Friday, October 18, 2013

Le Pondy

The place is dreamy. It has become a phenomenon that keeps me sane through extremely frustrating times.  Pondicherry feels less of a place and more of a state of mind. Wake up at 5:30am and look eastwards at the Bay of Bengal as the Sun thinks about rising and you will know what I am talking about.

We arrived at the resort and jumped right into the swimming pool to beat the heat - the Sun seems to love this place so much so that he just doesn't give up on roasting us. Add to this the humidity that comes with the breathtakingly beautiful seashore. Then we had a sumptuous lunch at the resort's pool-side restaurant followed by a blissful siesta.

Later that evening it was time to explore the town - we rented a motorbike and went into the charmingly French, yet messed up in out very own Indian way, city. The city is the perfect mix of cross-culturalism and conservatism I yearn for. It was so peaceful and relaxed and clear-cut when compared to a confused, west-aping Bangalore. A walk along the beach followed by an epic filter coffee at the Bombay Ananda Bhavan and back to the resort on time for a mild dinner followed by a session of what the French are famous for - no, not the kissing - a good bottle of red wine.

The next morning we were up at 5am and went to Chennai and came back to the resort by 5pm - on a motorbike (that was in admit-to-the-ICU condition) - along the ECR - with pitstops at the place that was considered to be the Paradise on Earth created by the mighty Pallavas - Mamallapuram.

The next day as I was swimming at the resort's pool, I saw this couple - a European man, his Indian wife and their two little kids. The man was playing with his younger son while I was resting there and we began small talking.

"Where are you from?", he asked.
"Bangalore. And you?"
"France. Paris." He continued, "Vacation?"
"Yes, just for a couple more days."
"Oh, I get one month every year." He boasted - or that's how it sounded to the holiday-deprived, overworked, Indian me.
He continued, "My wife's parents are from Pondy. So we come here for a month every year."

We went on to chat about what I did for a living among other things for about half an hour.

There I was, sitting by the pool, watching people from various countries and cultures - the way they talk, their boy language and everything - while sipping on a mug of chilled beer. Life is good indeed - specially when it is slow, like it is in Pondy. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Nandhini - The Mysterious

Spoliers Ahead - If you have not already read Ponniyin Selvan and you intend to read it, this post gives away key story points. If you have not read Ponniyin Selvan already and don't intend to, please go ahead and read the post - maybe it will motivate you to read the epic!

The country was mourning. Mourning the death of their bravest son. Men, women and children were beyond consolation; the houses in the cities and villages bore a lifeless look; the animals wore a look of despair; even the birds seemed to be singing a sorrowful tune.

The eldest son of their king - Aditya - the prince who recognized no fear, the warrior who was capable of guiding his army to victory against the mightiest of enemies, the handsome prince who, by now, should have married a beautiful princess and ruled the country - is gone forever from the wicked world, under the most mysterious circumstances in living memory.

She stood there, as one among at least another thousand people watching Aditya being cremated. She couldn't help but think of the irony, as she remembered begging for another man's life from Aditya, even falling at his feet - a wish that was not granted by Aditya. And now, the mighty Aditya was gone.

Even as she grew up as the daughter of a priest, in a religious household, she always knew from within that she was a princess. She knew that she was the daughter of a brave king, supposed to be brought up in a palace but somehow was growing up in the wrong family. She felt more like a Kshatriya than like a Brahmin. When was 12 years old, she was taken to a big palace to play along with the kids of the Chola king. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shatabdi vs Air Asia

Recently I got to travel from Chennai to Bangalore by the Shatabdi express and as the train moved north-westwards, I was able to see the sun set behind the sunflower fields from the large, clean window. They gave us a nice meal and the seats were plush and comfortable. The TV showed episodes from ‘Just for Laughs’ and a Charlie Chaplin movie – things that don’t need one to listen or understand the local language. Why this was very clever was highlighted on that day especially because everyone else on the coach was from South Korea. The guy sitting next to me was quite expressive about his holiday in Bangalore and Chennai. And I mentioned Gangnam style to him when he said he was from South Korea, much to his annoyance.

And then I travelled from Bangalore to Bali via Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia. I couldn’t help but compare the experience of the Shatabdi vs Air Asia. The frustration started even before we could collect our boarding passes. We had to pay extra for checking in our baggage. And that was the first time I was hearing that shit in an International flight. In the Shatabdi, there was no limit on how much baggage you could carry. You could even do the entire shifting of your house from Chennai to Bangalore J

The biggest issue of all was when we were flying – we were given the last row in the plane and as if being forced to hear the airhostess’ gossip wasn’t enough, we had to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get meals, the only positive thing about which was the fact that it was hot. It was then I started understanding how difficult the rest of my trip was going to be because there was only one vegetarian meal available. Dammit… The Shatabdi was so much better in terms of food. At least they didn’t charge me as much as Air Asia and didn’t brag about their “flight merchandise” in books and journals.

I mean, seriously, why the fuck would I shell out my hard-earned money to buy t-shirts and watches with “Air Asia” printed on it and advertise for this shitty shitty airline? If anything, they should give the shirts to me and pay me (quite a huge amount) to wear it. Bah :-\

It was the worst four and a half hours I had spent on a flight and I just wanted to pull my hair out and scream like a mad woman or at least yell the choicest of swear words (I could do that in 4 languages) at the flight attendants to let off the pent up frustrations. I want to ask questions like why don’t you play something on the TV? Why don’t you include the cost of food in the ticket price itself? After making us pay so much money, why do you charge us extra for check-in baggage handling?

If you are a major airline in South East Asia, how does it feel having your facilities being compared to that of a premium train in India?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Am I A Rebel?

Happy New Year!!! :-)

It has been so long since I wrote something here. The last year has seen me go from the happiest person on earth to a sad and pathetic little soul that’s trapped in a job that seems keen on sucking the life energy out of me. The only writing I have done in the past year are long emails to my friend about me and my surroundings. I wish I could publish them some day.

Anyway, all that aside, I was thinking yesterday about how there is a rebel inside each one of us. Some accept it; but most live in denial.

For example, I love cooking. I enjoy cooking. I find it therapeutic; I think it is a great stress-buster to listen to and sing along with music while cooking. I like making food that looks colourful with fresh ingredients that are great to look at and taste even better. I like the way the aroma of tempered spices spread and fill the house. I forget all my problems and tensions in the sound of music and the pressure cooker’s whistles and the motor sound of the mixie. It satisfies all my senses. You get it, right?

So everyone by now thinks my husband is a lucky man, right? Wrong. I don’t cook very often these days. I restrict my cooking to making dosa/idly and simple chutney or easy-to-make mixed vegetable rice. I don’t spend a long time in the kitchen; I don’t put on music. I don’t enjoy the process. I do it more out of duty than out of love.

And that is simply because I am EXPECTED to do it. I don’t know if it makes any sense to any of you, but I want to cook because I enjoy it, not because I MUST. It is expected out of me, as a wife, to cook for my husband. But then the rebel wakes up and says, “Hey, you must not do it because they expect you to. You are not anybody’s slave.” And out goes all the goodness that I had housed inside me all these years. The “nee enna solradhu, naan enna kekkaradhu” (Who are you to say and why the hell should I listen?) attitude is something I have not been able to shake off since I was 5 years old. And I don’t seem to regret it that much either.

Cooking is a simple example. There are other things that I have stopped doing (or stopped enjoying the activity) just because somebody wants me to. That my job certainly belongs to that category is no secret. And I am not the only one feeling that way about one’s job. But we still do it because we have put on the dog costume and so we bark.

I want to be able to give in to others’ expectations and not feel rebellious at every opportunity. I want to live a normal life without having the urge to put up a fight at every slight possibility. Because frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of having to fight back against every single thing expected out of me even though I’d have done it by myself anyway.

What do you think? Is it just me or is it normal to be rebellious? Or is it just that the degree of rebelliousness varies with each person? What are you like?