in the zoos or in the wild, but definitely no animals at home)

6. Your favorite color combination: Red and gold ...... like a red moonrise :)

7. Your favorite piece of clothing: Hardly wear them, but I love saris.

8. Your all time favorite song: (again, so many, where do I begin???) Everything I do I do it for you - Bryan Adams.

9. Your favorite TV show: Comedy - Friends; Drama - Lost.

10. Full name of your significant other: My beloved recluse would throttle me if I revealed this!

(Oh my God!!! I know the rules said 'minimal explanation', but how freaky is this???? Viggo Mortensen in the classic LOTR avatar was right there on the first page of results!!!! I think maybe it was the word 'recluse' that did it.......his character is mostly a loner initially. Damn, now I'm just dying to watch all three movies again, but the DVDs are with my sister :( )

11. The town in which you live in: Namma Bengaluru.

12. Your screen name/nickname: Shalom :)

13. Your first job: PR executive.

14. Your Dream Job: an artist - clicking photographs, painting and selling fabrics / glass / wood etc and maker of miscellaneous knick-knacks.

15: Bad Habit you have: Procrastination.

16. Your worst fear: Falling down stairs!!!

17. The one thing you’ll like to do before you die: See as much of this beautiful world as possible.

18. The first thing you’ll buy if you get $1,000,000: A world tour for the family!!!

Ok, so that's me done! I am now going to complicate life for Amrita and Smriti :D

Hope to see this one up soon (well, reasonably soon!!! :P)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back in the Saddle!

What an incredibly busy weekend its been! But in the happiest way possible!!!

I had been looking forward so eagerly to this Christmas, but recent events had considerably crushed that Christmas spirit and try as I might, I just couldn't make myself feel that bubbly joy I usually carry around this time of year.

But once I was past that initial gloom, I realised again how special this Christmas is: its our first together, in our first home. And then I was determined to do my best to make it a good one.

First, we (or rather I!) wrote out our Christmas cards. I have always loved the whole process of buying/making cards, bringing out the glittering ink pens to write out people's names and even sticking stamps on the envelopes! Although if I'd mentioned that last part to hubby, I'm sure he'd have insisted I go to the post office too!

Second, we put up our tree and started decorating it, carols playing in the background (with the occassional rock song in between ...... hubby was the DJ after all :-D). I happily started hanging up ornaments and draping ropes of bells and tinsel all around, and then hubby came in with the lights. Lessons learnt: always, always put the lights in first!

I wanted some of the lights placed inside, closer to the trunk, and those wires got tangled with the tinsel and blocked the ornaments till we had one twisted mess, so ultimately we had to take everything off and start all over again. But even when it was done, I couldn't help going back and adjusting some of the ornaments, redraping the tinsel, and the image in my head, strangely, is that of the mother of a bride - fussing away till the beloved daughter looks just so!!!

Then we moved on to our wreath and some other little bits and bobs. Hubby wanted to get a hook from which to hang our wreath because its a bit heavy, but I felt that just tape would do, and after much, umm, discussing and debating, we went with my solution.

Somehow, over the past few months, we've ended up with a selection of tapes that would rival that of any stationery store: so we have double-sided tape, clear double-sided tape, heavy duty mounting double sided tape, duct tape and the regular old Scotch cellotape. Using a complex combination of these, hubby at last got our wreath fixed firm (I hope!)

We finished up with the rest of the stuff that needed to be stuck, and then, in the middle of the mess that was our living room, we stood arm in arm, grinning ear to ear, surveying our handiwork, finally feeling Christmassy!!!

Now carrying that optimism on to Phase 2. In case you wondered what the title of this post means, well, I'm absolutely determined to make some sweets for Christmas and I plan to start the first one - coconut burfi - today. This time around, I will make sure I have a lot of time, I will measure my ingredients correctly (and then stick to them!), and I will definitely, totally follow the instructions to the letter ....... (deep, calming breaths) ......

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Close to a couple of years ago (can't believe its been that long!!!), I was up on the online matrimonial mart. I alternated between anger and amusement at the proposals that were coming in, and I so desperately needed to vent that I even started up a separate blog for the purpose (taken offline now as its no longer relevant :))

A few days after my first post, I received a comment from a stranger ...... well, not a complete stranger, as I later found out. Preethi arrived at my blog through our mutual friend Thought Warp (who is incidentally the person who persuaded me to start blogging, by the way). Preethi gave me some very sound advice (thanks again!!!), and naturally I then went on to check out her blog and eventually became a regular reader.

While scrolling through her comments form after one fine post, a comment by another blogger caught my eye, and so I went to check out her blog. I instantly felt a connection with Reflections because she's a Potter-maniac like me (the first post I read over there was about the incredibly brilliant JK Rowling). And like most people, after a few of her posts, I couldn't help but become a regular reader there too.

Through Reflections, I found Renu and ISH. Renu's blog is a very comforting place for me ...... something about the way she writes reminds me of my mother and home. And about ISH, man, I wish I could write with as much spunk and punch as she does!!!

I was curious about another blogger whose comments I'd seen on these three ladies' blogs. The name Deeplydip intrigued me, and when I checked out her blogs I again liked what I saw. Styalogue is such a cool platform for sharing thoughts on fashion!!! It feels great to read and share thoughts on style, and it reminds me of all the fun times with my gal pals :D

Another fashionista I really admire is Agnes. This lady is all about effortless style, and so much more. The work she and her husband do is truly worth commending, so all the very best to you guys!!!

You might ask, what brought on this wave of flashbacks?

Well, yesterday a new friend - A - sent me some sunshine with The Proximidade Scroll Award. It meant a lot, considering what the award is for:

This award is given to a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award

I have always loved writing. Even as a schoolkid, writing never fazed me the way it did a lot of my classmates. Because I loved reading too, writing seemed to me to be a wonderful way of self-expression. So you would think that when the blogging phenomenon took off, I'd have immediately joined in. I didn't.

Because somewhere over the years, I started struggling with the words. I had to do a lot of writing for my studies; project reports and things like that were easy. And so Thought Warp was after me for a long time to start a blog, but somehow I just couldn't find the words, the ideas needed to do so.

Even when I did start this blog, I struggled for a long time to get into the writing zone. Initially there was a lack of time (along with a lack of ability!) So I basically just read a lot of blogs, rather than posting anything in my own.

But somewhere along the line, the more I ventured out into the blogosphere, the more I read each of your blogs, the easier it became to write. Each of you has inspired and motivated me with your words, and now writing has become fun again!!!

Most importantly, I have come to know some terrific people I now consider friends, so in this spirit of friendship, I give all of you this award (I know some of you have already received it, and A, you gave it to me, but so what??? You all deserve it!!!)








Thought Warp

(Whew!!! After all this writing, I just don't have the energy to link up all over again!!!)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Awarded Again!!!

On the blog front, last week was really special, as I got not one, not two, but three awards!!! And what made it more special was that they were from people who are totally rocking bloggers themselves - Reflections, Deeplydip and Agnes :)

Reflections and Deeplydip both gave me this Butterfly Award.

Reflections gave this to me for my photoblog, and I will very proudly display it there as well, but I'm going to pass it forward from here itself. So I now give this award to some of the coolest blogs/bloggers I know:


Agnes gave me this award, but I didn't know what it was for, so I Googled it and its about "acknowledging the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day." Wow!!! Thanks again, Agnes :)

This now goes ahead to:

Goofy Mumma
My Space
Thought Warp

The rules for all these awards are pretty simple: put them up on your blogs (giving yourself a pat on the back!), link back to the person who gave it to you and spread the cheer to deserving blogs!!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wishful Thinking

Yesterday, one of the news channels ran a story on the kind of gizmos the 26/11 terrorists were carrying, and also on how intensively and extensively they were trained. As I saw the story, I was once again amazed by the tremendous wealth such organizations possessed, and even more amazed by the brains and the management behind such acts of terror.

And then I wondered, wished ......

What if the people who masterminded these acts of destruction put their considerable talent and resources to constructive use? If they invested all those millions wasted in weaponry, into schools and colleges, into creating jobs - honest, legal jobs - so that their youth could have a chance at a decent life, instead of being filled with hate and going down paths that lead only to death?

When I think about it this way, of all the good that could've been done with that much money, that much ability, the sense of loss is staggering!!!

How can these people be so blind, so stupid??? And then to keep saying that they're doing all this for their God ........ what an insult it is to God!!!

Here's a thought: instead of executing innocent people, how about lending a helping hand in whatever way possible? Instead of dying for God, how about living for God???

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Need of the Hour: Responsible Leadership

There used to be this ad on tv a few months ago, I forget for what product. The political drama in the wake of the Bombay siege brought it to mind:

It had this typical Indian politician relaxing on the lawn of his bungalow, surrounded by sycophantic aides and giving an interview to a bunch of reporters about contesting an upcoming election, when a young man comes up to him and starts shooting questions about his qualifications - his education, previous work experience and so on.

The politician is surprised by this line of questioning, wondering how it matters for someone contesting an election, and asks why the youth wants to know all this.

The youth replies that its only natural to ask these questions of anyone applying for a job.

The politician is taken aback: job? What job???

To which the youth calmly states: the job of running this country.

The politician is left stunned.


Running any country is a job, a monumental job that requires consistent and coordinated efforts at multiple levels. And because it entails the security and welfare of citizens, on which no price can be put, these jobs come with an enormous amount of power and responsibility.

As a management student, one of the earliest lessons we learnt was that authority and responsibility must go hand in hand. If you are entrusted with authority and power over something, you are also responsible to see that the work is carried out.

But in Indian politics, "responsibility" is a dirty word. Our politicians want to win elections, win power, and once that's done, the rest of their term is basically spent in calculating how to hold on to that power for the maximum possible time. But very few accept the responsibility that comes with the power.

Post the attacks, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh tells the media "If any responsibility falls on me, I have offered to resign." IF any responsibility falls on you???? You're "Chief Minister" of a state that has suffered the country's most brutal terrorist attack and you still have to wonder if any responsibility falls on you???

Deshmukh's on his way out, and good riddance!!! The lobbying to be his successor has been going on for a while and a new Chief should be named any moment now.

But it really doesn't matter who the new person is, all that will count is what he does with his power. Will he use it responsibly, promptly and unswervingly to get answers? To crack down harshly on the forces of terror? To put measures into place that ensure we're never this vulnerable again?

We are a nation that abounds with politicians, but is starved of leaders. And that really is the need in these extraordinary times, not destructive politics where people's actions are constantly geared towards maintaining power, but constructive leadership at all levels of government, where people put aside egos and personal ambition to work, actually work, for the betterment of the nation.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Repeatedly. Relentlessly. Ruthlessly.
That's how they work. That's how they attack.
For what?
Money? Power? Revenge? Religion?
No excuse justifies this kind of coldbloodedness.
I feel wrung-out, and I'm only watching it on tv.
What of those right in the middle of this nightmare?
What of their frantic loved ones?
What of those bravehearts risking everything to end this?
Nearly 20 hours now ....... how much longer?
Life will limp back to normalcy.
But how 'normal' will it really be?
We think we live in a free country,
but as long as terror goes unpunished,
we all remain hostages to that bit of fear.
May there be justice at the end of this madness.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life Aborted

You know how you see / hear / read certain things and they kind of linger in your mind for a while? Give off vibes and feelings that you can't shake off? Sometimes make an impact so deep that you know you'll never forget them?

Fellow blogger My Space's powerfully written, powerfully moving short story is one of those reads giving me a feeling that I haven't been able to shake off, especially since it relates to one of those things that I cannot forget.

I was in the ninth standard, close to 14 years old, when one day the entire batch of us were taken to our school auditorium. It was for yet another "awareness" talk, where a group of doctors and other trained professionals lectured us on menstruation, sex, pregnancy and other issues girls on the verge of womanhood needed to know.

We entered the auditorium and took our seats, chattering away merrily like most young girls. Our headmistress introduced the main speaker of the day, a middle-aged male doctor. All I remember of him today is that he was tall and wore glasses. He said that the session would consist of him giving a talk, us watching a short film, followed by some q & a time and the subject of the day was abortion.

He got started on the talk, and for the most part, we were quiet, although softly whispered conversations and gossip, hushed jokes and giggles, passing of notes and comments continued throughout the audience.

Then he played the film. And we all slowly shut up ...... stunned into silence. A few minutes in and some of the girls closed their eyes or put their heads down, simply unable to take any more. I watched, and kept watching even as tears burned my throat and I felt as if something were shredding my stomach to pieces.

Time has erased many of the details of the film and of the rest of the session, but what imprinted itself in my mind were the images: little bodies that had human form but no features, twitching in agony, and the most horrific of them all ...... the tiny foetus that couldn't have been bigger than my palm, lying bloodied, battered and broken.

I don't write this to gross anyone out; this is what I saw, what has stayed with me ever since and what flashes through my mind every time I see / hear / read the word 'abortion'. For me, those images reduce the whole debate on the subject to just one thing: abortion is murder.

For those who've simply been careless, or for whom a pregnancy at the time is "not convenient", or for whom, as in My Space's story, having a son is most important - you commit the cruelest sort of murder because the life you decide to take is life at its purest, most innocent and most helpless stage.

And yet, the matter isn't black and white when you consider cases where the health of the mother and/or baby is at risk, or in the worst possible scenario - where a rape victim gets pregnant. It is an unimaginably traumatic choice to make, but a choice that nevertheless must be made.

How do you decide what is right in such situations? As strongly as I feel on the subject, I have no answer here.


P.S.: November 2nd is celebrated as All Souls' Day. The Catholic Church observes a special Mass on this day to remember and pray for the souls of all the departed that they might rest in peace. On this All Souls' Day mass, the priest also prayed for the souls of aborted children. It never occurred to me to do so before, but its not something I'll forget now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Be My Guest!

I have always loved having people around; not strangers or new acquaintances, but familiar, friendly faces. Coming from a big, but far-flung family, some of my happiest memories are of when aunts and uncles would come back home for a visit.

I used to feel immensely thrilled at the prospect of getting together like in old times with everybody under one roof - either at my home or at my grandparents'. It didn't matter that there were more people than there was room - we would all adjust so that everybody could be conveniently accomodated in the limited space.

Then there was one of the best parts: the food!!! We are totally and completely a food-loving family, so over and above the sustenance aspect, food is a vital part of all our lives. My mother being a fantastic cook, great food on the table was a daily occurrence in our house ...... and it only got better when we had guests.

Whether the guests were over just for a meal, or were staying with us for a few days, the "Athithi Devo Bhava" (Sanskrit for "a guest is God") mindset that is the foundation of Indian hospitality, was all-important, with the result that people loved visiting our home, and I loved it even more when they did. The atmosphere would be warm & inviting, the food delicious and plentiful, and my parents - ever the gracious hosts.

Today, I am a homemaker myself. I only felt confident about having guests over 3-4 months into my marriage. Since then, we've had friends and family over for meals quite a few times, though in small groups. We've also had houseguests on three occassions: the first visitors being my mother and my grandmother, followed by my father-in-law and nephew a month later, and finally, my mother-in-law (MIL), who was with us last week.

As a child, I only saw the fun part of having guests, but the older I grew, the more I began to realise how much careful thought and planning went into ensuring that fun. However its only now, having actually been a hostess, that I can truly appreciate just how hard my parents worked to provide that unfailing hospitality time and again.

There were always hands to help: we had maids to handle the cleaning up, we kids would do whatever we were told, and Dad would be right beside Mom, slogging it out to get the food ready.

Dad was and is her right hand, but it was Mom who really was the brains of the whole show. Even in our daily life, it was her foresight and strategies that had our home running smoothly. Earlier, I wrote about our daily food as though it were matter of fact that it would be great. But what I didn't note was the great pains that Mom took to bring out that food, day in and day out, taking into account everyone's tastes and preferences.

And now when I try to do the same for hubby & me & our guests, I am repeatedly amazed by her love for us, her selflessness and her unswerving commitment to her family.

Mom always believed that you could handle anything if you kept things organized and planned things in advance, and it is only now that I really understand the importance of this. Because you may have help, like I did last week with sis-in-law and her sis also coming over to spend time with our MIL, but ultimately its my kitchen, my space, my setup. I need to be the master planner, I need to know what has to be done when and I need to do it all while making everyone feel comfortable and welcome, not only because that's how I was raised, but also because that's how I was received in their homes.

Honestly, I was anxious about how MIL's visit would go, but more than the anxiety was the desire to make her stay as enjoyable as possible, because despite the added work, I do love having people around.

And that I think is the necessary factor underlying great hospitality: the love for hosting guests, along with a spirit of service and the invaluable, combined effort of all the family. Its what creates that almost-tangible sense of warmth and welcome, what makes the difference between homes that you visit because you want to, and those you visit because you have to.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Making and Breaking of Besan Ka Laddoo

After my last post, some of you had asked about the besan ka laddoo. Well, I gave it a shot last week, feeling very festive with the twinkling lights and sparkling fireworks outside the window. I was quite confident, as the recipe seemed to be very simple: the one I was following said to take 4 cups besan to 1 cup each of ghee and powdered sugar; roast the besan in the ghee till it gives off an aroma, take it off the heat, cool & then mix in the sugar and some powdered cardamom (sliced almonds too if you want them), shape them into balls and voila! Besan laddoos are ready to serve.

It seems as if it should've been a piece of cake, but compared to what happened, cakes are much, much easier! If I were to describe step-by-stupid-step what I did and why I did it, this would be a reaallllly long post. So here's the concise version of the idiot's guide to besan ka laddoo.

It begins with my shock as what seemed to be a lil amount of ghee in the measuring cup suddenly looked like a mini-lake in the pan. I took out a couple of teaspoonfuls, considering we'd already had a lot of rich sweets earlier that week. Needless to say, the mix turned out to be too dry to shape into balls. I wanted to kick myself for that sudden attack of health-consciousitis. (Note to self: if you really want to eat "healthy", don't bother making sweets!)

Anyway, I thought I could still salvage it, something a quick call to mom confirmed - all I had to do was add more ghee. Now you would think since I had taken out only two teaspoonfuls, I would've replaced just that amount. But no, this is the idiot's guide, remember? I picked up the ghee bottle, yeah the whole bottle, and happily went glop, glop, glop ...... and some more glop, glop, glop all over the pan!

So now ....... yeah, you guessed it, the mixture was too wet!!! Usually quite a few types of dough tend to harden as they cool and I fervently hoped that this would too. So as it cooled, I tried forming a ball ....... it didn't exactly stay in a perfect round, but to my relief, at least it didn't break apart like in the first time.

Feeling better, I dropped the misshapen laddoo onto a waiting thali and started work on the next one ....... after which I stopped. This is why:

I had succeeded in making besan ka blobs!!! I stared in sheer disbelief for a few seconds, before my sense of humour caught up with me. I called out to hubby, who came inquiring if the laddoos were ready ...... and burst out laughing when he saw the plate!!!

Well, ultimately I just spread the whole mix onto the thali and even scored criss-cross lines over it, in a final hope that just maybe we could at least have besan burfi. But no, the moment I tried to lift a piece out, it would break apart! The end result was that we had to eat the umm, laddoos / burfi / powder with a spoon! But hey, it tasted exactly right, exactly like its supposed to. Hopefully, next time I'll get the look right too!!! :)

If you're planning to try this out, don't be put off by my experience, because in hindsight, its really not so bad. Just remember to get your measurements right; I don't think the ratios I used were correct, so if you'd like, check out this recipe here (I made pedas using their recipe and that turned out superb!) Also, roast the besan on very low heat (it must cook, but not brown) and oh yes, make sure your sugar is powdered really fine - did I forget to mention the intact sugar crystals in my mixture???

And a last all-important piece of advice: before attempting this recipe, talk it over with someone who's actually made besan ka laddoo - successfully!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lighting Up for Diwali

Yesterday night while coming back home, I was craning my neck out the window to see if I could spot any lights up for Diwali. I could, but only in the zillion-and-one stores we passed along the way, and those don't count, because businesses commercialize everything and create festivals even when there are none.

Closer to home, we passed some of our neighbouring residential buildings, but only one apartment had lights on in their balcony. I was more hopeful as we turned in towards our lane, but to my shock and disappointment, not a single flat had anything special going on.

I think one of the greatest things about India is how we go all out to celebrate our festivals, and after two years away from this festive cheer, I was really looking forward to Diwali because Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri were pretty low-key here (at least where we stay), as compared to the atmosphere in Bombay. Even though none of these has a religious significance for me, it is nevertheless great fun to celebrate and I always have this warm feeling inside whenever any festival comes around, regardless of religion.

Anyway, earlier this night as we were coming back home, I still looked around, and one or two more places had lights on. At least that was something, I thought. But then we saw our building, and hubs and me both shouted out happily. There were our neighbours' balconies, all dripping with colourful lights!!! In front of the gate, children stood with sparklers and in the distance, we could hear the first of the firecrackers start to go off.

Its now a couple of hours later, and the firecrackers are going strong. My festive spirit has now received a rejuvenating boost and I'm all set to celebrate too! Out will come my candles and tealights! I'm also planning to attempt besan ka laddoo, one of my favourite sweets, which, back in the old days, a friend of my grandmother's used to make and send for me. Wish me luck on that front, and wish all who read this a Very Happy and bright Diwali :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

To Booze or Not To Booze

Yesterday's B'lore Times led with an article on Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss's current focus - total nation-wide prohibition. The Minister's concern is driven by the increasing number of youth getting addicted to alcohol. I agree that this is becoming a serious problem, but I don't feel that a complete ban on alcohol is the solution.

I grew up in a family where nearly everybody consumed alcohol. Now I don't mean that the elders were constantly talli, but whenever we had get-togethers with family or friends, the booze flowed freely and all adults were welcome to it. Even us children could take a sip from our parents' glasses whenever curiosity got the better of us. And after I turned 18, I was always offered a drink too at our family parties.

There was never any taboo attached to alcohol in our family. Adults were free to drink, but only free to drink as adults. That meant knowing your capacity, and always, always staying within the bounds of decent behaviour. As long as we behaved responsibly, there was no reason not to enjoy and appreciate fine liquor.

But during college and ever since, I've realised that the real reason why many people drink is not to appreciate good liquor, but more to "fit in" and appear "cool". And the more you drink, the "cooler" you're thought to be. I remember girl friends from very conservative families, staying overnight at whichever girl's house was empty on the pretext of group study, while actually it was a booze party. The following day they used to brag about it very excitedly; it didn't matter what they had been drinking, as long as they could boast about drinking.

Today, with binge drinking becoming the latest trend, the situation is even worse. I've seen photos of girls in UK and the US sprawled unconscious in bars and pubs after bingeing. I don't know if its the same in India, but even if it isn't, we've got a far worse trend of people drinking, driving and running others over. While I enjoy the occassional drink, I really don't know what the appeal is in boozing to the extent that you're either just a useless lump, or a total menace to society.

I don't think that drinking in itself is bad, its irresponsible, excessive drinking that's the problem. The point is that anything, consumed excessively is bad for you. Even basic stuff like sugar, salt or oil can be potentially deadly if you have too much of it.

Banning alcohol completely is not going to resolve the issue. All this would do is give the black market a good boost, and further increase the hype around alcohol, making it a bigger deal than it really is.

If you truly wanted to make a difference, the thing to do would be to tackle mindsets about alcohol. Easier said than done, believe me, I know. But ultimately, having proper attitudes is the only thing that helps you make the right choices so that you can have your fun without being a nuisance to anyone else.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Angela's Ashes

I recently read a book called Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Its the author's memoirs of his childhood, and I picked it up because a friend had listed it as her favourite book and also because it had won a Pulitzer.

I was visiting my parents at the time, and had plenty of time to relax and read, so in this situation, it would've usually taken me 2-3 days to finish a book this size, 4 days at the max. I started reading one night after dinner, finished chapter 1 and then picked it up again only a few days later. I finally completed it only about 3 weeks later.

Why? Because the author recollects a childhood so unbelievably miserable, there was just no way I could spend too long with the book at one stretch. Definitely I could not bear the thought of reading it after I had enjoyed my mom's wonderful meals, not when he described the carelessness of his alcoholic father and embittered mother, his and his brothers' painful hunger, the many, many years they spent surviving only on bread and tea, and many more instances of desperate poverty.

His earliest memories are from when he was four, around the time of the Great Depression in America, and they were forced to move back to their native Ireland from the US because of their poverty. That's where things go from bad to worse and even more worse.

Though they have family nearby, they're forced to survive on dole money from the government, most of which the father drinks away. They live in a hellish house, with the street's only toilet right next to their door. The lack of proper clothes, nutrition and Ireland's bitter cold see to it that the author loses two younger siblings before he is five, another baby having already died back in the States. And the problems and tragedies just keep piling on.

But despite such a horrific childhood, the book is not written in a way to gain sympathy. Its just a straightforward narrative that's surprisingly funny at times, penned in such a way that you could almost hear someone narrating it in that typical Irish accent. And I think that, because its tone is never plainitive, or sad or bitter, but just matter-of-fact, is exactly what makes this book so hard-hitting.

We know that children, inspite of their innocence, are sometimes very insightful and see things much more clearly than adults do, and the author was no different. The book reflects that mix of innocence and insight in a way that just tugs on every emotional string.

All through their childhood, whenever their father returned home late at night, drunk, he would wake up the author and his brother and make them sing Irish patriotic songs and promise they would die for the country if the need arose. In school, their Catholic teachers made them promise to die for the faith if the need arose. Father wants them to die for the country, teachers want them to die for the faith, and the child McCourt wonders ..... doesn't anyone want them to live?

There were so many more such instances in the book that make you stop and think. One other thing that especially struck a chord with me was when the children have to live with their maternal aunt because the father takes off and the mother is hospitalized. The aunt is by no means rich, but is definitely better off than the author's family, yet still is a very angry and bitter woman (presumably because she is childless). She takes out all that anger on these children, and young McCourt again wonders, she has enough money for food, electricity in her house, her very own toilet ...... yet, why is she so angry?

This made me sit up and really count my blessings. Many people must be doing it, I'm sure, yet I don't think we remember to be grateful for things like having electricity, or food, or our own bathrooms, or even health, the fact that we have all our senses in working order, as blessings. We are so used to them, we tend to take them all for granted, and that's why I'm glad I picked this book up.

Reading it was certainly not easy, but it's worth it because it makes you realise how much you really have been blessed with, increases your level of awareness towards the poor and reinforces that we have a moral duty to help, whether it is by giving your time, effort or money.

Edit: would like to add running water to my list of taken-for-granted blessings ...... we didn't have water for a few hours yesterday, and it was hell.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Addiction Tag

Tagged again by Reflections, to post five of my addictions and here they are:

1. CHOCOLATE - my first true love!!!

2. Books - I am a voracious reader and I feel like something's missing if there are no books in the house waiting to be read. In my school days, I was a member of three libraries and during vacations, I would have at least four books at the same time - a Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys, an Enid Blyton school story, an Agatha Christie and an Archie comic - so I could pick & choose depending on my mood. Same goes now as well: I'm in the middle of a Christine Feehan goth romance & Yann Martel's Life of Pi - the latter has been on hold for a while coz it got a bit disturbing.

3. Music - I love listening to music, its how I unwind. I need a few minutes of not-so-quiet time every day - just me & the music & my thoughts, although this need was more pressing earlier when I was studying & working.

4. Games - no, no, I'm not the athletic type at all..... except for badminton & table tennis :) What I mean is, I have phases where I get hooked on to board games, card games, computer games etc. Spider Solitaire has caught my interest again and I'm desperately trying to crack the 'difficult' level. Also, last month my nephew re-introduced rummy to all of us and we had a blast!!! I am just dying to play again, and am irritating hubby constantly :D ....... would help if we got a pack of cards first though :D

5. Tea - this is the only, I suppose, serious addiction I have: I need my morning & evening cup of tea. Without it, I actually suffer headaches. Earlier, I thought I needed a mid-morning cup of coffee too, but now I have days when I can comfortably go without it, so yay..... although frankly, its not such a hardship to skip it considering the rubbish I make in the name of coffee! But it is definitely a must-have on weekends ...... why??? Because hubby makes coffee then, and it is a-ma-zing!!!

The rest of the instructions for this tag ..........The persons who have been tagged have to link the blogger who tagged them and also extend the tag to five or more bloggers and link them too.

So I pass this on to: Agnes, Diligent Candy, Preethi, Swats and Thought Warp.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Exploring Karnataka: From Palace to Pak!

On entering Mysore, we were struck by the clean streets, tidy houses and well-kept gardens. Further in, we drove past the imposing St. Philomena's Church, which is built along the unmistakable lines of the Cologne Cathedral.

After a quick lunch at Hotel Ramanashree, we moved on towards Mysore Palace. This was the first time I was seeing any kind of Indian palace, and I was quite unprepared for the sheer beauty of it.

You step in through the gates and there's the palace stretching out on the left, with an intricately carved temple on the right, just as you enter. We snapped off a good many pictures outside because cameras aren't allowed inside and rightly so, as the continual flashes from a steady stream of tourists would surely cause the paint to fade.

But still, that didn't stop me from wishing that I could've taken some photos, because the interiors were just that gorgeous. A plaque outside had stated that the palace was designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, which means that it combines British and Mughal design elements. Floors, walls, ceilings, doors are all exquisite, intricately crafted works of art. The overall colours inside were vibrant reds, greens and blues with gilded borders that somehow work wonderfully together to create this richly vibrant look. All the doors were masterpieces in wood, and in some of the rooms, so were the ceilings!!!

We saw the throne room with its famous golden throne which is only displayed to the public during the Dasara festival period - pretty lucky timing for us! This was also the first time I saw a machine gun. Not that machine guns were used in the palace's heydays ...... they belonged to the many security officers present in this particular room :)

The main door leading to this throne room is this jaw-dropping, absolutely stunningly carved creation, made of what we believe is silver, or definitely some metal because it has that silverish, pinkish tarnished look. I would've loved to run my fingers over it, but unfortunately you only see it as you go down a staircase.

Then we entered what I suppose is a viewing gallery which looks out onto the big courtyard, where preparations were on for Dasara. The ceiling is in sections here. Each section is lavishly painted with depictions of various gods and scenery, set against what appears to be the sky, all of which is surrounded by a huge painted frame.

And here's where I noticed something surprising. Nearly all the frames had what were unmistakably angels outside and in several depictions, Hindu gods were shown as having angel-like wings! On second thought, it made perfect sense because this palace was designed by an English architect. Leaving the palace then I was struck by what a beautiful testimony to intercultural art and architecture this palace is.

By then it was already around 5 p.m. and we desperately needed a caffeine fix. We also had one quick stop to make before moving on: I mean, what is the point of going to Mysore if you don't buy Mysore pak???

So off we went in search of coffee and sweets, looking for Cafe Coffee Day for the former, and a shop called Bombay Tiffany's for the latter. Fortunately, both turned out to be on Devaraj Urs Road which must be the fashion street of Mysore - all the big brand outlets were there! After tasting various mithai, hubs & me settled on some almond barfi for him, my all-time favourite - peda - and of course, some totally sinful, melt-in-your-mouth-coz-its-loaded-with-ghee Mysore pak! Yayyyy!!!

Our original plan had been to visit Brindavan next, and so we were off again. Only we didn't realise how far the gardens were (19 kms fyi) from Mysore, and so by the time we reached it was already dark. We could've caught the musical fountain show but the crowd there was overwhelming, being a Sunday and nearing festival time. Plus there were too many unsavoury looking types there which made us all a bit uncomfortable given that they turn off all the lights for the fountain show.

The decision to leave was quick, and since it had been a pretty long day, we decided to head home. SIL and me were a bit sad as we had hoped to drive through Mysore and see the palace and the rest of the town all lit up. We also couldn't make it back to St. Philomena's Church. But as BIL pragmatically pointed out: leave something for the next trip!

Exploring Karnataka: Feathers & Scales

Last Sunday, we set off on a day-long trip to see some of the sights near Bangalore. There were four of us: hubby & me, his bro & his wife (BIL and SIL for the rest of the post). On the agenda were the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Mysore Palace and Brindavan Gardens.

We'd decided to start at 7:30 a.m., so naturally, we only left at 8:15 :) We took the Kanakpura road out onto the Bangalore-Mysore highway, and planned to stop for breakfast at the much-hyped Kamath's. The place was packed as usual, though I don't know why, because the food doesn't live up to its reputation. It was all quite lacklustre and I found myself comparing it to the absolutely scrumptious fare I'd enjoyed at my local Adiyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B as its popularly known, and how I love that name!!!) Maybe its just that I prefer the Tamilian take on the dishes over the Kannadiga style ..... I am told that they are quite different and I will take hubby's word for it.

Anyway, after that filling but not satisfying breakfast, we proceeded on to Ranganathittu. I fell into a light doze and only snapped out of it when SIL made an offhand comment about how many crocodiles we would see.

"What???" I croaked. Crocodiles??? In a bird sanctuary?????

Childhood memories of Khoon Bhari Maang flooded my brain and I started having a silent, but potent, panic attack. What if something terrible happened? What if I lost a limb? What if I didn't make it back at all? I tried to pray, but images of Rekha being attacked by the croc still dominated.

Next to me, hubby calmly flipped through a guidebook and handed the part on the bird sanctuary to me. That's when I realised that Ranganathittu is a set of small islets on the Cauvery river and you have to go around in a boat (silent groans.......because I am not a boating fan) to see the birds. Whoever wrote the review apparently also flipped out after realising there were crocs, only to be reassured that the beasts are amply fed on fish from the Cauvery and so are uninterested in humans.

The worst of the panic subsided after I read this, though I still had serious qualms about what was coming up. But I didn't have any choice except to go ahead, and so ...... I did. One of the first things that reassured me on entering the sanctuary was the number of people there, all happily enjoying the place. I thought, hmmm ...... nothing seems to have happened to them, nothing will happen to me too.

From then on, I was my usual camera-crazed self ........ for a bit. We went up to this viewing platform with insanely steep steps. Climbing up was no problem, but looking at the steps from the top set off the panic again (yeah, I have issues with heights and with going down steps too :)) Basically, I have issues with a lot of things, but then I recalled this realisation I had a long time ago, even posted over here.

So I took a deep breath, told myself to focus and stop being a wimp and went down the damn steps. That same focus and hubby's firm hand got me on to the pokey little boat and then off we went. We were oohing and aahing over the many, many birds when hubs excitedly pointed out the first croc. And there it was, swimming just about ten feet away from us, not even looking at us. Seconds later, on the shore of the islet we were passing, a massive croc got up and turned its back on us. No baring of teeth, or snapping of scary jaws ....... just outright disinterest.

Well, that wasn't so bad, I thought. In fact, it had actually been pretty cool! Then on, I truly did enjoy myself. The birds were amazing, with the sweetest sight being the mommy birds feeding the little babies. Our boatman was quite the informative guide, who told us that these birds were the White Ibis, who'd come over from Nigeria, and that there were 50 crocodiles in the sanctuary (we barely saw five of them by the end, and I was actually disappointed :D).

We also saw cormorants, night herons, lapwings, wagtails ..... (or was it laptails & wagwings??? No, I'm sure I got it right the first time :)) On some of the taller trees, there were loads of what appeared like black leaves hanging from the higher branches. I looked at them curiously till hubby grinned and said they were bats! Thank heaven we were there in the middle of the day and nowhere around when those awful things woke up!!!

One of the best sights were the birds gracefully flying from islet to islet, swooping low over the water as they did so. SIL and me were frantically twisting left and right, trying to get those perfect shots of a bird with widespread wings that you see in magazines. Needless to say, we were unsuccessful. Wildlife photography requires the utmost patience and I stand in complete awe and respect of those people who patiently wait it out in the wild, to capture the animals in all their ...... animalness!

Our trip around the sanctuary was a scant half hour and it felt like we'd barely begun when we reached back. We walked along the banks of the river, trying to see if we could spot birds on the mainland, but didn't see any except the omnipresent crow! After some refreshing drinks from the small cafeteria, we then headed on towards Mysore ........ to be continued!

p.s.: In case you're wondering why there are no photos accompanying this post, well, that's because I'm seriously considering starting a photoblog (don't know why I never thought of it before). Hope to have it up by the end of this week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tag # 3: Q & A Time

The tag game continues, many thanks to Renu :) An interesting bunch of questions to be answered, some to which the replies were instantaneous, others that required some thought.

RULE #1 - People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.

RULE #2 - Tag 6 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by. Continue this game by sending it to other people.


1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?

I would be shattered, then murderously angry & would eventually cool down to indifference and therefore being single.

2. If you can have a dream come true, what would it be?

That all my family live close enough for us to meaningfully be a part of each other's lives.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?

People who don't do anything positive, but will spend a lot of time and effort to screw things up for others.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?

Invest the bulk of it for a steady stream of income that would let hubby & me: keep donating money to worthy charities; send my parents & parents-in-law to their dream destinations; buy homes in London, Florence, Bombay & Kerala; travel and see as much of God's gorgeous earth as possible .

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?

My best friends are hubby & my family and I obviously love them; have other close friends too who I love, but no, wouldn't be in love with them.

6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?

I used to take it for granted that if there is a relationship between two people, any relationship - parent-child, or siblings, friends, spouses etc - love just automatically exists. But I have sadly learned this is not necessary: you may love, but it doesn't mean that you will get that love back, so definitely receiving love is the greater blessing, in fact, the greatest blessing.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?

Going beyond the man-woman love context to love in any relationship, I would wait as long as it takes.

8. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?

Wish them well and move on.

9. If you could root for one social cause, what would it be?

Taking basic education to the level of understanding and respecting differences in religions and cultures, coz just having a degree doesn't necessarily make you tolerant.

10. What takes you down the fastest?

Intolerance and discrimination.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I honestly don't know where I'll be; but in terms of what .... hopefully a mum of two and aunt to more nieces & nephews :), and a better artist, cook, writer & photographer than I am today.

12. What’s your fear?

Falling down steps .... seriously, I'm phobic about going down steps :)

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

An idealistic soul with a practical mind; devoted wife & mum yet an individual in her own right.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?

Married to hubby ..... I can handle anything with him by my side.

15. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?

I don't think you can love two people simultaneously. Love for me means a lifelong responsibility & commitment to one person; if someone else is also in the picture, it can't be love.....probably just a serious infatuation :)

16. Would you give all in a relationship?

Otherwise what is the point?

17. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?

The basic prayer of Christianity is the 'Our Father' which clearly states that God forgives you in the same way you forgive others; if I don't forgive, I can't expect God's forgiveness either. I recite this prayer daily, and in my book, to keep saying it and then not even try to do it makes the prayer pointless. So even though I don't forget, I do try to forgive and continue to be good to those who have hurt me.

18. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?

Hubby has enhanced my life, so definitely with him :D

19. List of people to tag (alphabetically):

Diligent Candy

Prashant Sree



Thought Warp

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Axe Effect

Not that this blog is turning into some sort of house-pest-story center, but Mystique Wanderer (ahem!) kindly directed me to what he'd written on lizards, and that reminded me about our most recent lizard incident ..... cannot believe I forgot about this one!

I headed to the bathroom one night & pushed the door open only to see a lizard dash across the front of the door around to the back. Naturally, I screamed and dashed off to hubby, utterly traumatized at the thought of a lizard in my bathroom. Seeing my state, hubby very gallantly told me he would take care of it, and I went off to use the guest bathroom.

I could hear him moving around and the sounds of paper and plastic rustling, and when I came out, he stood there with a plastic bag securely knotted up in his hand, a big grin on his face. I asked him if the lizard was inside it. Yes, he replied proudly.

Amazed, I stared at him, wondering how on earth he'd managed to catch a lizard and that too in a matter of minutes. Just as I was about to ask him, my olfactory sense registered the presence of a very powerful fragrance.

"Did you spray your deo?????"

Still grinning, he described what he'd done: he managed to scare the lizard into coming out of the bathroom and onto the adjacent wall. He didn't want to kill it, but at the same time we needed it out of the house. So he placed a newspaper on the floor under the lizard and grabbed whatever aerosol was closest ..... in this case, Axe!!!

One good direct spurt and the lizard fell onto the paper. It was very much alive .... just moving around like a drunk. He scooped up the paper, lizard and all, into the plastic bag, tied it up and waited for me to make my entrance.

I just stared at him, stunned. The laughter only came after he went out, opened the bag and left it at the corner we leave our garbage in.

So there you have it, ladies & gentlemen, our version of The Axe Effect :D

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rat Tales

I was over at Reflections' blog, reading her post on a rat ..... invasion ??? no, too harsh a term for a single rat. Anyway, it brought to mind my own rat story, which I started to type as a comment over there......then realised well, this is too long for a comment, so I may as well turn it into a post.

A few years ago, someone accidentally left the drain cover underneath the kitchen sink open once. I was curled up in the living room which faces the kitchen and was leisurely reading away when I sensed some movement in front of me......a big fat rat scurries from under the sink across the kitchen and goes under the fridge. And I just froze!!! I must've sat there like 5 minutes just staring at that spot when my sister entered & looked at me in her usual way..... like I'm a bit slow in the head.

I told her what I saw & in the next instant, she's beside me on the sofa, legs up and we're both staring at the kitchen floor. After a few minutes we see the miserable thing run back to under the sink and we both cover our faces with cushions & smother our squeals .... coz mom was taking her afternoon siesta & if she didn't catch her one-hour nap, she was prone to headaches the following day.

So there we were .... two teenage girls (ok ok, in all honesty, I was about 20), quivering with fear on the sofa, cushions held in a deathgrip, till mommy woke up & came to our rescue. When we told her what'd happened, she looked at us like the ninnies we were and then stalked off to examine the drain under the sink. After poking around there a bit (and yes, we were still on the sofa while our mother was in the danger zone) and not finding anything, she declared that the rat must've returned back down the drain. She put the cover back firmly in place, and went about her work. Only then did sis and me gingerly keep our feet back on the floor and return to normal (or abnormal, as some would term it!)

Anyway, I guess its always easy to fall apart when you know there's someone who'll watch out for you. Thank you Mom!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Onam in Pictures

Being Christians, the festival of Onam is not one of religious significance for us, but definitely of cultural importance from the Keralite perspective. This year was the first time I've celebrated the festival in the land of its origin, and since the whole family on hubby's side was together, we went all-out to make it memorable.

Our humble first-time effort at making the traditional pookalam (flower carpet) in front of the house, a totally family affair with hubby & me drawing the main outlines and everyone else involved in plucking petals and carefully filling in the design. The second pic has a fork in the corner ..... our "sophisticated" pookalam shaping tool :D

Our Onam sadya (meal) served traditionally in the banana leaf.

A row of elephants at a nearby temple; there was to be a major procession later in the evening, but the rain decided otherwise. Fortunately, it let up enough for a fireworks display later that night. Unfortunately, my night-time photography skills aren't worth mentioning, forget about blogging :), so that's pretty much it for this post.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Renu gave me this award, meant for sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant in their content or design. Many thanks to you, Renu, more so for the reason you said you have given me this. I am truly touched :)

And since appreciation always feels great, whoever came up with this award idea (good on you!) decided to spread the cheer. The rules are:

1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back.

2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.

3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog'.

4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).

5. And pass it on!

Right, now most of the blogs I read have already been awarded, and deservedly so. And since I don't get out that much into the blogosphere, I doubt I know seven other blogs. But the ones I do know and like, here you go:

1. Jay: for his take on music, movies etc. I may not always agree with what he writes (:P), but I do enjoy his writing.

2. Thought Warp: a like-minded soul with some great poetry in there.

3. Moi: for her amazing photo-blog.

4. Global Themes: a collaborative photo-blog I just had to be a part of the moment I came across it. I think one of my buddies there has already passed this award on, but doesn't matter, I think it deserves another!

5. Bombay Addict: simply for being a Bombay addict; he writes on a lot of stuff, but his Bombay-based posts are what I really like.

Keep it brilliant people!!!

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Life of Joy

A few days ago, I watched "The Bucket List". Two total strangers - an arrogant billionaire (played by Jack Nicholson) and an ordinary mechanic (played by Morgan Freeman) - with nothing in common except that they've both been diagnosed with cancer, wind up sharing a hospital room. Witness to each other's sufferings during the course of their treatment, they eventually become friends.

Confronted by the fact that he's got just months left, Freeman's character Carter starts jotting down a 'bucket list' - a list of all the things he would like to do before he "kicks the bucket". Nicholson's character Edward also puts in his suggestions, and since he's got nothing but money, says they should just go out and do it, instead of waiting for the cancer to claim them.

And that's what the movie's all about - them doing the things and seeing the places they've always wanted to, in the process bringing about a much-needed transformation in each other, so that they return better men to spend whatever time they have left with their families.

It may not be a great film for many people (hubby dear, your guru Roger Ebert gave it only a 1-star rating), but I quite liked it and sentimental fool that I am, even shed a few tears at the ending.

But there was this one idea / thought / philosophy in the film that I felt was very important, and which is what prompted this post. There's a scene where both characters are in Egypt, sitting atop a pyramid or something. Carter, who is a history buff, is telling Edward about the Egyptian concept of heaven. He says that when people died, they were asked two questions at the gates of heaven, and their answers determined whether or not they got in.

Question 1: Did you find joy in your life?

Pretty easy, right? I suppose most of us would have a resounding YES right away.

Question 2: Did your life bring joy to others?

Not so easy, isn't it? Can you answer 'yes' as quickly or firmly as you would have for the first? I couldn't. Not right away. I thought of my family and friends, and I'm ..... reasonably sure that overall, I'm a joy for them (though inside, there is this niggling guilt for all the times I know I haven't been).

My motto in life, the one defining statement I try to live by is Christ's "Love one another as you love yourself", which is why these questions truly struck a chord. It doesn't say that you shouldn't be happy, no. You absolutely should. But just as you would be happy and find joy in your life ..... you need to care that others do too.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Horsey Truth about Railroads

Received this in an email today. It's long, but worth reading!


The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did 'they' use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet,8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what Horse's Ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because that's what the Imperial Roman army figured. Chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now, the twist to the story.

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launchpad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

- And - You thought being a HORSE'S ASS wasn't important!


I laughed so hard when I read this!!! But then I wondered, how many things do we do today simply because that's the way they've "always" been done? How many things we just blindly follow without even once asking why?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lost in Subtitles!

So last night, my sister and I sat down for a long-awaited (at least by me!) bonding session, or what she calls, "sistah-sistah bonding" :) Now, don't expect any heart-to-hearts or baring of souls; we bond over movies! We've got certain "classics" - movies that we've watched (and watched and watched and watched....) during lazy summer afternoons, usually with a game of Scrabble on the side.

One of these classics is the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. We've got DVDs of all three, bought before they were released as a set. Unfortunately, the third movie DVD doesn't work, so we had the difficult (sigh!) task of choosing between the first two. We finally settled on the second one - The Two Towers - for its superbly filmed battle scenes.

Halfway through, my sister decides to switch on the subtitles ...... there are certain dialogues neither of us have caught, despite having watched it sooo many times. She activated the subtitle feature and then......a split second of stunned disbelief, before we burst into laughter!!! See, the DVD is um, not-so-original, and was made somewhere in the Far East, and whoever provided the subtitles was obviously not well-versed in English, so this action-packed epic instantly turned into a hilarious comedy!!!

Check out the names of the characters:

The tiny Hobbit hero Frodo Baggins became "Flordor Barkings"
The human hero Aragorn became "Alarwang"
The elf Legolas was "Keglax" or something like that.
The creature Smeagol becomes "Smartfy" (really can't see the leap of thought to this name).
Dark Lord Sauron's monstrous army of Uruk-hai were oddly referred to as "Bitch-Men"!
And finally, the best of all, the wizard Gandalf the Grey - "Grey Magic Person Gandofu"!!!

The dialogue was no less. Sadly, I can't recall most of it, except for this gem, where Aragorn is explaining to his immortal Elvish ladylove Arwen (thankfully her name was only missing the 'r'), why they can't be together:

The actual line is "I am mortal, you are elf-clan".

Subtitle: "I am ordinary, you are evil"!!!

And that was another riot: all references to elves somehow ended up as "evil"! Even the F-word found its way into one dialogue!!! Now I haven't read the books, but I'm guessing there's no way its mentioned in the mythical masterpiece!

So here's a suggestion: if you have DVDs from suspect sources, try watching it with the subtitles on. You might find the dramas and thrillers turning into comedies and the comedies getting even more comical :D

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Quirks :)

Tagged again, this time by Renu. The Rules are:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs, letting them know that they have been tagged.

Right, so brace yourself for the quirks:

1. I am drawn to the colour red. Its my absolute favourite colour family and I can never have enough of it, so much so that during my college days, there were times when I would step out with a red t-shirt, red handbag, red shoes, red hair clip, red jewellery and even a red cell phone, prompting my beloved sister to inquire if a tomato had vomited on me! The dressing has toned down a tad these days :), but I still have plenty of reds all around me ..... just look at the name of this blog, for instance! Its not the white moon or the yellow moon, but the red moon that especially fascinates me, which kind of takes us to Quirk 2.....

2. ...... that its not just the moon, but the whole sky that I love (does that sound a bit crazy???) I am an avid, ardent, absolutely passionate skygazer (not that I know the first thing about astronomy or even care to know for that matter). Dawn sky, morning sky, noon sky, evening sky, night sky......I love it all! I skygaze quite frequently during the day, to the point that I sometimes forget what I was doing or saying before the sky caught my eye, which leads to Quirk 3....

3..... I am addicted to my camera....have been for over a year now. I could see the sky looking a particularly gorgeous shade of blue, or see an amazing cloud formation, or see trees and their flowers looking especially lovely against the sky, or see......just about anything beautiful, and I'm off running for my camera. I briefly studied photography in college, but just vaguely recall terms like 'f-stops', 'aperture', 'shutter-speed' etc. As with the astronomy thing, I'm not sure I even want to learn about photography...... I'm happier muddling about on my own and manically keep clicking away, much to the frustration of my family (though recently hubby has also started clicking stuff that appeals to seems that I've infected him with the photo bug too......(evil laugh!!!)).

4. I am a doodler. Put a pen and paper in my hand and almost right off, I'll start doodling away. I love applying mehendi and am constantly trying out different designs, so its quite a common sight in my house to see newspapers, post-its, (my notebooks from college) and other miscellaneous papers covered with the typical mehendi motifs as well as whatever weird patterns emerge from my mind.

5. I detest spending time in beauty parlours. I could never understand how some women spend soooo much time in these places for the most frivolous of reasons. All my life, the only reason I entered a parlour was to get my hair cut. Thanks to my mother, I am quite particular about taking care of my skin and hair, but it is all based on natural, DIY kind of stuff. It was only after my wedding date was fixed that I got my first official facial and massage, and it was only for my engagement that I first got my eyebrows plucked. A massage once in a while actually would be quite nice, but I absolutely hate the fact that I now have to go to a parlour twice a month to keep my eyebrows neat. All that time and effort spent in going and coming, when I could be doing something else, anything else.

6. Right from when I was a child, I have loved making chapatis - the flat Indian bread. I remember hounding my mother, my grandmother or whoever else was rolling the dough out to pleeeeeaaaase let me help. They all thought the fascination would die out as I grew older, but till date, it hasn't. I enjoy the whole process, right from kneading the dough, to rolling it out and the final cooking. I actually find it very relaxing, and even when exams were around the corner, I would still ask my mom to keep a few aside for me to roll out. But the best part is when I make phulkas (a variation where you put the chapati directly onto the flame and it fluffs out into a sphere). For me, the moment where it expands into that sphere is extremely fulfilling, almost like attaining nirvana!

So there you have it, 6 quirks from the quirk. To continue the quirkiness, I tag some of the GT gang: Sha'ira, DR, DC, Lirun, Moi and NZM.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hell's Chicken

Well, I'm back for a month-long sojourn in the sandlands, and quite determined to capture slices of life this time round (as best as I can manage without being clobbered by my camera-weary family). Stepped out to pick up some good ol' Lebanese food last night......

...... and here it is, one of the sights that warms my non-vegetarian heart :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Book Tagged

At long last my Internet troubles have been resolved, and what do I find when I rejoin the blogging world???

My very first TAG, courtesy of Reflections. So, without much further ado, here are the Rules:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2) Italicize those you intend to read.

3) Underline the books you really love (and strikethrough the ones you hate!).

4) Reprint this list in your own blog.


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Naboko

v63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (children's version.....does that count???)

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnights Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - quite a few of them, though I have to say I prefer Hercule Poirot.

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

My Score - a paltry 10/100. I am a voracious reader, but usually of the romance novel and action-packed thrillers a la Clive Cussler with the occassional spiritual lift from Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma and the like. My forays into "classic" literature have been few and far between, the last one being a four-day immersion into One Hundred Years of Solitude about a month ago. Brilliantly written, but quite disturbing......I have only just shaken off the after-effects. Catcher in the Rye is next on my list, but I'm in no hurry to pick it up.

In the meanwhile, I tag:



Thought Warp