Friday, December 31, 2010


Casatta's been missing since we came back from Goa. It's infinitely depressing, not being able to hear her running around, at the door in the morning, talking to us.. And in a terribly depressing way, it's almost more painful not knowing what happened to her, is she dead or alive, is she hurt somewhere waiting for me to find her and rescue her... did she get run over, did she get poisoned?

There's no bloody closure, and it's tearing me apart...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Casatta's Missing :(

Casatta's been missing ever since we came back from Goa - it's been almost 36 hours now. And according to our housemaid, she wasn't seen the day earlier too :(

She was always the risk taker, exploring a little too much - just hope she's safe, and hope she's back soon. Love her too much to give up so easy...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pune (No)Bandh

The Shiv Sena called for a Pune bandh yesterday to protest against the shifting of a statue of Shivaji's tutor, and thankfully, once again, the people of the city made it clear they weren't going to be distracted any more by such non-issues. Except for small shops and establishments which closed down to avoid trouble, and opened by early evening, most other offices and businesses remained open, and traffic was almost normal. Autos plied too, except for some belonging to unions affiliated to the Sena. The police were out in force to prevent any untoward incidents, and except for stray incidences of stone pelting on PMT buses, life was just normal!

When will political parties finally get the drift, and start focusing on corruption, malnourishment, education and other real issues facing the country, instead of wasting their energies on frivolous politically motivated issues?

India Level Series

India came back with a fighting bowling performance for the second time today, to bowl SA out and clinch the test, levelling the series 1-1. After a less than impressive first innings total, Zaks on his come back from injury, and a fired up Harbhajan Singh had skittled out the South Africans for 130 or so, to grab a very valuable first innings lead of around 70. With Laxman contributing a fighting 96, India managed to put up a sizeable 300 run target, in spite of losing early wickets in the second innings. Then it was all up to the bowlers, and they did not disappoint.

India started the day needing 7 wickets to win, and by the time I went through a small meeting with my team, that had narrowed down to 3! A couple of short partnerships ensued as the South Africans tried to put up a fight, but the end was inevitable.

For all those sceptics out there, India had just one message today: now you know why we are number one!

It's been a great end to a fantastic year of sports for India.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

HDFC Home Loans

We were at HDFC today for final disbursement of our home loan. Must say, HDFC really exceeds expectations every time.

Some special mentions...

Vikrant Garunge, for all his help, and complete support in the application and documentation phase, he went out of his way to make it easier for us. Yogesh, from HDFC Realty Services, for dedicating countless weekends in our quest for a good property, understanding our needs very well, and being super patient all through. And finally, Akshada from the Shivajinagar HDFC office, for her quick, friendly and extremely efficient service during the cheque disbursal today morning! Her meticulousness and attention to detail was very impressive!

Quenching Thirst

Sons of the Goan Soil

Baby Banana Plants

"Bimlaa" - a very khatta fruit that's a great source of vitamin C, great for pregnant women :) Have it with salt, or make some awesome "lonche" (pickle)

My favourite - the huge bamboo shoots

Coconuts rule Goa :) These ones have been "solla"

Kulagar (Plantation)

On Sunday, we went to one of our areca nut and beetle nut plantations near Ponda. A beautiful place, untouched and unchanged for decades. A Goa that most tourists never get to experience. In the picture below, you see channels developed to carry water from the stream gurgling at the foot of the hills, down into and through the plantation. When we reached there, all the townsfolk were up at the stream building a small dam using planks provided by the government, and mud.

On the way back, we stopped for chai at a small tapari run by this old lady and her son. Two of the three glass cupboards in the "hotel" were bare, and so were all the glass containers that usually have laddoos and other stuff. The third cupboard had a few biscuits and some chocolates. How do you run a hotel when you have nothing to share except love?


A unique way to keep the showering dogs away!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

One AM at Baga

One AM at Baga and there's  a sea of party goers under the watchful eyes of the police. A must visit this season!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Foodies visiting Goa, make sure you don't miss Corus, a fine dining restaurant on the Panaji to Dona Paula sea side road. Try the chicken with almonds and asparagus, the masala squid, or even the veg gratin. The red and white prawns are also wonderful!

Movie Review: Tis Maar Khan


In any case, she finishes her song in the first fifteen minutes.

This is the seventeenth minute now and like all those before me, I'm ready to leave!

Perfect Holiday

Great food. Awesome  weather. Soothing massage. Perfect holiday.

Santa Comes Visiting!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sign Of The Times

This bus has a cell charger outlet in every cabin!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Win Mobile 7

Got my hands on a HTC Win Mobile 7 device, and must say, right now, I love it! The UI is super cool and very responsive. Yes, we need some applications - but at the end of the day, if I can chat and FB in addition to taking calls, I will be more than satisfied!

The best part of it is the people-centric approach - you have an all integrated application that begins with a person, and allows you to email, call, sms, update Facebook, and what not, all from one interface. Absolutely awesome!

Email is great too - the look is clean, it's fast, and with support for Office 2010, what else can I ask to make my life more interesting?


Overhead my maid talking to Casatta today, "Don't sit on that (the dryer), sit on the ground!"

Yeah, right!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Review: Band Baaja Baaraat

BBB is a light-hearted, feel good movie about a 20-something Shruti Kakkar (Anushka Sharma) and her friend and partner Bittoo (Ranveer Singh) and their struggles and victories in setting up Shaadi Mubarak, a wedding planner business. Both hit it off as good friends, and their chemistry and sincerity quickly propel them to the top of the charts in the business, until one day, in a moment of drunk celebration, they break their cardinal rule - no pyaar in business. Awkwardness and rejection take their toll, and finally, one day, they part ways. Both set out to outwit the other, but soon realise that without each other, they quickly start losing their good will and customers. Until one day, the ultra-rich Sidhwani offers to sign them on for a multi-crore marriage contract, under one condition - Shaadi Mubarak needs to be what it was earlier - united.

Anushka looks beautiful, as always, and puts up a good performance. Ranveer is a surprise package - starts off looking pretty ordinary, but by the end of the movie, you will like him for his innocence, his sincere acting, his comfort and chemistry with Anushka, and his dancing. Overall, a great debut!

The soundtrack is fun, and while some camera work is too much close-up and shaky for comfort, the movie has a beautiful eye-candy feel about it. The dialogues are crisp and fun, and story simple, the cinematography uncomplicated.

Overall, a nice movie, and probably good for a repeat watch too!

Friday, December 17, 2010

World's Smallest International Bridge

This is the world's smallest international bridge, between Canadia (larger island), and America (the smaller island) - in the 1000 islands! Such a wonderful world we live in!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trip to Bhandardhara and Shrirampur

Another weekend, another awesome trip around Pune... this time, 6 of us piled into Samara and set off for Bhandardhara. We left early this time, leaving Aundh by 630 am, hitting Nashik Road by 700.

A rare sight for me, the sunrise!

Half an hour later, we stopped at Navnath in Rajgurunagar for some delicious misal pav - highly recommended.

The road is in good condition, but most of it is 2 lane, and with heavy traffic, average speed quickly drops to 45-60. Not good if you are on a tight timeline, but we had all the time in the world - and folks in the back even managed to squeeze in some card games.

Our plan was to go through Malshej, so at Ale, we left NH 50 and caught NH 222. Just before Malshej, near the village of Madh, we came across an absolutely beautiful location at the banks of the Pimplegaon Joga reservoir. It was time for a break, and some pictures.

The innocent looking banks of the lake weren't as innocent after all, and it took all the power of the 4L mode to get us out of the sticky clay mud! A few anxious seconds passed before the Endy backed out of the trap.

Now a word of caution - follow Google maps at your peril. We soon found out that the promised road from Malshej to Bhandardhara through Vihir and Kotul doesn't exist. The road from Malshej goes along the dam to the base of the imposing hills, and stops there. And probably continues a few hundred feet above from top of the hill. So we had to double back to Otur, then take a picturesque but badly maintained internal road to Brahmanwada, Kotul and there on to Rajur and finally, our destination, Bhandardhara.

Puneites, unless you are brave enough to put your sedan through hell, or you have a SUV, please take the route via Sangamner and Akole.

We checked into Anandvan, taking a 3 bed room cottage for an outrageous 25000 per night off season rate. But unless you are terribly lucky to get a booking at Yash, the only other decent property we found in the area (and it was full), you really do not have other good options, unless you want to try out MTDC or some of the other shadier options. And though expensive, the resort staff is extremely friendly and went out of their way to accommodate every request we had.

Bhandardhara offers some stock tourist places - Wilson Dam, Amriteshwar Temple, Konkankada, and good hiking/trekking options - Ratangad and Mt Kalsubai. We went for a big drive all around the dam waters, a 50 km round trip that covers most of the key tourist spots while allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of the unspoilt surroundings.

At night, folks dances regaled us, and a warm campfire lightened up the mood, before we retired for the day.

The next morning, we loved simply driving around, off roading in the pristine and clean meadows and hills in the adivasi reservation around the dam catchment.

After lunch, we left for Shrirampur - passing Akole, Sangamner and Loni.

At Shrirampur, we gorged on the delicious pav bhaji and dahi puri at Shri Saikrupa, washed it down with Cream Cold, and then finally slurped some amazingly refreshing lassi at Parijat.

At 800, we left for Pune via Nagar, the 100 odd km detour to Shrirampur, really having paid off! At 1200, after multiple mini stops along the way, we were back home.

A beautiful trip, with loads of memories to cherish for a long time, had come to an end. Next weekend will be another story...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kiwis Trampled

5-0, another clean sweep by India. I wish spectators were treated to more than a T30 though, the Kiwis folding up for 103 in 27 overs, and India needing just 21 overs to overrun the miniscule target.

Next stop, SA! Apparently the Proteas have prepared bouncy tracks - but given the form our pacers are in, I hope it doesn't end up being a case of Shekhchilli for the Africans!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pathan Has Kiwis For Dinner

4-0 in Bengaluru. Playing a second string side of wannabes against the Kiwis in the Bangalore one dayer, after already winning the series 3-0, India seemed to be in trouble with more than 100 to win in 13 overs, 5 wickets back in the pavilion, and Yusuf Pathan and Saurabh Tiwary trying to up the scoring rate which was fast falling behind, especially with the rains threatening to bring D/L into the picture. But this Indian team is not to be denied :)

Yusuf completely demolished the Kiwis, smashing 4s and 6s by the dozen, with Saurabh providing a great foil at the other end.

Earlier, far away in the UK, Ponting finished biting the rest of his fingers, after succumbing to a humiliating innings defeat against the English in the second Ashes test.

Monday, December 06, 2010

CNN - Insights or Spoilsport?

CNN ran a news item on the French president's visit to India, and how he signed deals worth billions of dollars, especially in the nuclear energy space, and immediately followed it up with a tidbit on how India is ranked 88 in the corruption index, with China doing better at 78.

Insightful analysis, or just being a spoilsport?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

No Screaming

My cat did it again yesterday.. I was giving Sanam a mock scolding, the cat woke up from its slumber on the door mat and came straight to me with a meow - and other than asking for food, she never really talks to me. We couldn't really believe she did this in response to my scolding, so a few mins later, I tried it again. And once again, Catrina came straight to me with a meow, and  this time, jumped on the center table between me and Sanam, and looked straight into my eyes, as if daring me to do it again!

If this wasn't enough, the other day, Casatta wanted to be let out. I was sleeping on the sofa, so Sanam opened the door for her. But no, she refused to go out unless and until I woke up from the sofa, opened the door for her, and let her out! Sanam couldn't stop laughing...


There's something very fulfilling and satisfying about gardening - is it about nurturing a life? Seeing the green shoots, the fruits and the flowers blossom? Or is it just the chance to become a kid again, and play in the mud?

Me thinks, it's both :)

Terror Recruits?

Harsha commented on the movie to me in person, and I thought it was pretty insightful...

How different was AB's character from the scores of so-called terror recruiters brainwashing and using small  kids in the holy jihad against "occupying" forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kashmir, for that matter? He used innocent school kids barely in their teens in a poorly planned plot, and really, leaving them to their fate while he himself escaped and took refuse for months with his sweetheart, until he was finally captured and killed. I'm not belittling the sacrifices, nor am I in any remote way justifying what's happening today, but I think we do need to question history sometimes!
Sometimes, it's all about a different POV!

Break From History

I think it's time India stopped teaching its kids about our freedom struggle, especially failed mini-revolutions from places like Chittagong, which only remind us how we were slaves under the British for so long, and instead instill pride and a sense of power by focussing on more recent history - like Kargil. I want my daughter to grow up feeling like a queen, part of a powerful civilization that is ready to rule the world, and not be continuously reminded about our not so glorious (and very long) past as a poor, torn country unable to stand up to a handful of goras. No, I do not want her to go to Kasab and say, you killed my brothers and sisters, that's ok, we will peacefully protest while you kill again. No, I want her to go slap him, and tell him, enough is enough, we will fight to protect our happiness and our freedom, so don't push me, because if you do that, I will over run you and destroy you. I want my kid to grow up being proud of how our security forces fought terror for 3 days and nights in downtown Mumbai, ensuring not a single bastard got away. Teach them about our nuclear subs and power plants, our IT prowess, the names and lives of all those Indians that have made America what it is today, teach them about how we're fighting climate change.

Once and for all, let's forget those chapters from the past, and write a new history for our kids. Please.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Planet Ford Impresses

Samara had picked up a persistent and niggling sound (which seemed to come from its bonnet or glove box) after our last weekend trip, and I finally took it to Planet Ford for a check up today. I was hoping it would be something like a lose screw in the glovebox, because I really didn't want to have to give it for a complete pat-down in the garage, nor could I imagine having to live with the noise. Parag, the engineer who attended Samara in the Quick Service Bay was amazingly committed to the cause, spent more than an hour with me, patiently eliminating possibilities, came with us for a couple of test drives, until he finally isolated and fixed the problem - a lose screw deep under the air filter box.

And the best part, they didn't charge me. It's never about the money, of course, but when a service engineer understands the importance of getting a small niggle fixed for a customer, no matter how long it takes, irrespective of the "ROI", that's great customer service!

Movie Review: Phas Gaye Re Obama

A delightful comedy, Phas Gaye Re Obama has a very special script that takes the poignant issue of recession in America, and weaves an entertaining story around it, using Obama and his "Yes We Can" slogan as the perfect props, making you laugh and yet touching you immensely. The cast is perfect, the dialogue crisp and witty, the story moves along at a fast clip, beautifully using Wall Street's asset jugglery as its core theme, and wraps up to a very sweet ending at the just right time.

Totally, totally worth it - not once, but at least a couple of viewings!

Movie Review: Khelenge Hum Jee Jaan Se

1930. Chittagong in undivided Bengal. A small group of young men, mostly in their teens, hatch an outrageously daring plot to take on the British. Block the rail lines, capture the British officers and ladies in the European club, smash the Telegraph office, attack the police lines and armoury. With Gandhiji's one year of non-violence not giving results, it's time to fight fire with fire for freedom. The plan moves switfly, but the revolutionaries make two fatal errors in planning. One, it's Good Friday, and none of the officers are in the club, they've all gone to church and from there, home. Two, the armoury has weapons, but no ammunition! The revolution is quickly crushed, and over the next few months, the revolutionaries are tracked, captured, tortured, and many killed.

Life's short, and after reading all you ever really needed to know about the Chittagong uprising, there is absolutely no excuse for you to waste another 3 hours enduring the movie.

So, what's wrong with the movie? Everything, and trust me when I say that. The first half is too slow, the "build up" quickly looking like endless retakes of the same shot with different actors that never saw the editor's knife! The second half sees the British trying so hard to capture the revolutionaries, one by one, that I never imagined I would see a movie and actually clap when one of our own is captured by the English! On to the next one, get them and finish them, you hear yourself pleading with the British soldiers. After all, it's been a long time since you got some fresh air! The dialogues are immature and unrefined ("Kya woh aapke gehere dost hai?" "Woh paas aa rahe hai, ab woh aur paas aa rahe hai"), an uncomfortable mix of Hindi and Bengali, the actors forcing their mouths into pouts to get the rounded Bengali names right. The opening scene itself should prepare you for what is to come. A bunch of "chikna" boys in sparkling clean white dhotis and starched cotton kurtas, each of  a different color (from M&S?), acting and talking like overgrown six year olds. A I-can-show-only-one-emotion-on-my-face chota big B and a I-told-you-I-wouldn't-be-able-to-pull-this-off Deepika looking sick and emancipated in two chotis and a saree add absolutely nothing to the movie. The sound track is jarring and repetitive. And finally, the unnecessary blood and gore towards the end, using sensationalism and shock where subtlety and emotion should have done the trick. The only saving grace is the authentic and beautiful setting, including the quaint houses, and the quainter vintage cars.

At 3 hours, it's criminal. Avoid it. Read a book instead.

Indian Juggernaut On The Roll

3-0 in Baroda today, another completely one-sided match, the Kiwis never in the reckoning. India, with a second string side, still in a completely different zone from its competition!

Go India Go - 5-0!

Nano No-No?

My first impression of the Nano was - hope this doesn't go the way of the Hero Honda Street (wasn't that the name of the scooter-mobike crossover that also failed miserably?)! Sometimes, when someone breaks into a completely new market, you might want to ask yourself - why isn't this market already occupied? Maybe there is a reason!

The problems, as I see it with the Nano, were multiple:

1) Over-hype, leading to over booking, but inability to deliver on time - if you are not geared up to grab the opportunity, people will quickly move on. As you said, most people became stars with their Nanos, but the novelty factor washes off pretty quickly.
2) 1.5 lakh on road is still a lot of money for a car, and for people shelling out that much, maybe a second hand Maruti was a much more reliable option!
3) Safety concerns and bad press - multiple instances of cars catching fire is scary!
4) Cars need parking space (unlike a bike, you can't park it in your verendah!), petrol is expensive, and it can't double up as a goods carrier!

Some possible solutions:

1) Target the youth - for the Indian middle class, make it the option of choice for the daughter going to college, a much safer option compared to a two wheeler
2) Target it as replacement for autos/taxis
3) Offer it on a hire basis - Tatas continue to own and maintain the vehicles, but rent it out by the month