Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brevity or the lack of it

I have always believed that as a wannabe writer/author, my biggest weakness is my inability to be coherent - dexterous, , lucid, whatever. Damn I can't even do that when talking about it, if you know what I mean. I especially hem and haw when facing larger crowds in a formal setting. So naturally, when asked to attend a session by one of my favorite authors, I jumped at the opportunity. Mainly, to hear her speak and learn a thing  or two about brevity.

Do you know what it feels like when after craving for a chocolate, you bite into a Lindt dark chocolate with 85% cocoa? Well, if you don't, find out. For that is how I felt when I heard Jhumpa Lahiri read out passages from her new unfinished book and later answer audience questions. Disappointed. Just how I felt after I first met the editor of my favorite youth magazine, back in the days. Subsequently, I worked with this woman for 2 months on her new book, but the charm did not disissipate slowly. It went away poof! in one quick motion, in the first few minutes that she first interviewed me for the job.

I digress. Back to Lahiri's reading. Not only could she not articulate her thoughts well and she umm'd and err'd a lot, her tone was very deadbeat. She could use her striking appearance to her advantage to create a stronger positive impression, but obviously doesn't seem to have bothered.

Maybe my expectations were set too naturally high. Or it could simply be that the audience wasn't stimulating enough. High chance it was the latter. Here's some example of the kind of questions the audience asked her:

Sample Audience Question I: "You had a thick accent when you began reading. Why did it disappear mid-way? Were you trying to create an American atmosphere"
Lahiri's Response: "I'm born and raised in America. Whatever accent I have is part of my natural communication"

Sample Audience Question/Comment II: "8 years ago I ran into a woman in Kolkotta. Her last name was Lahiri. Today I realized she was your cousin Subbalaxmi Lahiri" (or something like that. I was laughing too hard to understand what exactly the woman said)
Lahiri's response: "Small world"

Its not that I suddenly dislike her for not being a great orator. She is a writer and great at that. Its only that she makes me feel like anyone can be like her. I can be like her. And I dislike thinking this way. I want my idols to be that way. Idols. Awe-inspiring. Jaw-dropping. Too much to ask for I guess.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to ignore the fact that I heard her speak in such a boring way and gloat a little more at the fact that I managed to get her to sign my copy of her book.

Fall No More

Window-sill, Home, Manhattan

The first snowfall in NYC.
My first snowfall.
My first snow experience.
The first of many to come. 

Now excuse me as I continue to go a little silly,

"When I no longer thrill to the first snow of the season, I'll know I'm growing old"
~Lady Bird Johnson

Monday, September 26, 2011

New-York Pizza, really?

Luzzo's Pizza, Easy Village, Manhattan

For all my ranting about the unhealthy food habits of the people in this country, I have to admit that if there’s one thing that will make me never want to leave New York, it’s the New York pizza! Look at the picture above, look me in the eyes and tell me you would disagree. Guilty! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Deep-Fried WHAT?!!

Led Zappole, Manhattan
Interesting name of the place itself, will plan a visit here when I drop say, 20 kilos. (think: never)

What do you do when you are given an oreo cookie? You eat it.

What do you do when you are given a snickers bar? You feel a little guilty, and then eat it.

What do you do when you are given a slice of pizza? You ponder, feel guilty, and then eat it.

What does an American do when they are given any of the above? Deep-fry them!

This is it. I have concluded that Americans will eat anything. Anything that is fried and deep-fried and covered in oil-and-grease or sugar! Let me re-phrase. Not only will they eat anything that is fried, they will find a new thing each day that can possibly be fried and then deep-fry it till it doesn’t even resemble the original product.

Whoever thinks of frying Oreo cookies? Snickers? Pizza, for heaven’s sake?! 400 calories a slice ain’t good enough for you? Let’s dunk it in oil and make it a round 1000!

I think my arteries clogged up just by looking at the sign-board above. Now excuse me while I write to the Association of Diabetes Specialists or whatever organization it was that named India is the Diabetes Capital of the World. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Look, Willy Wonka is for real!

Max Brenner - Chocolate by the Bald Man, Manhattan
Coffee makes it possible to get out of bed, but chocolate makes it worthwhile ~ Anon

Do you know what Charlie felt like in Willy Wonka's factory? No? Well, i'll tell you what Charlie felt like Willy Wonka's factory! Do you know what it feels like to suddenly wake up one day and be told that an alternate world exists? That the world you lived in was just a cheap substitute where mortals are banished from finding out about all that is good and beautiful and utopia-like. No? Well, then you shouldn't be spending any more time reading this than you have and instead start plotting your way to visit Max Brenner as soon as possible, for it is the closest you'll get to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory as possible!

Oh of course, you're still reading! So i'll just sum up my visit to Max Brenner in a few individual words instead of stringing together sentences. And it's not because I'm too bored to write (really!), it's only because I don't think I can talk about an experience like Brenner in just a few lines, and partly also because I think these words will do the job that any other style of writing would.

Think of: chocolate, coffee, rains, warmth, winter, cozy, gooey, fondue, sweet, candy, melting, waffles, marshmallow, romance, music, cheese, caramel, cookies, sugar, crepes, hazelnut, vanilla, mocha. What, are you drooling already? There's a lot more. So now go visit.

PS. Did I mention that they have the most adorable mugs? Hug mug for some warmth, kangaroo cup for the un-deciders like me (coffee? chocolate? coffee? No both!)!  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Be Safe - City of Djinns

A regiment rehearses outside Rashtrapati Bhavan for the upcoming Republic Day celebrations in Delhi
Picture taken in January 2008
Untill I enrolled for post-graduation in 2007, I had never been to Delhi. Yes, that's right. Never. I was almost always embarassed when in any conversation the name 'Delhi' popped up and I had to sheepishly admit, 'I do look forward to going there.' Of course, I've yet never been to Kerala or Assam or West Bengal (err..yes) either but having reached over the age of 20 without having visited the capital of my country somehow didn't feel right. At all.

So I guess as with most things, one always gets an opportunity to balance things out and when I did, I grabbed it with 3 hands. Or whatever. I made my first visit to Delhi in late 2007. And then again in early 2008. And again in mid-2008. And again...okay so you get the point. Over the last 4 years, I've been to Delhi innumerable times and I guess partly because so many of my closest friends from college belong from there. And I have to admit, each time I visit, I fall in love with the city again.

People from India will tell you of this strong Mumbai-Delhi divide where each one thinks they're superior to the other. But I can tell you this - I have lived most of my life in Bombay and completely love the city but Delhi has an unparalleled charm that's unique and should not be competed against. Okay, it has its share of perverts who think that they own a license to drink, to rape, to cause road rage, Delhi is blingy and flashy and superficial at a lot of levels; but if you're telling me Mumbai or New York or any other big city for that matter is perfect, you're obviously not in a position to have your opinion counted.

I love delhi winters, I love its street food, I love the historical vibe that the city sends out, its beautiful heritage structures, even its crassness! Oh yes, I love Delhi. And that's how I identify with the city. Not with blasts and earthquakes. I refrain from writing anything about it because obviously, 2 days after the incident, i'm not expecting people to be here to read the latest news update. I'm only paying my respects, my way of tribute to the city that has always been a great host to me, a city that I look forward to visiting again as soon as Im back in India, the City of Djinns. Take care Delhi!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Irene that Never was

Combined with the Irene scare, the unprecedented shutdown of all mass transit systems by the MTA brought the city to a grinding halt.Most shops remained closed over the weekend.
The ones open, made revenues of 10 times than on an average day.

Irene will be remembered more for what it didn't do than what it did. Here are some reactions of different people to the Hurricane-that-never-was.

Surfer: Suicide mission! Hah! Watch me conquer those waves!

Ocean waves: Aaja bacchu! (Slurrp, feast tonight)!

Restaurant/CafĂ© Owner: I should have put up a billboard. An A4 notice isn’t enough for these idiots to stop knocking & gesturing at our doors to ask if we’re open.

Retailers: Bring out the expired stock! Its clearance without a sale.

Enthu boys at supermarket: Quick, grab all those dorritos before the woman with the moustache does. Quick, get that last quart of milk. Quick, pick up all the hummus you can lay hands on. Quick, don’t let that kid near the chocolates. Quick quick quick, stop the cart from falling over!

Confused old lady at supermarket: Is there a rave party going on somewhere?

Fruit seller outside our house: When was the last time I sold a watermelon at $15? Bless you Irene.

Conspiracy theorists: It’s a retail conspiracy! It’s a media conspiracy! It’s a government conspiracy!

Indian couple next door: If the power goes off, the electric burner won’t work. Do we have enough food? Aloo Matar – check. Jeera pulao – check. Bhindi masala – check. Gobi paratha – check. Daal fry– check. Kanda Poha – check. Chole, rajma, samosa,idli – check check check check.

Husband: Emergency evacuation bag – medicines, energy bars, water, windcheaters, important documents, change of clothes, batteries, flashlight, communication numbers and addresses.

Me: Emergency evacuation bag – + Vaseline, lip balm, hand sanitizer, external hard disk (im not losing my pictures ok), socks, 2 pairs of shoes, an inflatable pillow, The Last Continent, Ipod, Nail trimmer, facial wipes, chewing gum, chocolate.

Hurricane Irene: Boo! Fooled ya, fooled ya!

Virginia Earthquake: Sorry lady, I stole your thunder!

Obama: Well, I only said that Irene would be historical, not why! 

PS. This post is in pure humor and in no way intended to hurt/mock anybody's sentiments, least of all someone affected by Irene directly or indirectly. My prayers are for the ones impacted in any way. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear Irene,

Home, Manhattan, New York
Duct tapes on windows - Mandatory provision by our building administration in anticipation of Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene

Dear Angry Lady Irene,
I cannot be unhappier at your arrival and my reasons go beyond emotions for the havoc that you are intending to cause. You are way too brash, the way you keep changing your course, I can tell you’re also impulsive and what can be said about your timing, it’s totally off! Although I hope you never show your face again, if you have to, please take cognizance of my complaints.

We kind of just got over the unannounced visit by an Earthquake last week. We’re really not looking for anything serious just now. Don’t plan your visit right after an earth-shattering event! (pun intended). On that note, the next time, can you please plan your arrival during the work week rather than the weekend?
Most importantly, there is no reason for you to interfere with our internet and mobile connections. We’re not trying to steal your thunder, you don’t steal ours.

Lastly, we honeslty don't care! Duct tapes up, the kitchen is stocked. It’s a two-day party!

New York

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Majestic Problems? No Problem!

The Cure to all Cures

This post actually breaks two of my own blog rules:
1) No post without a photograph
2) No photograph that is not taken by me

But when a picture tells a thousand tales...well, it tells a thousand tales. And this one was too good to pass up.

If you've been in India, or to India (if you know what i mean), you'll know that these kind of posters are pretty common all over. Yet it is no match for the actual number of 'sadhus' and 'tantrik's that exist- a breed that I am afraid will never fall under the endangered category.

What is striking about this particular 'Miyan's marketing is the unabashed use of a language that he obviously doesn't have a clue about. Most of us know about the  idiosyncrasies of the patois that is “Indian English”. But this particular piece of communication doesn't even fall into that. It's a language unto its own.

I don’t want to steal away from the real star of this post and so I let you go back and read the text on that poster one more time. And yes, Miyan Samrat, while you fail English, you definitely top the class in marketing! You got a bunch that will be talking about your services each time they want a good laugh.

Disclaimer: I solemly declare that the views declared on this blog have nothing to do with Anna Hazare or Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh or Kapil Sibal and the opinions and views contained herein are not intended to be, and do not constitute humor to disintegrate the moral fabric of any nation, organization or any individual. Although I live in America, I am not acting as a foreign agent deployed by the Obama administration to deplore the East or its citizens.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twitterati for Anna

What's your side huh?
District Tumsar, Nagpur, India

In my last post I spoke of how everyone who is anyone has an opinion to express - be it about Anna Hazare, Tihar Jail, Jan Lokpal or Sonai & Co. The twitter citizenry, or tweeps, if you like is not only never behind, it is usually a few paces ahead in breaking news these days. Its also the most interesting. I came across a few tweets that I felt necessary to share in a post.

Some are witty, others hilarious, some regular and yet others that are downright dumb. Some display angst, some frustration, some motivation and others just poke fun. But all of them drive home a point. What that is – I leave for you to decipher and interpret yourself. Here's a compilation of some of the best tweets (by my personal measure) on the issue over the last 2 days.

15 Aug 1947:Whn the world slept, India rose to freedom; 15 Aug 2011:Now that India has risen, the trying to put it back to sleep

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. - Mahatma Gandhi

#annahazare the new age gandhi with more hair and less teeth!

#AnnaHazare is a mad man. Oh, he sure is. But India really needs some of his madness right now. #IndiaAgainstCorruption #iSupportAnnaHazare

Anna Hazare arrested. Our faith in demoNcracy is restored.

It took 9 months for the govt to arrest Kalmadi, 4 yrs to arrest Raja n Kanimozi but 3 mins to arrest Anna #FakeDemocracy

Arresting Anna Hazare for a Hunger Strike is like arresting AR Rahman just because you don't like his Songs

Government sending message that vandalizing is d only way of protest not fast because they never arrested Thakeray but arrested Anna!!

Got arrested, singing in the police van, never felt so alive!#annahazare aage bado, hum tumhare saath hai!

Soniaji & Co: Don't know how to say this in Italian, so here goes: Vinaash Kale, Viprit Budhhi.

They are sending Anna Hazare to Tihar jail?! Is no one in the UPA thinking at all of what they are doing?

This is the theater of the absurd. Corrupt and anti-corrupt in cells side by side in Tihar & the most inept, out of control govt I've known

This has gone beyond being the theatre of the absurd. This has become sheer ridiculousness. This is what will now cause anarchy.

Corruption hurt UPA. Arrogance will kill it.

Its not about #Anna anymore. Its about whether we want to be lorded over by a power hungry dynasty who doesnt feel answerable to the people

#isupportannahazare when Gandhiji wanted congress to be dismantled after freedom, he must have been right!! We can see the british congress.

And the winning tweets:

If you’re with Anna Hazare in his fight against corruption, then also consider being vegetarian like him. #isupportannahazare

#AnnaHazare , You've spammed us .Good movement , WRONG COUNTRY

It's almost like #AnnaHazare has just asked this Govt. "Who's your Daddy now..?" #janlokpal

Dear Rahul Baba .. Ever heard of kalidas chopping th branch on which he sat..

Have you come across any others? Feel free to share them on a comment...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

News on twitter? What's wrong with that?

The only form of communication I know
Naddi, Himachal Pradesh, India

There’s news coming in fast and quick about Anna Hazare…Anna Hazare’s fast, Anna Hazare’s jail, Anna Hazare’s bail. Sitting in my Manhattan apartment, I feel deprived of the circus usually put up by Indian news channels following a political tamasha, or any tamasha for that matter.

It is on occasions like these, that I appreciate even more the role of Twitter and Facebook in providing real-time updates on the situation back home. I know, there is enough of a case against calling twitter a reliable source for news, but there are just as many who will make a case for it. I add my count to the latter. Atleast, its news with a sense of humour. On a rare occasion, wit too. Provided you’re following the right mix of people. I ensure that my timeline reflects the regular and the ‘reliable’ but also the im-too-cool-for-my-pants dude who picks up the breaking news, adds his own hilarity to it and jolts out his own version of the original serious intonation. What’s wrong with that? There’s enough serious news to go around the internet if you’d rather look that way.

As I look at my twitter stream today, I see a common mass of young India, shocked (some amused) at the events conducted by its own government, I see chants of a ‘second freedom movement’, I see support and encouragement for a man they don’t know – for a man that they might not necessarily agree with but agree to his right to democracy, the right to speak up and the right to protest. More importantly, I see less cynicism about the outcome of the protest and much less ignorance than would have existed without Twitter. :)

Armchair activism? Maybe but again, what’s wrong with that too?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Birthday India

The Indian tri-color represented by colorful balloons
Ahmedabad, Gujarat
What is to be said of a nation that in its 65th year of Independence witnesses a fresh wave of unrest? A  movement for independence from its own people? A nation in which one man leads the country in a manner reminiscent of the freedom struggle fought 65 years ago? When its youth, to whom 'social' had otherwise come to mean a social profile on a website, now drive out in hordes to support a man they know little about. A man who 65 years on, follows the same principles as his idol to free his nation from the clutches of those who abuse its sanctity? There are more questions in my mind than opinions, more excitement than doubt, more patriotism than cynicism.

It reminds me of the one great speech made on the occasion of India's Independence, that I know still gives most Indians goosebumps.

I quote,

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."

~ Jawaharlal Nehru

Happy Birthday India!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Panda eats shoots and leaves

Mei Xiang, Pregnant Giant Panda
Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington DC

Okay, now I'm done with the history tales of DC. The highlight of the trip was anything but a stone/marble/granite structure.

It was these furry, black and white, playful little Giant Panda pair at the National Zoo. Ever since reaching DC, I had wanted to see the pandas and when I was told that the female panda was pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t leave DC till I made a trip to the zoo.


Mei Xiang (female) and Tian Tian (male) are not only the star attractions of the Smithsonian Zoo (National Zoo) but are also being watched closely by people across the world. Because of their ‘endangered species’ status, Mei Xiang’s pregnancy has got people very excited about the birth of one more Giant panda and she is being observed through a live feed every minute of the day. A fully-equipped observatory has specially been put in place for them as well as a simulated temperature controlled environment to ensure no difficulty for the expecting mother. Though I wonder what difficulty would a Panda have, given that statistically, it spends 90% of its time only eating bamboo!

Yessir, 90%! And they put up a good example of that while we were there. Except that they had a little more luxury and while Tian Tian modestly stuck to bamboo, Mei Xiang (probably in one of her pregnancy cravings) munched on carrots and apples too.

Clockwise from top left: 1.Queue Area 2.Tian Tian eating bamboo 3.Mei Xiang eating bamboo
4.Mei Xiang breaking for water 5.The panda research station 6.Tian Tian getting irritated with the camera lights
When she did take a break from eating, she climbed up the rocks, went down to the stream of water, took a few gulps and then resumed her place back on top of the hill to continue eating bamboo!

Tian Tian meanwhile, in typical male characteristic, decided to put up a dramatic show for his audience (deny all you want, but men are definitely more dramatic). He first came up to the glass to look at the visitors, then plonked himself on the floor on his back and covered his eyes with his hand to indicate being blinded by the flashlights from the cameras. When his audience didn’t leave him alone, he rolled around a little and made cutesy faces. After every minute, he would peek over his arms to see if people were gone, and finally sulkily rolled sideways to show his back to the thoroughly amused spectators!

If you’re feeling bad about not being able to see them, here’s a little consolation –the live Panda webcam that has a direct live feed from Mei Xiang’s quarters at the zoo -

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Of history and memorials

Lincoln and World War II Memorials
Washington, DC
As I was looking for a picture from the DC album to post today, I realized that my blog is soon going to resemble a history text-book. Then again, what is a capital city that doesn’t showcase some culture?

DC is of bygone monuments and memorials, of historical architecture and memorials, of political institutions and museums. One of my very favorite, of all that we saw in DC is the picture above – the Lincoln memorial, in memory of the 16th President of the United States - who's statue (from my previous post) sits in the central chamber.

An intimidating structure of marble, granite and limestone, the building is modeled after the Greek Parthenon and is the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

In the front of the Lincoln memorial is yet another beautiful structure - the World War II memorial, dedicated to the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II. With its 56 pillars, representing each of the states and other territories, two 43-foot arches, fountains, a wall of stars and inscriptions, not only is it a beautifully planned edifice but also very soothing to look at.

Right in the front is an engraving for both memorials. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whatever you are, be a good one

Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial
Washington, DC

On politics in the US, its hard for me to resist posting this picture of the one American president who’s quotes I have followed and loved for a long time.

Abraham Lincoln, the man who opposed the expansion of slavery in America, and successfully led the country during the Civil War was mostly self-educated. But his intelligence, wit and humor, were second-to-none.

A lot of us now use his quotes as status updates on our social profiles, but not all of us know just how many were uttered by this one man.

This post is essentially a collection of some of my favourite Lincoln-isms. Give it up for Lincoln, our man!

o How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

o If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

o If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

o Whatever you are, be a good one

o No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

o A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.

o You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.

o In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

o You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

The statue of Lincoln in the picture above is cast in marble and sits in the central chamber of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pretty Darn Fucked

United States Capitol
Capitol Hill; Washinton, DC
America is a funny country. Here’s just one example why:

Two days after S&P downgraded the American economy’s rating from AAA to AA, President Barack Obama essentially dismissed the credit rating:

“Markets will rise and fall. But this is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a triple-A country"-
President Obama

If that statement doesn’t exude confidence, I don’t know what does. Or wait, is the word to be used here ‘denial’? For, even as global markets shriek alarms of economic calamity, Obama, our man stands at a lectern to give a speech that could easily be mistaken for a campaign speech. At best, a press briefing. But nothing to speak as warning of a nation on its fiscal tenterhooks, struggling to tame a staggering accumulation of debt.

And yet, on the other hand, is the former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Obama’s one time confidante, Christina Romer who didn’t mince any words when speaking of the situation on television said that the credit downgrade was a sign that the country was “pretty darn fucked”

While I’m far from any sort of expertise on financial matters (I barely manage to understand my own), I do know that the credit downgrade is not the end of it. It is, if anything, the proverbial ‘beginning’.
On that, I shall keep my rant continuing, but a photograph of the day that I found to be most appropriate – almost like the closest physical visual of the saga – Capitol Hill.

While Capitol Hill is actually a neighborhood in the District of Columbia (DC), where the Congress building resides, it has come to be a metonym for the United States Congress. The actual congress building, as seen above is called the United States Capitol. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Its all about the money, honey

US Treasury Building
Washington, DC
Is there something about Washington, DC and crises? After giving me a health crisis to grapple with last week, it's now plunged the American economy, and might I say the entire world into dealing with a debt crisis that can apparently snowball to cripple the world economy.  

I find it a little uncanny that I happened to be at DC, right outside the US treasury building only a week before the drama unfolded. Im known to have a pretty crazy imagination. So when the building was pointed out to me as the treasury, I envisioned huge halls stashed away with piles and piles of dollar upon dollar. Naive? Well maybe, but then that's what made Alice, Alice right? 

Now as I hear the jargon fly around me- #creditrating #downgrading #stocks #buylowsellhigh -on TV, in the news, on twitter, on facebook even, I can't help but wonder if some colossal meeting was taking place inside the structure at the same time as I was staring at its walls, taking pictures; if the decisions being now thrown at bewildered Americans, were being analyzed right then, if somebody at that minute said to Obama, "hey boy, easy, don't bite off more than you can chew or the vultures will come out to get you."

If only I could have stepped in to know what really goes on in the coffers of the treasury of the (so far) greatest economy on earth and what will be its fate. 

Sigh! I guess I have to be content with the picture I got then; pretty impressive structure though, what say? 

PS. I found these posts to be pretty useful in understanding the debt crisis issue - 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Of travel and sprains

"For still, the more he works, the more 
Do his weak ankles swell"
~ William Wordsworth

I am blogging after 10 days. On 07/31/2011, what was supposed to be the fabulous end of a weekend trip to Washington, DC turned out to be a little bit of a disaster. Unwittingly, I let me foot slip off the kerb, resulting in an ankle sprain that only got aggravated by the long-ish bus ride back to New York.

Now there isn't much to speak of a sprain, or any injury for that matter, but in this case something positive came out of it that just makes sense to put up on the blog. I started blogging only about a fortnight ago with the only intention of documenting my experience in a new country through the medium I enjoy the most - photography. I passed along word to a few friends who I though would enjoy sharing my journey through my blog. While secretly hoping that the site really catches on, I didn't really think that it would get enough attention in such a short span of time as to have people write to me to ask why I hadn't updated the blog in over a week. Okay, so only a handful have asked me about it but the point lies not in the numbers but the fact that some (if only a few) have definitely taken back something from my posts that made them want to see more.

That to me is a huge vote of confidence that encourages me to update my blog a lot more. It tells me someone is reading my posts with a smile. I thank you for that.

While I'm still not fully recovered, I'm almost there, already planning our next getaway from the city. In all probability, New Hampshire, the place with its sleepy little towns and a vast countryside (atleast in my imagination). While I clean my lenses to get back some rose tinted memories, I share with you my visuals from the trip to Obama-land.

Oh and I have no idea what William's quote means or why it is at the top of this post.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are you on a billboard?

Times Square, Manhattan, NY

Amongst the bunch of hoardings at Times Square, the one that stands out is that of 'Forever 21', the American clothing brand. It's gimmicky, eye-catching and works on the power of vanity and voyeurism. While a camera streams live frames of the audience in front of the store, a virtual model appears on the screen to take polaroid snapshots of the crowd, but not before touching up her own make-up. She selects some people from the crowd, kisses them and either turns them into frogs or puts them into her Forever 21 bag.  Its silly how the crowd goes berserk. You'll see children and adults alike standing around, waiting for the model to pick them (on screen!). They'll be waving out frantically, trying to spot themselves and if/when they do, they'll go even more berserk. I don't know how many actually end up buying from them, but they're surely mighty pleased with the store! I am part of this picture too. Try and spot me :) 

PS. (The creator of the billboard says its software identifies and maps people on the street—especially those carrying the store’s shopping bags—then builds composites in near real-time, which it uses to build simulations for the display.) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sexy Soul Oldies!

Broadway, Manhattan, NY 

All everyone seems to be talking about in New York, and I suspect in the rest of the US too, is the weather. Unfortunately, not in a good way. So temperatures have reached 108 degree F on some days in the last week and the National Weather Service has issued notice of a heatwave

I seem to be the only one not complaining. I mean, c'mon, if you've spent half your summers in Nagpur, where   108 would be considered normal, and at 90, people would positively be celebrating; and the other half of your life in Bombay - the city which defines global standards of humidity, you can barely think of heat as an reason to be depressed. 

So on Saturday when I stepped out of my apartment, I was pleasantly surprised to find a crowd gathered around a stall at the summer fair on Broadway. I'll pause here to tell you a bit about the fair. Do you remember Friday canteen in school? (or maybe we were the only ones who had it!) where a bunch of people come together, put up a stall, sell their wares, and everyone basically has a lot of fun? Well, that's what summer fair at Broadway is all about - a weekly fair that happens every Saturday, on...err...Broadway, which to me means that I don't need to walk more than 5 steps out of our apartment building to soak in the summer joy! There's good food (strawberry and nutella crepe! slurrp!), lots of discount shopping, games and music! On the last one, is what this post is actually about (okay so I took a while to get here). Back to the crowd I walked into.

What you see in the picture is what was in front of us. Just that. An eclectically dressed man, behind a desk with music cds, most of which I haven't ever heard of, and an amusing shop display that identified his wares as "Sexy Soul Oldies"

Nothing so interesting about that you say. I agree. Except that this Sexy Soul Oldie got a bunch of heat-frustrated, sweat-dripping, drained-looking people rocking like I've never seen before, other than at live concerts! And the only method he employed was to have fun himself. Put on some foot-tapping music, classics I believe, and danced away like there was no tomorrow. Naturally, everyone around got gathering, tapping, singing, snapping their fingers, etc. A little old lady even did a jig prompting 'sexy soul oldie' to get to her and do a duet. That's when the crowd really let go. I kid you not, there were like 30 people, right there, in the middle of the street, all ages, although mostly older ones (assuming they came from the same generation as the music), jigging, twisting, foot-tapping, clapping. It was a sight! I wish I had a better video than the one I do now. I've uploaded one to FB anyway for those still curious. It was taken right at the beginning when he started so the enthusiasm still hadn't built up as much as it did later. But for now, I'll let this picture do the talking! Here's one for All the Sexy Soul Oldies out there! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just Another Day

"Just Another Day"
Central Park, New York, NY 
Calm on the surface, a ripple so slow
Underneath lies turbulence, its struggle unknown
Life's like that, we don't often know
Far on the ocean, rocking life's boat

We look for calm waters, in which to stay on
The horizon looks blue, innocent of a storm
Alone in course, there will be no friend
To steer your ship, to hold your hand

To find your way, you must disclose
Open the chambers, your heart has closed
Define your course, and claim your joy
For even in the waters, there's happiness to come by

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sugar Rush

Spot Desser Bar, Manhattan, New York
There was a time when I used to call myself a 'dessert fan'. That was untill I discovered that 'dessert' does not equal 'chocolate'. Sigh! 

Now, towards the end of every meal, if Im asked, do you want dessert, my response more often than not is to shake my head horizontally (unless I know for certain, there's chocolate somewhere!) But what do you do when you land up at a an all-dessert bar, that is the talk-of-your-town, and that doesn't have *any* all-chocolate dessert? Guess, you find out over one disappointing meal that nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to chocolate!

So there we were, at this Spot Dessert Bar, after a heavy dinner of Thai cuisine.  

Maybe the expectations were set too high - by the accompanying friends, the pictures of the desserts on the walls of the eatery or the reviews I'd heard/read. But I was left sorely dissappointed. Small bite-sized portions of fruit and a few chocolate shavings on a plate don't do anything to satiate my appetite for 'dessert' for sure. 
No complaints with Spot though. They did what they claim to do best - combine innovative Asian sweets with classic American dessert to creat one-of-a-kind desserts. Sample this - Soft Cheesecake (Pic in the center) which is essentially cheesecake cream topped with passion fruit foam and  served with walnut crumble, blueberry compote, and grapefruit; Coconut macaroon with nutella almond cookie (top right), ovaltine icecream with a topping of caramelized popcorn, orange jelly squares and what-not (bottom left), green tea ice cream (bottom right), coconut foam with blackberry (top left) and again some stuff I couldn't decipher even though the lady who served us mentioned it.

Full marks to the presentation and to the ambience too.

Just that...I miss my chocolate cake! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Naked Cowboy - Neither naked, nor cowboy!

Times Square, Manhattan, NY

I spotted the Naked Cowboy and the Naked Cowgirl!! Okay, now I don't mean to make them sound like the endangered species of some exotic-looking animals, but you can give it to me for behaving a bit touristy when I am at the 'tourist capital of the world'

Each time I passed by Times Sq, I looked out for either (mainly the cowboy :D) but as luck would have it, always missed them. The other day while walking back, I heard someone play the guitar and on appraoching the sound, saw this tall and imposing albeit undressed personality stringing along.

For the uninitiated, the Naked Cowboy, is a street artist who performs at Times Square. Dressed minimally - cowboy hat, boots and only briefs, his guitar his placed strategically to make him appear fully naked. The Naked Cowgirl is similiar, only, she wears a bikini.

The original cowboy - Robert Burck, trademarked the 'Naked Cowboy' charachter and after a number of lawsuits, now operates it like a franchise. I didn't see Burck himself but one of the other cowboys and the cowgirl, possibly Burck's girlfreiend, Cindy Fox.

While everyone posed with them and clicked pictures, a though struck my mind - the naked cowboy is neither naked nor a cowboy! I wondered then, why does he do, what he does? There's only but one answer - what we were viewing as a source of entertainment, was just another man's profession!

The Naked Cowboy, for all the fun and glamour attached to his character, is actually just performing a regular job! A job that he needs to attend, even on days when all one wants to do is tuck in and sleep (i've heard stories of the naked cowboy walking around in snow-laden streets); a job that needs him to earn money and answer to a boss (franchises pay $500 to Burck every month), a job that demands that he put in hard work and effort (shows on their sculpted bodies); a job that requires him to put up with the good and the bad, and a job that stresses you out if your audience is not appreciative. A fact - simple but overlooked! I plead guilty!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dance Like Noone is Watching

Columbus Circle, New York, NY
The one thing about New York city that I have come to love is the freedom of expression it gives to its artists. Where else in the world would you get to see classical ballet being performed amidst chaos on the street?

The picture above is that of a ballet couple - rehearsing in Columbus circle - one of the busiest junctions in the city, right up on Broadway. They appeared just like that, out of nowhere, the girl in all her splendor (she had real lights on her), the man a lot more casually dressed; and danced around the circle to an imaginary tune or perhaps to one playing only in their ears.

The few minutes I saw them perform was magical. While the New York traffic whizzed past, traffic lights changed colors, the people around gaped in awe, the happy couple continued to dance, blissfully unaware of the world around them. This one is for them and ballet! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When in Rome...

Saravana Bhavan, New York, NY

On a trip to Bangalore in 2010, I happened to tell my host that I wanted to try out some 'local cuisine'. Obviously, my knowledge of the southern states local cuisines was not evovled (to say the least) as I soon found out. Expecting to dig into hot idlis and a mysore masala cheese dosa (seriously, its a dosa commonly available in Bombay!), I was shocked to discover that they served only an Andhra Thali - you know, the kind that serves rice on a banana leaf with the rasam and the gun powder and all the other quintessential Andhra sides?

Now I'm not the biggest fan of rice and rasam, so I requested the waiter (tambi) to provide me with other options. He meekly pointed out to a section on the menu which said 'Punjabi' and had a few items listed under it. Yes, I was as dis-believed (if that's a word) at the knowledge that an Andhra-specialty restaurant serves paneer tikka but not idli! Anyhow, after some sniggering from the waiter and some from my otherwise kind host, I ordered a paneer butter masala and a naan. My second moment of disbleief happened soon enough when I was told that they do not have plates: "Onleee baenana leaf medam'. That was the beginning of it. It got progressively worse.

The paneer arrived looking like somebody had dunked those white Natraj erasers into a bowl of a watered down version of bad tomato ketchup. Of course it was a sight to behold when I tried to contain the gravy from falling off the leaf. Then I had to fight with the waiter to bring me a spoon (yeah Mr. waiter, its completely believable that a top-end restaurant like yours does not have a single spoon!). As if this wasn't enough, I had every single patron, some 20 pairs of eyes looking at me in loathe, almost silently communicating for me to get lost for good.

So there, that was my great North Indian adventure at a South Indian eatery. So I should have known better than to willingly put myself  in a similar situation again, this time on the other end of the world!

A month after we got to the US, sensing that I might be just a tad bit missing home, the husband decided to take me to his favorite Indian restaurant (or one of them) in Manhattan - Saravana Bhavan.

Fortunately for me, SB, although South Indian in origin, neither served food on banana leaves nor restricted its offerings to South Indian fare. In fact, they had quite a few diverse options on their menu and much to my delight, I didn't look like the only person ordering a non-specialty. After some debating with the husband and with my own conscience (which begged me to stick to idli/dosa), I finally got myself a Chole Bhature; This time the Gods were with me! My dish arrived looking scrumptious, tasted delicious and left the waiter ambitious (err, whatever!) after the happy tip we gave him for the happy meal that we had.

Now how difficult is that?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Everything You Can Imagine is Real

"Everything You Can Imagine is Real" ~ Pablo Picasso
Midtown Manhattan, New York

1.A guided tour in progress 2.Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe

I haven't been too much of a 'modern art' person. Too abstract for my taste. That is, till I visited MoMa.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) houses art work - drawings, painting, architecture design, sculpture, photography - as diverse as Picasso to Van Gogh to Cy Twombly.
Considered by many to have the best collection of modern art in the world -1,50,000 individual art works - apart from 22,000 films and 4 million film stills, the building itself is a pretty impressive structure, sprawled over 6 floors in Midtown Manhattan.

What worked for me was the ease of maneuvering through the galleries, the availability of free guided and pre-recorded audio tours, free wi-fi, open spaces and a lot more.

As a friend accompanying me pointed out, "New York museums are not intimidating or elitist like others in some countries. They're as much for the viewing of the 'aam junta' as they are for the art connoisseur.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Its raining :)

Central Park, Manhattan, NY
It's raining. What's more to say? Like a wise fellow once said, 
"The best thing one can do when its raining is to let it rain"
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Everybody loves Ramen

"Everybody loves Ramen"
Totto Ramen, New York
A little-hole-in-the-wall eatery, 4 items on the menu (1 for the vegetarians like me), some side options, entertaining chefs, and Japan's favorite comfort food has won the spoilt-for-choice New Yorkers over.

I had, so far, only known ramen in its instant variety form. Therefore my only expectation of Totto Ramen was that of a steaming bowl of noodles, done to perfection.

What I got was spicy vegetarian ramen, in a soy based broth, with all kinds of peppers, veggies, mushroom shavings, tofu, avocados and a fantastically pickled egg as a side. Goodness! Explains the serpentine queues outside, at any given point in time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bird of Prey

Bird of Prey
Central Park West, New York, NY

Spotted this beautiful eagle while strolling in Central Park yesterday evening. It looked like it was pecking (if I can use that word for an eagle) at the branch beneath it. But on getting closer, I realized it was actually eating a pigeon, in all probability, one that it had killed. I should have perhaps been eww-ed or something, but I wasn't. Okay, so I feel bad for the poor bird (the hunted), but it was quite a sight actually. With every bite (or peck or whatever it is that eagles do), a few pigeon feathers floated around. I got a second, more zoomed in picture. 

A much smaller blue colored bird was sitting on a branch nearby watching the eagle devour its prey and making high-pitched sounds. After 10 minutes of watching and shrieking, the little bird started attacking the eagle, yes, I am serious, attacking! It went right at the eagle, bumping into its large feathers, as if it was trying to throw it off its position. The eagle, visibly irritated but didn't move an inch from its place and resumed eating, letting the lil birdie fly away in disappointment. Im still wondering why the bird was attacking someone atleast 10 times its size - to demand a share of the prey or was the pigeon someone the blue bird knew and was trying to save, even if a tad too late? 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lickin' the Heat

"Lickin' the Heat"
Taj Mahal, Agra, India

I love squirrels. I've always felt they're very communicative if you give them the right sort of attention and patience. Do I sound like a retard? Well, maybe but my penchant for photographing squirrels only got a boost when I saw a few hundred of them down at central park the other day. 

Sadly, I didn't get any good pictures. Squirrels in New York seem to have imbibed the spirit of the city they reside, nimble, always in a hurry.

But I got reminded of this old picture...taken on a road trip to Agra, right outside the Taj Mahal. Evidently, the heat got too much to bear for this little thing. 

I might have taken several squirrel pictures over the years, but this one, remains a favorite. I hope you see why! :) 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Opulence, I Has It

"Opulence, I Has It"
Princeton, New Jersey
I spent the weekend at the home of my aunt and uncle, down in New Jersey. That's when I had my first taste of true American affluence. Living in a largely 'Indian' neighbourhood, they're surrounded by mansion-like houses, much like their own. 

Jersey, one of the wealthiest states in America with  the largest percentage of millionaire residents in the country, is also home to a large populace of Indian diaspora. The wealth generated by these Indians in the US is evident in the fine touches of grandeur that reeks from each of their homes and in the luxury sedans that line up their driveways. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Manhattan, New York, NY
1.Beginning of the sunset 2.The waiting crowd, tripods set-up, bikers waiting to ride towards the west 3.NYPD car shooing away cheering crowd 4.Mahattanhenge at its peak 5.Chrysler building in the backdrop 6.The phenomenon coming to an end 

Sunsets have always been special. Today's, was unforgettable. Manhattanhenge, also known as the Manhattan Solstice is a biennial phenomenon in which the sunset aligns itself precisely with Manhattans street grid structure to create a breathtaKing view along the east-west streets. It derives its name from England's Stonehenge.

This year, it was supposed to take place on July 12 and 13, at 8:25 pm. After spending a disappointing 45 minutes on 57th street, 5th avenue, yesterday, we decided to go as far east as possible. On reaching 42nd and 2nd Av, we were pleasantly surprised to find a waiting (and enthusiastic) crowd. I'll let the pictures do the talking for the view we saw. Finally the NYPD made its way to clear the ballistic crowd and make way for the oncoming street traffic both ways, which was held up for some 25 minutes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

City of Blinding Lights

"City of Blinding Lights" 
Manhattan, New York, NY
The first thing that I noticed when I moved to New York city were its streets. The traffic, the incessant honking, the rushing pedestrians; everybody seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. So much like Bombay, the place where I grew up.
Perhaps, that is one reason I don't miss Bombay too much. Just like a country man yearns for fresh air, all I need to do is to open my apartment windows for my daily intake of vehicular sight, noise and pollution. 
Sigh, the joys of city life!