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 govt.is 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 - http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/default.cfm

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.