Sunday, September 28, 2014
A decade or so after having been denied a Visa, Modi is taking over America like no other leader has ever done in the past... here he is addressing a mammoth crowd at Central Park, a couple of hours after wowing the world with his statesman-like speech at the UN GA, in Hindi! Today, he will talk at a filled-to-capacity Madison Square Garden, with thousands more watching him live at Times Square.
What a sight to behold, irrespective of one's political inclinations!
By the way, while my attempts at marco photography with my Canon and an array of macro lenses are yet to be analyzed, this particular pic was clicked on my Samsung S5
MTV Roadies heart throb Rannvijay plays an avatar of himself in the movie - a reality show anchor who embarks on a new show around the paranormal after his girlfriend is found mysteriously hanging in the abandoned Rudra Mills, while researching on its haunted character. And no surprises, he decides to start right from where it all started for him - the same Rudra Mills. We are not here to trouble you, he announces, imploring the spirits of the workers who were killed in a major mill fire years ago to show themselves. But has he accounted for the dreaded Rudra, the last owner of the mill, who continues to terrorize his workers?
A good horror movie relies on atmospherics, and that's where 3 AM fails. Incessant loud chatter and (intentional?) comic situations never allow the audience to really start feeling the chill. While a couple of scenes are effective, there are too many false starts, too many acoustic pointers, and some pretty amateurish SFX. There is an element of a surprise twist towards the end, but if you are a real fan of suspense horror movies, you will guess it right from the first scene!
The female lead Anindita Nayar looks interesting, while Rannvijay continues to woo with his good looks. Salil Acharya and Kevin Dave round up the cast.
If you really had nothing to do, this is a good one to curl up with your girl friend, given how empty the theatres are likely to be!
A typical Disney film that leaves you with a warm & fuzzy feeling. Sonam Kapoor looks ravishing, and has a great sense of humor, and will win your heart. The Pakistani actor, Fawad Khan, will leave his fans swooning over him for a long time. Kirron Kher, Aamir Raza Hussain and Ratna Pathak Shah round up the cast, which is pretty perfect.
The songs are passable, and eminently forgettable. But the beauty of Rajasthani heritage, the royal palace and its grounds, and Sonam's wardrobe (which almost always leaves her pretty long legs out) is a treat to the eyes.
A good family gig for the weeekend.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
India's maiden mission to Mars, the Mangalyaan, is three days from creating history. On the 24th, when ISRO scientists fire off her engines to coax her into Mars' orbit, scientists will be hoping to succeed in the first attempt, something no other country has achieved earlier.
Just so you know, the spacecraft is currently around 225 million km away from Earth. And at 70 million, it cost around 1/10th of other similar spacecrafts from America.
They arrive in Lucknow as super rich Dubai-based NRIs, checking into a royal suite, and "interviewing" (with a hidden cam) prospective grooms. By a twist of fate though, she selects the heir of a rich Lucknowi kebab establishment, who wants not a single penny from her.
Will she still go ahead with her plan? Or will she simply fall in love?
DEI is a simple, honest movie about a topic that even today, results in a woman dying every 5 minutes in India. Parineeti is absolutely believable and lovable in her portrayal of the educated, helpless Gulrez Kadir, who hatches a ridiculously simple plan, and almost pulls it off. Anupam Kher, as her father, is subtle and amazing, as always. Aditya Roy Kapoor puts in a genuine attempt, and is pretty likeable too, showing a lot more spunk than I saw in his earlier movies.
While a little predictable and slow/stretched at the end, the movie totally deserves a dekko! All in all, it's a nice entertainer, with a lasting social message.
Terrifying horror stories wrapped up in two sentences or less:
I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.
The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.
In all of the time that I've lived alone in this house, I swear to God I've closed more doors than I've opened.
A girl heard her mom yell her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mom pulled her into her room and said "I heard that, too."
My wife woke me up last night to tell me there was an intruder in our house. She was murdered by an intruder 2 years ago.
I always thought my cat had a staring problem - she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.
There's nothing like the laughter of a baby. Unless it's 1 a.m. and you're home alone.
I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, "Daddy, check for monsters under my bed." I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, "Daddy, there's somebody on my bed."
You get home, tired after a long day's work and ready for a relaxing night alone. You reach for the light switch, but another hand is already there.
There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping.
I live alone.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
It has shades of the hunger games. A bunch of young guys, stranded in the middle of a strange, dangerous and massive maze from where there seems no way out. They have spent three years there, mapping out the maze, but no closer to getting out. Until, one day, a new boy arrives, and questions their rules. Can he lead them out, or is he going to invite terrible consequences unto themselves?
What starts with some great promise, soon gets stretched, without the action really taking off. The promise is left unrealized.
And of course, there is no Katniss to light up the dull greys.
Watchable, but not a must see!
Friday, September 19, 2014
Sunday, September 14, 2014
So this Teacher's Day was very different, right? Our very own PM hooked up with millions of kids all over the country, sharing anecdotes and advice, answering question and having a great time.
A lot was made out of it, and dozens of invited experts sliced and diced it on those "intelligent" debates at prime time. The questions were planted, they smirked. He is ignoring the plight of teachers, others complained. The spokesman of a national party was even ignorant enough to attribute an oft-quoted saying about teaching to him.
But next day, when I went to Crossword, and saw half a dozen kids, including mine, with their parents, searching for autobiographies to read, because Modi Sir had asked them to, did the impact of this exceptional leader become crystal clear to me.
For those who missed the speech, do check it out in YT. I am sure its there. And pick up some messages we all need to pass on to ourselves, and then our children...
Love the environment.
Help your parents save on electricity bills.
Stay clean, don't just throw around your school bag.
See the sunrise and the moonlight.
Get sweaty at least four times a day.
Do your bit for the country by being good students.
Be naughty, don't lose the child in you.
Read. Read. Read. Anything.
Hats off to you, Modi sir!
Two common criminals in search of some quick money get more than they bargained for after kidnapping the wife of a rich, corrupt businessman, who has no interest in paying the million dollar ransom.
The movie is one of those types that you really need a lot of patience to enjoy.
Unless of course, you are a fan of the eternally pretty Jennifer Aniston and my fav, Isla Fischer.
Inspired by the legendary con artist who once sold the Taj Mahal, RN features Emraan Hashmi, his Pakistani co-actor Humaima and the indefatigable Paresh Rawal, pulling off a hard-to-believe con on their nemesis played by Kay Kay Menon.
Any reason you should watch it? Nopes.
If you saw Kids in the 90s, this could very well be the story of those children just half a decade years later. While the shy striker of the college team, April, negotiates the taboo of an affair with her single-dad football coach, who she frequently babysits for, her classmates are struggling with their own battles with alcohol, drugs and sex, quickly spiralling out of their control.
This is an R rated movie, but if you are an Emma Roberts fan, you don't want to miss this!
"Inspired by real life incidents" from the life of India's lady Mohammad Ali, Mary Kom, the movie falls below the benchmark set by Farhan's Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Though I am not a fan of that movie, either, it did feel a lot more intense. MK, in comparison, is a predictable, feel good caper, only held up by the attractive Priyanka Chopra.
There is one undeniable reason you need to watch this one. My niece Samah in a seven second appearance as the beautiful child avatar of the lead actress :)
GP is the very relatable story of what happens to a marriage and a woman's career when she gives birth to a child. The movie is predictable, and at times, especially at the start, is a little amateurish in treatment. But it picks up well 20-25 mins into the story, and is held up extremely well by the lead, Sai Tamhankar, in a very commendable double role, as the stubborn, impulsive mother Pournima, and her bubbly, sensitive daughter, Akanksha. The scene in which she confronts her daughter, played by herself, will bring a tear to your eyes.
The LKP waterfront disc in Nerul, my village in Goa, is also featured in a song sequence and appears absolutely beautiful and surreal.
Produced by friends from Goa, the movie also features a bunch of folks I am personally acquainted with, which makes the experience a lot more interesting to me!
Should you watch it? Yes, please :)
One of the most talked about movies before its release, with multiple private screenings and an interesting social media strategy (although they should have worked with me for best impact :)) does Homi Adajania's Finding Fanny live up to its hype?
I wasn't much excited about it after seeing the promos, but the lure of Goa ensured I went to catch it at Inox this Friday.
I admit, I came back thrilled.
The story is simple... An old man in search of his childhood crush, to find out, would she have accepted him had he proposed to her. He is accompanied by an oddball set of characters, each really on a journey in search of love in their own crazy way.
What makes the movie stand out is the offbeat treatment - a blend of shock and poignancy, beauty and the romanticism of a Goa hidden behind the curtains of time. The unique language, the live sounds of a Goan village, the atmospherics. The beautiful photography that captures Goa at its monsoon best. Deepika's absolutely stunning village girl avatar. Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur and Dimple Kapadia in some really stand out roles which will be remembered for a long time. The cat.
Bollywood redefined. Don't miss it.
While writing this blogpost, I was intrigued by the topic, and so I did a little digging around. Here are some amazing things I uncovered. Well, didn't take all that long - with Google :)
The longest word beats floccinaucinihilipilification by 189,790 letters, and it is the chemical name for titin, the largest protein. Obviously, you won't see this in any dictionary, and hence is disputed as a word. I won't even bother trying to write it here, because I am very particular about spellings, and don't want to get it wrong LOL
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word to appear in a dictionary, at 45 letters, and it seems to be some kind of lung disease.
Honorificabilitudinitatibus is the longest to appear in Shakespeare's works, and interestingly, has alternating vowels and consonants.
And just for the record, if you ever reach Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, remember, you have reached a Welsh village in Britain.
For more details and digging around, check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_word_in_English or try your luck on Google.
Yes, that's the "right pronunciation", by the way - and this is the effect of trying to work on some British English accent training :) More on it later sometime, but it's amazing how little we are taught in "language class" in school - and how much there is to learn out there! All you need is a broadband connection, and the URL www.youtube.com!
Captured this view of my fav city from a TV program - and only one of the people I showed it to could guess that this was Mumbai, and not some exotic European location :)
Like most things in life, I guess you just need to have the right perspective!
Booking through their app is breezy, you can see your cab on your map as it arrives (no surprises or delays), you know the photo and number of your driver (safe!), you get printed bills mailed to you along with the route of the journey you took (can't be cheated into a longer route), and all billing is directly on your card (no hassles of change and cash!). Cabs are clean, and if you are lucky, you might even get a BMW coming to pick you up.
What's very interesting is their model. You will never see Uber branded cars - they never own any, they only work with vendors and partners who provide the cars under their "technology platform".
The only disadvantage to their model - you cannot be assured you will get your cab to drop you to the airport for that early morning flight. What if all the Ubers are busy?
We took off from Ahmedabad on an Indigo flight at around 600, more than an hour late since the incoming flight had got delayed. By 645, we were hovering around Pune, but bad visibility conditions due to heavy rain meant that we weren't in a position to land. We kept circling for well over 45 min, with lots of turbulence, when the pilot announced that we were running out of fuel, and hence would need to make an emergency landing in Mumbai.
We landed in Mumbai peacefully at 800. However, it was a long wait at the tarmac, and even though we don't need a visa to see Mumbai, we couldn't even leave the plane. The airhostesses, one of whom was Goan, were darlings, and even though the flight wasn't supposed to serve hot beverages (being a short flight), one of them graciously made tea for me. They did their best to take care of the passengers, serving whatever food and drinks were available, although the four screaming infants on board did nothing to calm the agitated passengers.
Finally, at around 930, we took off for Pune again, and landed safely, just before another major cloudburst stopped airport operations for the night.
Here are my top x observations from the 2 days I spent there...
Ahmedabad is a pretty clean and green city, the drive from the airport takes you through flat, tree-lined neighborhoods and military bases. However, the airport is still a small-city pad, unlike the spanking new Hyderabad, Bangalore or Mumbai airports, and doesn't even have the recently-refurbished feel of Pune or Goa airports. What is worse, though, is the absolutely disgusting spectacle of paan spit covered flower beds right outside. The entire beds are red, and for a second, you almost marvel at these unique plants, until you realize with horror and disgust what it really is! The garbage bins and the pillars are no better. Mercifully, the airport seems to be the glaring example - the rest of the city seemed to have been spared the horror.
Coming from Pune, traffic discipline should be the least of my worries - but Ahmedabad traffic has two clear characteristics. People drive too close, and people have no qualms coming full speed up the wrong side of the road. Traffic circles are meant to be cut through in the opposite direction too, and cops actively seem to encourage it. That said, traffic is very light - again, feels like any of the thousands of small towns in India, not a big city at all.
"Cross roads" are a commonly found way of identifying locations - and you will hear a lot of it. Typically Ahmedabad. It's a pretty flat city too - and you rarely see building more than a couple of floors in height, although some parts of the city, like Ellis Bridge, are now bustling with modern looking glassy corporate buildings and malls.
No description of Ahmedabad can be complete without specifically writing about two of its stars - the BRTS and the Sabarmati river.
The BRTS is well designed, and integrates beautifully with the rest of the road layouts, never seeming to obstruct traffic. And with many beautiful old trees and a quaint village-like atmosphere (including peacefully resting cows) in many parts of the route, it's actually pretty unlike the eye sore the BRTS is in Pune! Stations are well maintained, air conditioned, and easily accessible. And most importantly, in the two days I spent, I saw not a SINGLE violation of the sanctity of the BRTS lane by other vehicles - which was very surprising indeed! One complaint I heard from locals though, is that a short spell of rain tends to flood the routes because of the "barricades".
|A BRTS stop in the heart of the city|
The Sabarmati river has been converted into a beautiful water body, so unlike many of the gutters that snake through many of our other cities. Locals hang around happily, enjoying chat and other local delicacies in the beautiful parks lining the river front.
Another very interesting sight, unlike in most South Indian cities, and even in Maharashtra, there is no compulsion to have Gujarati signboards, English is perfectly acceptable.
|Local shopping streets are a riot of color|
When it comes to the tourist experience, though, it's sad that most of the city's rich heritage and buildings of historical and archaeological significance are buried behind modern structures and crowded lanes, completely neglected and ignored.
|Completely neglected, the Delhi Darwaja is barely recognizable|
We set out to see the historic Teen Darwaja, which was inaccessible unless we had the patience to make our way through a crowded, bustling, local market. The wonderful "Shaking Minarets" have apparently been closed down now, damaged beyond hope. We did see a beautiful modern Jain temple, though, where we also met a guy I could have sworn was Modi's long lost brother.
|A pretty Jain temple|
Next up was Haridada ni vav, a beautiful multi-storied well in dire need of come TLC. It was very sad to see, again, how neglected these really beautiful monuments are. There's another similar, and slightly bigger well, at Adalaj, a few minutes drive outside the city, which thankfully, is slightly better off, and attracts some tourists. We also passed an interesting Vaishnodevi temple, shaped and built like a mountain. Worth a visit.
|The stunning multi-storey Haridada ni vav (well)|
|The religious structure behind the well|
|And sadly, this is what passes off as the entrance to this historic and beautiful structure|
|The slightly better off well at Adalaj|
And finally, cannot help but make a mention of the Courtyard Marriott, where we stayed. A simple property, with no fuss, but the service and the food - simply phenomenal!
|Indigo in-flight experience is colorful! The air hostesses were super too!|
|Good bye Ahmedabad!|
Sunday, September 07, 2014
A few weeks back, while applying for a Nederlands visa for an upcoming trip, we realized my daughter's passport needs to be renewed. Our hearts sank, because we knew it would involve endless trips, paperwork and contacts to get the job done.
But we decided to go for it, take the risk, and hope we are blessed with some good luck.
This was Sunday evening.
A little Google search revealed that we now had to apply online - and literally 15 mins later, we were done. However, the appointment slots for the day were gone, and the website asked us to get a slot when the new quota was released the next day, at 12:00 pm.
Monday, 12:15, I had the appointment dates - Wed at 2:00 pm.
We reached the Passport Seva Kendra at 1:20, and had a nice, quick lunch at a nearby restaurant. At 1:55, the security guard let us in, and at 2:40, we were out, done with the document verification, biometrics, and fees!
Friday afternoon, at 3:30, we had a spanking new passport in hand!
No bribes, no "connections", no fuss. The center itself was very clean, air-conditioned, the staff was smiling and very cooperative and helpful, the entire workflow computerized, with timers measuring the performance of the staff every step of the way! No way for a "passport agent" to get in, no role for "underhand dealings". Even the name - Passport Seva Kendra - is just so right!
Stunning what a professional IT outsourcing model can do to governance, and with Modi at the helm (and the extremely corrupt RTOs already next in line of fire), one can safely dream of an efficient, citizen-friendly India very soon!
For the record, Helsinki topped the list of honest cities returning 11 of the 12 wallets.
I got a first hand experience of Mumbai's generosity and honesty last month, when I left my expensive, brand new, Samsung Galaxy S5 phone in an auto rickshaw. By the time I realized my phone was not with me, a cool 15-20 mins had passed by. Not only did the auto driver pick up my desperately hopeful call, he immediately came back from wherever he had reached, completely aware of the phone sitting on the back seat in his auto until I called. With a big smile, he stopped his auto across the road, and ran through the traffic to me, handing over the phone like he had just delivered his most precious "amanat" back to me.
And while I did tip him generously, I really need to add - not for a second did he try to linger on after handing over my phone, with absolutely no expectation for a reward!
My only regret - I should have taken his number, and found a way to repay his generosity some day! Maybe I was feeling too small in front of him, and it was easier to just give him some baksheesh and get the hell out of there!
Here's a story I find very hard to believe - except that it came in the TOI, and it wasn't April 1 when it was featured. Is this photo even real? Training dogs is understandable, of course - but hey, look at this classroom! And then expecting Delhi's strays to wear the cops uniform? Wow.. would be so cool if it were indeed true!
Of course, there are other claimants to the throne, a few side kicks, there is a girl he is in love with, and her greedy father, and so on and so forth.
Doesn't really matter.
But Entertainment isn't really bad. Watch it for the dog. Watch it for some good humor, especially the weaving for Bollywood movie titles in everyday speech. And for the very hot Tamannah Bhatia, who lights up the screen even when she is out of it. And of course, there is Sonu Sood, Prakash Raj, Mithunda and Johnny Lever.
Yes, keep the brains at home.
In spite of a very poor beginning to the season, with around 80% deficiency by mid August, the rains quickly caught up, and Pune now has over 25% surplus for the year, with all dams 100% full. In Aug, some of the dams were below live storage.
So while I plan a burst over this weekend to make up for the silence, I also take a silent pledge to get back to being a regular blogger.
Now if this were FB, I would ask you to Like my post :)