Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Share My Dabba" video

Got to view this feel-so-good video. I couldn't help but share it. Especially in times when all you hear/read in news is so depressing. Way to go, Mumbai's dabbawalas!

Friday, February 24, 2012


The other day, while I was watching Raam Lakhan, I saw Radha (Madhuri Dixit) was using one and that reminded me of Hungama when Nandu (Aftaab Shivdasani) was using one too when he fought with Anjali (Rimi Sen). I remember we had one at home too when I was a kid and when the gas cylinder ran low or was out, we turned to it. It was fun little gadget that came in handy when something special needed to be done or at a special time. We, along with our neighbors, made our yearly supply of tomato ketchup, which consisted of more than 20 liters of this red sauce on there and sometimes tea and things like that. It was this tiny little thing, but worked amazingly well with the more economical fuel - kerosene. They had these pins that went with them. Flat knife like thing with a sharp wire at one end that could be stuck into the burner hole thing in case it got clogged with the kerosene burned leftovers. And there was a pump that needed to be maneuvered in case there wasn't enough kerosene on the burner or when it went dry of not being in use for an extended periods of time. Mom used to shake it to find out whether the brass tank at the bottom still had any fuel left or needed a refill. If it did, there was a designated funnel to be used as it is flammable and non-edible liquid. I remember the top plate-like thing with three grooves on there that fit the three fat metal rods that connected the bottom tank and curved at the top and formed the rest of the structure. What an interesting gadget! Having a discussion with family members about it took me back to the good ol' days when it was not just a part of any kitchen, but a necessity and made me miss our dear old primus so much I just had to write about it. I am so pleasantly surprised this one has made it to wikipedia. Long live primus! :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kutch Highlights - Day 2 - Anjar, Mata No Madh

Day 2 in Kutch started out with shopping and sight-seeing in Anjar - the sword & knife capital of Gujarat. As soon as we got there, we went straight to the market as we were going to hangout with one of our acquaintances, JS, there. After spending some time with Mr. JS, we went around shopping for some quality knives, and sudi. Anjar is famous for the metal handicrafts such as swords, knives and all other kinds of metal items. We shopped at this place called Palan Sarota Works.

Store selling knives

While shopping there, these two Kutchi women stopped by for some shopping and I got to shoot them. :) It was nice to see the details of their clothes and jewelry from so up close. They were shy at first but then smiled and posed for their photos eventually.

Kutchi women in traditional Kutchi attire

More shopping needed to be done but first thing was first. That was to visit the Samaadhi of Jesal Jadeja and Sati Toral as they close in the afternoon so we headed straight to this place. It was interesting to visit this historical landmark and hear about the story of Jesal-Toral and how he (a dacoit) went to steal the Tori ghoDi (horse) at the home of Saansatiyaaji - husband of Jesal and ended up kidnapping Jesal. They spent the latter part of their lives here.

Main entrance to Jesal-Toral Samadhi

Right across from the samaadhi are little shops selling all kinds of things such as swords/knives, music, books and other collective items.

Knife & sword store

Next stop was at the temple of Ajepal (Ajay Pal) dada. City of Anjar is named after him and there's huge class of his devotees in and around Anjar.

Entrance of temple

Once we were done with roaming around Anjar for sight-seeing, it was time for shopping! First stop was at Ahemad's Handicrafts. Oh my goodness! this place has some of the most fantastic bedsheets and dress materials I've ever seen. Even the lungis were so beautiful, I couldn't help but buy three of them for myself. Now what I'm going to do with a lungi is something I still need to find an answer for. May be I'll get a top made or use it as a table-cloth or open it up and use it as a bedsheet. If you are in Anjar, don't forget to stop by here

Ahemad Handicrafts

and also at the garment shop of Katri Ismail Haji Abdul Latif. This place is THE PLACE for ready-made clothes, baandhani dress materials/saaris, purses, wall pieces, other handicrafts along with tops and many other similar things. Their gaji silk saari are totally drool-worthy and you wouldn't want to get out of there without some for yourself/your loved ones. :D

Garment store of Katri Ismail Haji Abdul Latif

After spending relatively less amount of time than what I wished, we were off to Mata No Madh. This is where they have Maa Ashapura temple. While driving to Mata Na Madh, we got to see the TV tower, which reminded me of the Space Needle tower of Seattle,

TV tower near Mankuwa

and the Lignite project plant of Gujarat Khanij Vikas Nigam Limited and a very beautiful sunset.


Once at Mata No Madh, we got some flowers and prasaad for the temple and headed inside the temple for darshan. As like most temples, this one doesn't allow photography inside also so I couldn't take photos of the outstanding intricate work on the inside of the temple. The visitor center personnel did let me take some photos from outside after I requested him numerous times.

Temple at Mata no Madh

If you're visiting this temple, make sure you are there to be part of the evening aarti at the temple. OH MY GOD! It is out of this world experience to be part of that event. I guarantee that it will be an experience that you have never had before. After the aarti, I just wish I had an opportunity to record even the audio of it but it practically transported me to this divine world and all I could feel was that every single hair on my body was standing up with happiness and feelings I can't describe. I'd go to this place just to be able to attend that aarti of Mataji. With the sounds of bells and nagara playing during the aarti, it was one of a kind experiences! It is said that when the district of Kutch had severe drought, this place was the only one where water remained and people came from faraway distances to drink water around here.

By nightfall, we arrived at Narayan Sarovar and had really nice, simple dinner of khichadi-kadhi at Shri Kutch Narayan Sarovar Annakshetra and Bhojanalay and spent the night at the dharmashala there.

More photos of Anjar & Mata Na Madh.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kutch Highlights - Day 1 - Gandhidham

Imagine that you've never seen this ad of Amitabh Bachchan or never heard him say all the things he says in the video about Kutch, including "aapne Kutch nahin dekha to kuchh nahin dekha.. kuchh din to gujaaro, Gujarat mein! hai! AYE KAKA!!" and moreover, you've never really heard of things to see/do in Kutch. The only thing you remember of Kutch is that Lagaan was shot there and read the horror news about a massive earthquake. Then you find out that you're getting to go there just the day before you are supposed to leave for Kutch.

This is exactly how I was the day before I left for my first visit to this magnificent land called Kutch. The original plan was to visit Rajasthan, possibly Jaipur, Udaipur, Ambaji and whatnot, but work took higher priority so I didn't have enough days left for the planned roadtrip. That's when plan B came to rescue - everyone else suggested we go to Kutch instead and my only requirement was that we pick a place none of us have seen before. This worked out pretty well because none of us had been to Kutch before, except for my youngest cousin. He said that he didn't mind visiting it again and got super excited about it so we were all set to go.

We started out from Bhavnagar after lunch on Monday and arrived at Gandhidham by night. For dinner we stopped by at this all vegetarian dhaba-like place called Shri Chamundakrupa Restaurant in Samkhiyali, Kutch. This is on highway and serves really nice all-you-can-eat thaali.

Shri Chamundakrupa Restaurant, Samkhiyali, Kutch

In Gandhidham, we stayed at this really nice place called Hotel Gokul. We had a booking at another hotel near by but that one got more people than they expected and gave away our rooms to other tourists before we got there. So instead of getting upset and nervous, we roamed around a little bit on the Gandhidham highway and found this really nice place called Hotel Gokul! It was better than the place we were supposed to stay at and had a wonderful time because we got two rooms connected from inside so all seven of us could stay together. I definitely recommend this place.

Hotel Gokul, Gandhidham

Next day, we had super delicious South Indian breakfast at Chawla Cafe in Gandhidham downtown and started driving towards Anjar by 10 AM.

Chawla Cafe, Downtown Gandhidham

Monday, March 28, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adalaj Stepwell (vaav)

Adalaj ni vaav (step-well) is a must-see place if you're in Ahmedabad area. I was fortunate to have visited the place during my last trip there. And whatever amount of time you will have there will not be enough. I know for sure that I'm going back there again. It's less than an hour worth of drive from Ahmedabad and if you leave early in the day, it might be half an hour or so. The place has nice market like thing to hangout at and spend the afternoon or even make a picnic like trip.

It was so much fun to shoot the photos as it was a clear bright day. In India, it's not so hard to find such a time but when you don't get to see that during winter season, it just makes you appreciate it so much.

At the step-well, they don't allow videography or flash photography. There's personnel there to enforce this. They might look like normal visitors but they're actually employees (of Archeological Survey of India? I'm guessing). They allow visitors to take pictures without the flash though so I was really thankful for that. I didn't have more time otherwise I'd have checked out the graves of the workers who created this vaav back in the day (A. D. 1498).

Here's a glimpse to the vaav and the history of it:

Details on the stairs

Details and damaged walls

Jharukho (balcony)

Multiple levels of the well

View from the bottom

Details on the walls

Pillar stacks and walls

Banyan tree (vadvaai & vad)

More photos of Adalaj Step-well.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Bollywood songs now at a new level!

This incident reminds me of those reader's digest jokes. This one happened last month while I was in India. My niece, nephew and younger cousins were all going crazy screaming and singing songs in the room next door. Overhearing them, I sat there wondering what food and what person they were talking about while singing "chhee laagi javaani..." (છી લાગી જવાની/will have to go poo/toilet). I chuckled and thought how kids sing craziest things as songs these days. I walk into the room only to find out that it actually is a Bollywood song and a super-hit one at that and goes like this: "my name is sheela, sheela ki jawaani". We laughed and laughed for the coming days singing this new song... "sheela ki jawaani" was never this famous before!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Maya, The Illusion (Album)

Happy new year 2011 to my blog and my readers! :)

One of the albums that I've been listening to lately. It's one of my favorite works of Rahul Sharma. It reminds me of of this other album lover's conversation quite a lot.

My other favorites from the collection are:
  • Permeability
  • Clairvoyance
  • Delusion
  • Embodiment
  • Leela - Nature Of Supreme Conciousness
  • The Veil

    You can listen to the tracks here.
  • Sunday, October 03, 2010

    What my friends are saying about Superstar Rajni:

    Endhiran: The Robot is out and here's what my friends are saying about The Storm called Rajnikant!

    After watching ROBOT I believe that only Rajnikanth can do this:

    Rajnikanth got his drivers license at the age of 16 Seconds.

    "The iconic Superstar contributes a certain magic that is hard to explain. It’s more like a mother’s touch to home cooking that simply makes you want more." - The Hindu

    The day after watching the movie, a friend: why does life feel so empty today..

    The day after watching the movie, another friend: was feeling a bit down, like after olympics is done the athletes feel a void. I was feeling a bit BEREFT after ENDHIRAN. but decided to pick myself up to enjoy the after festivities.

    Love love loved endhiran!!!! Perfect role(s) for Rajni! :-)

    In the beginning there was nothing…then Rajnikant kicked that nothing in the face and said “Get a job”. That is the story of the universe.

    Once Rajnikant wrote a cheque and... the bank bounced!

    Now in India only Rajnikant will vote. There will be many elections for that.

    Rajnikant is so fast he always comes yesterday.

    Intel's new processor with remarkable caption.............."RAJNI INSIDE..!":-D

    Breaking news: We are all safe....World is not going to end in 2012.....because, yesterday, Rajnikanth bought a laptop with 3 years of warranty!!!

    Rajni's high school homework is now known as.... Wikipedia !!!

    When Rajnikanth enters a room he doesn't turn the lights on, he turns the darkness off.

    Happy Rajnikant and wish you very happy new Rajnikant... From - Diwali & New Year ;-)

    An e-mail was sent from Pune to Mumbai...
    Rajnikanth stopped it in Lonavala.

    Rajnikant gets Madam Tussuad's wax statue at his home....

    (More to come as you can never say enough about Rajni, I guess...)

    PS. I am yet to watch the movie (can't believe it).

    2010-10-11: Btw, for the non-Tamil speaking folks, did you know the meaning of Enthiran? It is the same as yantra aka yenthra aka enthiran. ;) Thanks to a friend that took time to shed some light.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Meeting "old" people

    More like time-wise, than age-wise.

    This past week was very exciting but that was only inside me. Outside it was just a normal week, nothing extraordinary. But inside me, I was smiling, laughing, jumping with joy, and feeling so excited I couldn't contain it.

    I got in touch with some long lost classmates. Mind you, they aren't my best friends or anything but still, we shared a connection, we shared memories, we shared childhood, we shared the crazy teenage years. We went to school together (5th standard through 10th) and then college. Well, not really college but for us 11th-12th were sort of like college because we changed schools then. I got in touch with some of the brightest girls from my batch and some very sweet, others were just my classmates that I rarely interacted with, but that didn't matter. What made it so much fun was to be in touch with them 15 years later. Most of them are now happily married and settled, some doctors, some engineers, some pharmacists, and others I'm still finding out. It was like we were virtually in one room together and chatting away, sharing who was in touch with whom, who got married, who isn't, who has how many kids and what they do for living, where they live... too many OMG! OMG! moments.

    I also got in touch with someone who helped save my life once. It was blessing to get in touch with him after 18 years. It just made me feel so grateful once again, for this life and reminded me of the fact that in life, what people remember are things like your attitude, your behavior more than anything else. It is how your actions leave a mark behind for someone to change their lives forever. This person has touched the lives of my family members and I such a way that can not be described. I can never be more grateful to him than I am today and will always be for the rest of my life. I was so happy to talk to him and find out how he was doing, how happily settled he is with his family. God, please bless him and his family always.

    Why am I writing this? I had been thinking... you know how young kids are, remembering silly things and holding grudges and not letting go… oh wait, it's not just kids, practically anyone and everyone does that, but I used to be like that once and there were times when I didn't get along with a few of those classmates. When I got excited to meet them, I was reminded of those certain old times. It got me thinking, do I care to remember about how and what we argued about back then? Or do I just be happy to make new friends out of them? I think I choose the latter. :) I am so happy today to be back in touch with those people and wish I get to meet more childhood friends.

    Oh yeah, and I also got to reconnect with some old neighbors!! :D

    Friday, March 20, 2009


    Over the past couple of months, I've realized that I've learned so many positive things about India in last three years than I can ever imagine...

  • India is constantly improving and so are her people. That only makes me feel more proud.

    Clean Green
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • The malls are so much fun and some of them even better than the ones I've seen before in the US/Canada. The best part is, you can get all decked up in jewelry and a glittery saari and go to the mall without being stared at! ;)

    Shopping mall
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • When it comes to jewelry and clothes, no other country/place can beat India.

    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • When it comes to food, no other country/place can beat India.

    fafda & chatney
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • If you feel like eating things like "paapDi no loT" you don't have to wait till mom or the aunty next door makes it, you can just stroll down to "Saasumaa Nu Khichu" and grab a bowl-to-go with a spoon and toppings that make it only more delicious.

    "Saasuma nu khichu" stall
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • The recycling process has started! There are garbage cans almost everywhere. (Oh how happy I was to see this) Way to go, India!!!

    Recycle bin
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That people here are ever adjusting, to everything in life.

    Sharing the ride
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That people here don't get annoyed with traffic jams.

    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That people here still work very hard to earn a living.

    At Chauki Dhaani
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That people here do things together regardless of what age they are.

    Masala soda time at Boss Coldrinks
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That temples make the best places to visit.

    Ma Bahuchara ji temple
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That chai/cha/tea makes the best drink ever.

    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That our traditions and cultural roots are very deep!

    Restaurant at Chauki Dhaani
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That's there's still space and time for a lot of improvement. ;-)

    Cheej burger
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • That rules/laws are created to be broken. :D

    Jade Blue - photography prohibited!
    Originally uploaded by kananj

  • Last but not least, I have realized what India truly is only after being away from Her. Jai Hind!
    janani janmabhoomishcha swargaadapi gariyasi...

    Originally uploaded by kananj

    More India 2009 Photos
  • Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    An Ideal Uttarayan... definitely not the one where I sit at the desk and blog about it. :P *sigh*

    It would have to be an uttarayan in Ahmedabad!

    Darshit's colorful uttarayan post has some awesome photos, which took me back to Ahmedabad.

    I remember as a kid, we would start all the preparations long before uttarayan day came. Buying all kinds of good kites, good strings on firki, pilla (string wrapped around in a little round ball shape); to make "patang no maanjo" at home with glass and colors was something we did ever year - Papu, GKaka, RFuva, all of us kids and the uncles living next door along with the neighborhood kids. Every couple of years, SKaka would visit India and the ardent kite-flying fan that he is, he'd make sure he was there on Jan 14th so that made the festival even more happy and exciting with more family members and more cousins.

    Sheth Mangaldas Girdhardas Memorial Hall

    During these days, the ladies of the family would be busy making all kinds of sweet snacks like tal-ni-chikki, mamra-na-laadu, sing-ni-chikki, daaLiya-na-laadu, etc. Ba would also put little coins inside the laadu for gupt-daan to little kids roaming on the streets. Us kids loved that the most, to get a 10 paisa or 5 paisa coins in laadu was like a real special treat and we'd jump up and down to find such a laadu from a huge pile of laadus. To have sherdi (sugarcane) and aambla (gooseberries) for breakfast was the usual thing that I adored the most and looked forward to so much. I enjoyed peeling off the outer sides of sherdi with teeth and enjoying them till the whole 4-5 feet sherdi was gone. Sometimes we'd get spoiled by mom and aunts as they'd cut the sherdi with suDi (a sort of cutter) for us and we just get to chew on to it until the sweet juice drained in our mouths. To sit on the floor bundled up in a sweater and warm woolen hat, making little holes on kite with agarbatti, tying the kinna or the strings to kites in the right place and making sure the little knot was made at the right spot was an important skill to have and the men of the house taught them to us kids so we had literally mastered that art. It was so much fun and so very exciting because we'd compete to see which of us kids made maximum kites ready. Ba would make some rice with a lot of water so it's almost like glue so that we can use it to plaster up the kites to make them more sturdy and stronger. The rice glue was applied on torn patang's thin papers that were precut in square or rectangle shapes and applied on the sides of kites to ensure the kites would be able to handle heavy winds while they were up in the sky. The soft rice glue was better than the brown tape (gundar patti), because the tape actually made kites much heavier and made them tear apart faster. All of this was done days before uttarayan so that the kites are ready to be flown during the uttarayan days; wasting a moment of daytime for things like these was considered bad as every moment of the day was to be spent enjoying flying the kites on the terrace.

    The hope was that on the day before uttarayan and day of uttarayan along with vaasi-uttarayan (the day after) the Wind Gods would have mercy and blow like crazy so that we won't have to give too many "thumka" to the kites in order for them to get up in the sky. So often, Papu and Kaka would have a pair of strings connected to the patang instead of one just so that it can handle the heavy winds and it can last longer than usual. To run after a loose patang was a strict no-no as it could endanger you or injure you in various ways so there was always more than enough supply of kites and firki for everyone. Still once in a while we enjoyed running after a kite that was just passing by our terrace. The trees would sometimes catch them and then to get them off a tree was real pain and disappointing. Sometimes trying to get them out of a tree caused injuries too so we were not to do that.

    Building next door & kites in the sky

    I got to learn the techniques of flying the kite right way with least amount of damage to our kites and hands from Papu. He'd teach the tricks to all of us kids and show us how it was done. Not everyone was keen except for a few of us who actually ended up flying our own kites later on when we were teenagers. The elders would give us the kites to hold once they were high above in the sky and steady for us to hold on. And often, it was so hard to see our own kite as it usually was much higher above than where the string actually was. The art of holding the string of a flying kite without hurting ourselves or getting cuts on the fingers was also important. Some of us had the brown tape wrapped around our fingers and the others with leather strap things that they custom made for kite flying, which would prevent the cuts.

    We would get super happy when one of the grown ups would let us attach an extra-long puchhada (tail) to one of the kites. The tails were usually made from old newspapers cut into long stripes and the stripes were attached with rice glue. Those tailed kites looked so beautiful, sometimes like a face with two eyes and a nose and a tail on the bottom. The tailed kites didn't really last longer as the tail would make it more heavy and there was the risk of the tail getting entangled with the string.

    The terrace being one for the whole apartment building made the whole experience even more fun. We all had sort of a custom that we don't cut each others' kites and if by mistake the pech had happened the two people holding the strings would switch places to untangle the pech. Best part was that at any given time there were at least five to six kites flying from our terrace and when one of ours got cut by some other kite, the other kite-flyers on our terrace went to take a revenge. It was sort of a silly rivalry, but it brought a sense on unity in all of us. As the day passed, the ladies would show up on the terrace wrapped up in shawls and scarves with more food for everyone, and thaaLi-velaN (used for beating and making noise when we cut someone's kite).

    Eventually, as we grew up the custom of playing loud filmi songs became the tradition, which I didn't enjoy much as it defeated the purpose of screaming our heads off when a kite was cut. The whole day would pass like this and then the ladies would be shouting for us to come down as it was much after sunset; Eventually we'd give in to go grab some food before we come back again at night to put up some tukkal (a lit candle in a paper jar sort of thing) on a kite and fly it again. One would get to see so many of them around, sometimes seven or more on one string, which were probably flying on one big kite (dhaal) or two kites at the same time. Tukkal were a lot of fun to watch and eventually the candle burns out and the kites are brought down, until the next morning, when we are up again flying more kites.

    Those were the uttarayans in Ahmedabad! Oh so fun, so exciting and full of colors and life!

    The times have changed significantly and so have the uttarayans in Ahmedabad but it still remains a fun place to be in during this festival and more. I leave you all with some Uttarayan time photos of Ahmedabad from my collection. They're not as great as Darshit's but they do show different side of Ahmedabad during these days.

    Happy Uttarayan everyone!

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    Diwali Wishes for All

    Here is a wish for God to bless:
    Abundance of love, joy, and happiness,
    Peace for the whole world, it is a mess!
    Playing for kids with toys that cost less,
    Youthful thinking, living life with finesse.

    Diwali is here and I must confess
    Indian Diwali are world's best!!!
    What fun is it to work today with recess?
    All I want to do is wear an expensive dress,
    Look pretty, and eat good food in excess... ;)
    I wish you all that and even more this Diwali, oh yes!


    Happy Diwali & Happy New Year!

    Best wishes,

    October 28, 2008

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    How to Make Mumbai Airports Nicer?

    Here's my free advice to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport officials to whom it may concern:
    1. Please put the baggage carrying carts in a vending machine where people pay money to get a cart. Have those vending machines on every block of the airport.

    2. Either merge the two airports or don't give passengers flights that arrive at one and depart at the other within 5 hours or less.

    3. Fire those employees who have invented the modern panchaayat at the airport to chat for hours at like 2 AM in the morning when passengers are frantically asking around for crucial information affecting their flight schedules.

    4. Educate the information booth employees to know what the flight schedules are, even better is to fire them and put self help LCD screens instead of those time wasters who are good for nothing and will wave their hand in some random direction saying "I don't know" when passengers ask them for small information such as where is the counter for a certain airline.

    5. There's construction all over the place, which I'm really happy about because things can only get better from here. High hopes? I dunno. Any how, while you're at it, put some of those LCD screens at every gate so that passengers know where their next flight departs from.

    6. A piece of 2x2 sq ft paper stuck on a counter by scotch-tape/cello-tape with airlines name hand written on there does not count as an airline counter. Please, spend some money to get the airlines' names up so that people who walk from 15-20 ft away can see the counter they're looking for. Sheesh!

    7. Either merge Jet airways and Air India or merge their flights going from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. What's with the ridiculous flight schedule that says all the Jet airways and all the Air India flights between these two cities would depart from the domestic airport except for the very first flight of the day by Air India - the one in early morning departs from International airport. I do understand that Air India guys are trying to be more considerate to the passengers by having them not change the airports but those id10ts at the door send everyone to domestic airport without looking at the airlines they've tickets for. And if you don't plan to do anything about this, at least put up those LCD screens I mentioned that say what airport and terminal the flights depart from. God!

    8. Please please please start fining heavily to the passengers that remove any baggage that does not belong to them from the baggage claim area and put it aside in a corner. If you didn't realize, this wastes very valuable time of the affected passengers and thus in turn making them miss their next flight.

    9. What's with the labelling and stamping of each security scanned baggage? I mean come on, where did you get that from? Sounds very lame practice and to be honest, no one even checks that except for the guys who put it on. FYI, this is a big time waster.

    10. Control your hyper employees who start acting like high-class coolies for the passengers who just got off their flights. Some passengers prefer to spend a little extra money to buy their spinner baggage and don't really need your help to push their baggage; you guys are not realizing how miserable you're making the already tired and thoroughly annoyed passengers for some lousy amount of money. Did I already say this? Yeah, putting the carts in vending machine will solve this as the airport will make the much needed money and the passengers won't have to deal with the stalker airport coolies.

    Thanks for reading. Hope this list would help make better plans for your future projects. Hopefully, I will be able to break my promise to avoid these airports at any cost in future.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Road Adventures in India

    January 25, 2008

    As I look forward to my next India trip, I couldn't help remember my last one of early 2006 and the roadside adventures that I got to experience back then. And on top of that, after I read Aspi's The great Indian license trick, I just had to write this up!

    Plane close up
    Originally uploaded by kananj

    It started from the airport. Fortunately, the custom folks didn't even look at me or my baggage more than a glimpse so I was very pleasantly surprised and still thank God for none of those hassles that I have heard horrid stories about.

    Now since we had to switch the airports at Mumbai from international to domestic, we had to take the shuttle bus. So this driver or the shuttle bus helper guy shows up, and even before I say anything and without asking me, he starts picking up my baggage from carts and starts loading it on the bus baggage storage area, so I just thought he was being nice (yeah right!). After he loads up all the baggage, he gives me a begging face look and asks me for some money. I said I don't have anything and that since I didn't ask him for any help in the first place, I didn't owe him anything. He kept going on about it... and to be honest, I didn't keep anything but a twenty dollar bill with me, which I didn't want to give for some guy who volunteers to act like a coolie. So I told him looking into his eyes that I did not have anything for him and that he stop asking for the money. Finally, I ended up giving him some chocolates and candies that I had in my purse, as that was the only thing I could give but that experience taught me one thing - as soon as these guys see it is female passengers from the US, they try to act smart and make money off of us. I don't like people who cheat like that to make money off of innocent travelers. Beware of these *nice* guys.

    Traffic at Tran darwaja
    Originally uploaded by kananj

    Another one was driving around with my uncle in Ahmedabad. So his car is an early 90s make; some of them don't have the seat belts and the drivers are supposed to carry around this proof of what year the model is in car so they can prove that their car is excused from having no belts. That evening we were getting late to reach for a dinner and this cop pulls us over. My uncle doesn't have the little piece of paper that this police officer needs, so he starts talking about a Rs. 100 ticket for him, but my uncle who is a professor in a reputed school in the city, starts apologizing and telling him where he teaches and what, etc. And then the officer sees rest of us in the car and thinks over and finally lets uncle go with a warning. I was pleasantly surprised we didn't even bribe him and he let us go. Key to not get a ticket, have a whole bunch of innocent looking passengers in car, tell them how big your workplace is and finally... apologize. Tada! no ticket for you.

    Yet another incident happened in Ahmedabad, it was a friend of mine who was driving me around and we almost ran a red light at a big intersection at rush hour. And how can a cop miss that who's standing like right in our faces? He came right up to us and pulled us over. My friend admitted she hadn't seen the red light and apologized and promised it won't happen again. He warned and let us go without the ticket. :) yoo hoo! more money for shopping. ;)

    Btw, did you know, the seat-belt requirement is only for the driver, not the front seat passenger! :D I still wonder why... if you know the answer, do let me know.

    This one takes the cake. It happened in Rajkot. So my cousin, who also happens to be a professor in a reputed college in the city, was driving us to a book store which is quite far from home. And since mom and I had to go shopping afterwards, he said he will give us both a ride on his scooter. In hurry, he forgot to remove his hat and wear a helmet instead. So right in middle of an extremely crowded intersection, a cop comes running in the middle where we are trying to balance the two-wheeler with three of us adults' weight and such slow speed, or rather no speed at all. The cop removes the scooter keys and runs back to the curbside in corner. So we have come to a complete stop in middle of jam packed intersection. Imagine the scene... traffic is already bad and there is a scooter with three adults on and not moving at all. Hahahaha! For a moment, I didn't even realize what had happened as I was too busy watching the traffic. I mean come on, it's so much fun to watch that kind of traffic - that too from being in middle of it - when the only kind of traffic you get to see on daily basis is bumper to bumper cars on a five-lane freeway. In any case, eventually I realized we had come to complete stop because my cousin started getting very upset at what had just happened. It's humiliating to have been stopped by a cop in middle of cross roads, that too if you're a professor! I was feeling bad and funny at the same time. Finally, another cop, who wasn't blowing his top, came back with the keys realizing that there was no way we could pull over on the side without the key. And we moved on the side. My cousin was too busy getting upset with the polite officer about what the other officer just did (that is to remove the keys like that). He said they do this because a lot of people don't even stop and run away from such crowded intersections so they started this new tradition of removing the keys to keep crazy drivers from running away! LOL I like that idea... wish they tried it some time here in the US. I think the cop will get a ticket for doing that. ;) The most fun part now - so the nicer cop says he must write a ticket as we were riding three adults, which for some reasons is illegal? (not sure whether that's true at all as I saw four adults on a motorbike in Ahmedabad just a couple of days back before this happened) and that the driver isn't wearing a helmet. So we had to pay the fine for a ticket. Then he asks us whether we were going to be driving around like that for more time and when we said yes, he told us he will write us a paper ticket so that next time around when a cop stops us, we can just show that to them and they won't give us another ticket. Hahahaha! Apparently, the paper ticket costs Rs. 100 and non-paper ticket is Rs. 50. We took the paper ticket paid off the fine and went about our shopping trip. When I told this story to a friend of mine in US, she told me about how another friend of hers got two tickets within less than a few minutes for not stopping at two consecutive stop signs in a residential area.

    And a couple of more photos to add to the series!

    In India, pedestrians are not the only ones who have a right of way.

    Cows crossing the road
    Originally uploaded by kananj

    Traffic goes which way again?

    Driving from Paravadi to Damnagar
    Originally uploaded by kananj

    Were these adventures enjoyable? You bet!

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Do you want to go out and play?

    I so want to...

    You know what I just realized? In India, a kid almost never gets bored. Why? Because we have games/sports that need almost no expenditure. And while I was reading some of the comments on my previous posts, I was reminded of them - the amateur sports that I grew up playing with the neighborhood kids/friends/cousins. My memory of me playing them is good but the rules I've forgotten for some. Here's my best try to recall them.

    My lovely readers, I present to you the amateur sports I grew up playing. As you'll notice, a lot of these have Gujarati names and that's because that's what we'd call them.

    Note: All Gujarati words are in italics.

    dablaa ice-pice: Or is it I-spies? Or I-spice? I don't know. That's what we called it, without actually knowing the reason behind it. In any case, this one requires any old dabloo (tin-can) and a whole bunch of players. I think this one isn't that famous in charotar area because I usually played this with my cousins when I went to Bhavnagar for holidays. So speaking of the rules, they're similar to hide-n-seek and some more; once we had the players and equipment ready, we would gather up in the large front yard or the little smaller backyard. A circle was drawn in the middle of the field that had radius of a person's foot. One person (we'll call him person A) was appointed as the finder, whose daav (turn) it was to find everyone who's hidden - that is all other players. One of the other players would throw the dabloo far away and person A was supposed to go collect it and place it back in the circle. Until then all other players went in hiding. Then it was person A's turn to go look for all these people. If person A saw anyone (say person B), he/she would run back to the dabloo and kick it away from the circle screaming "dablaa ice-pice". Now it would be person B's daav (turn). If any of the other players can sneak up to the dabloo while player A is away from the dabloo, then they come and kick it screaming "dablaa ice-pice". Person A would take the turn again in that case. This exhausting fun game continues for hours.

    kho-kho: This one has two versions - beThi (sitting) kho & ubhi (standing) kho.

    1. beThi kho:
    2. This one needs about ten or so players. The official rules say there must be 12 players but I think a few less are fine too. Two of these players stand at the end of an invisible line and rest of them sit down facing alternate direction in between. The ones sitting down sit in the ready-to-get-up-and-run pose. One of the standing players (player A) begins chasing towards other standing player (player B) to tag him/her. Player A can only travel clock-wise and can not pass from in between the sitting players, whereas player B can travel in any direction but of course it must be around the sitting players, and not like 10 ft away from where everyone is sitting down. The trick is, player A can not cross in between the sitting players but can give a "kho" to a person facing the same direction as player A. Since "kho" is given to a person from their back so now the player who received kho (player C) gets up (player A sits in their spot facing the same direction) and chases player B to tag him/her. There is no rules on how soon person C can give a kho to next player so it's up to them to decide. So the game actually tests the players ability of how soon can they can get away without being tagged for the longest time. We used to play the modified version of the game so we didn't have two teams but just one. When a player gets tagged, he/she will take up the chaser role and the tagger will become the future taggie.

    3. ubhi kho:
    4. This one has almost similar concept as the beThi kho, except for the players stand in a big circle facing alternate sides and the chaser is either trapped inside or outside this circle during their turn until they give kho to a player from their back. The taggie can run around almost everywhere within the circle and near the perimeter of the circle without being caught.

    langDi or langaDi: This actually means "one legged". More famous during the rainy seasons mostly as the ground would be cool and wet; in summers we avoided it mostly as the dirt would be burning hot as we played this one barefoot. For this one we draw rectangles on ground with a stick or piece of stone about 2x4 ft stacked so that the 4ft side of rectangles touched one another. There would be about 8 to 10 of these rectangles depending upon how much space we had available where we were playing and then at one end of it was a huge round circle. The other end, we will call it the "begin" area. While traveling in the rectangles, each player can only step in it once and with just one foot so they hop from one end of the rectangles to the big circle hopping on one foot. Players can use both feet in the big circle. There was a dice like piece that each of us made with a broken tile or a flat piece of rock. We used to call them kukari or kuki. All the players come up with a sequence of how they will play. e.g. Players A B and C would decide that they will play in order C, A, and B so then person C takes first turn. (There are ways to determine this as well, but we will talk about it later). So now it is the turn of person C. He/she stands at the "begin" area and throws his/her kukari in the nearest first rectangle. After they do this, they skip stepping into that first rectangle and travel all the way up to the circle. While coming back, they stop in rectangle 2 and pick up their kukari and step out with two feet. As long as they completed this successfully, without losing balance and without throwing the kukari outside the circle, they get to go to next rectangle. Thus, they try to complete all of the rectangles and eventually the big circle as well. Once they finish them all, they turn their back towards the drawn area and throw their kukari with eyes closed on it. Wherever it lands, if within any rectangle then that becomes their home. Meaning next time around they are allowed to step two feet in that rectangle. If it lands in the big circle, they have a choice of what rectangle to pick, you can not pick the circle as your home as it is universal home. Once they have picked the home, they get to decide whether they will allow guests to step single foot, both feet or none in their home. The others have to follow these rules, if they don't then they lose turn. If the kukari goes out of the boundaries or the player loses balance, they lose their turn. There are a lot of variations of this game. One of them being how it is drawn on the ground and the other being how the players bring the kukari back to the "begin" area.

    nadi ke parvat: The exact translation is "river or mountain". This was again one of those games that I played a lot more with my cousins as our grandparents home had a huge yard and lot of steps/oTalaa around. I don't know what oTalaa are in English but it's a raised platform like area touching a house, about one or two feet high. So for this one, one player would take a turn (player A) and then everyone would stand around player A (not within their reach, of course) and ask "nadi ke parvat?" Once player A declares whether they want nadi (river) or parvat (mountain) they would get to stand on either the ground (being the river) if they asked for nadi or on the platform areas (being the mountains) if they asked for parvat. The goal of other players (player B) is to try to step in the area where player A is standing and if player A tags them while they're in that designated area, that player B loses. Player B takes their turn next.

    pakaD daav: This is the typical game of tag. The more players the better and the bigger the field the more fun the game!

    sangeet khurshi: This is our traditional musical chairs. Let me know if anyone wants to know more about this one. I think almost everyone knows how this is played.

    satoDi: This is the game they show Aishwarya Rai playing in song "man mohini" of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and all of them playing in milan abhi aadha adhoora hai of Vivah (@ 1:45 mins). There are two teams with equal number of members. Seven round flat pieces of wood or rock are needed. These could be bought out in the stores as well as made at home from old broken tiles or stone pieces. Also, a ball is needed; an old tennis ball, a cricket ball or any other ball that can bounce and dismount the seven flat pieces would do. Be sure to choose the right kind of ball as it's also thrown at the team members. :P So to begin the game, the seven flat pieces are orderly stacked (smallest on top) in the center of the grounds and a circle is drawn around it (about the size of one foot diameter). Then there is a line drawn about 8 to 10 ft away from it. Say team A takes turn to throw the ball at satoDi. One team A member will stand behind the line and throw the ball towards the satoDi to make the stacked pieces fall apart. As soon as at least one of them gets thrown away from the stack, the game has begun. Team A runs away from the ball to try and re-stack the seven pieces back in the exact same order they were placed before. The goal of Team B members is to throw the ball at eachother while hitting one of the team A members with the ball before the satoDi is stacked back to normal position. Whoever finishes first, wins the game. Once all the pieces of satoDi are placed back in a nice pile, one of the team A member screams "SATODI" to let everyone know they've managed to meet their goal. If team B member manages to tag any team A member, they scream "OUT". That's when the game ends. The winner gets to throw the ball at satoDi in next round.

    thappo: This is one silly old hide & seek game. The only difference was, we would draw a big circle on some wall with a chalk or a piece of orange brick or a piece of black coal at about 5 ft height from the ground where the person whose turn it was (person A) to shut their eyes would rest their head and hide their eyes behind their palms. This made sure they weren't peeking out to watch where everyone's hiding. They were usually forced to count up to 50 or 100 before they could open their eyes. Once they found someone, they'd rush back to the circle on wall and slap their hand on it screaming "thappo". If some other player sneaked out before person A could see them, they'd run to the circle to do the same before person A got there. In the latter case, it person A would yet again take turn to shut their eyes and recount until everyone hid again, otherwise whoever they found would take the turn.

    zoo: The silliest game we ever played and the most fun! We used to play this one in our extra wide living room that was somewhere around 20x20 ft size. But you can play this one practically roomy place with clear ground. A wide belt is drawn on the ground about the size of 5 ft wide to 20 ft long. The player taking their turn (player A) stands within this belt. All the other players stand on one side of the belt and their job is to cross the belt without getting tagged by player A. Every other player must make at least one round trip on the other side of the belt (side B) and back (side A). While other players are on side B, player A can even tag them if they're within their hands' reach or while they're crossing the belt. So then what's the "zoo"? Well, that's the sound other players make while crossing the belt. I think that has been in place to draw attention of player A that there's a player crossing. This gets most fun when only one player is left on side A who still needs to cross over and come back and player A won't let go but face them at all times. The game can go on for hours.

    gilli DanDaa: I didn't really play this much as it wasn't too famous around the neighborhood, but do know how to make the gilli and DanDaa and how to play.

    gulel: This is our typical game of slingshot. While playing this one, better make sure the neighborhood uncles and aunties are not watching when the flying objects go into their glass windows or car windshields. ;)

    I think for the indoor/sitting down games of paanchika, chopaaT, patta, and other similar games there would have to be a separate post some day.

    So which one of these you're most likely to play? Or played? Do share.

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Offensive or Effective?

    Photo: In Vogue India magazine, an old woman missing her upper front teeth holds a child in rumpled clothes — who is wearing a Fendi bib, which costs about $100.

    Images Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

    This one along with more such photos have created a havoc among certain Indians. And I can see why. It is because people get offended when the attention is brought to something that they don't have. Forget what ALL they have, as soon as the topic turns to something a person doesn't have, they are going to feel hurt and won't be pleased regardless of how much explanation you give or excuses you make. That's exactly what Vogue has done here. They went to sell of more-affordable-fashion but in turn displayed it in a very poor manner. They ended up pointing finger at the poverty of India.

    Is this the way to market new fashion? I don't think so. I only have one question for Priya Tanna who has a lot of justification for these distasteful photos: "Just what were you thinking?"

    Here's what Ms. Tanna has to say in the article:

    Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s message to critics of the August shoot: “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

    “You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

    Nearly half of India’s population — about 456 million people — live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank figures released last week.

    Source - The New York Times

    Well, Ms. Tanna, I'm sorry to say the "power of fashion" just went out, and the quality of your magazine along with your reputation has just downgraded to rock bottom with this edition.

    Years ago, I used to dislike these brand names for the same reason that they are abusive towards the poor and needy, but eventually I became more forgiving towards them. Now after reading this article I find them just plain disgusting. I have no respect for them.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Ten Things I like about "Chak De! India" & More

    Here goes:

    1. Kabir Khan's character and acting. SRK truly rocks! Loved his unshaven look too. ;)
    2. The lessons that the 16 girls' characters teach us - anger hurts you more than anyone else; you can come from not knowing English at all and still learn it and succeed in life; you can love your husband and family but don't have to give up your dreams for them; being egoist isn't worth it, and that if you're talented, people will learn to respect you if not right away over time; respect can not be snatched but earned; it is inappropriate to mix professional and personal life; jealousy brings you down; sulking has no benefits; it is better to not marry than to marry someone who doesn't respect you.
    3. The lesson the movie teaches us: anekta mein ekta (unity in diversity) - that no matter how different we are in looks, religion, in the way we think, the language we speak, when we are together we can make a difference, this has a bigger meaning if we want to look at it that way - a message for world peace.
    4. That saari is the most beautiful garment a woman can wear.
    5. If someone does something you don't agree with or don't approve of, there could be reasons behind it. Don't judge anyone to soon. Don't say mean things to anyone. You might regret it later on.
    6. That sports are not a bad thing. Of course, they shouldn't and don't replace education, but they make a great extracurricular activity and if you see talent in your kids, encourage them to pursue it.
    7. Kabir Khan's dialog "aaj ek firangi ko tiranga lehraate dekh raha hoon".
    8. Sukhlalji's character and acting. All through out the film, I was reminded of the 'HUM JEET GAYE!! HUM JEET GAY!!" screams by Ram Singh of Lagaan. And his "rakshason ki sena" dialog about the Hockey team is hilarious. Also, how Bindia confidently tells him they will come home winners, and the way they miss the homemade food he makes. Fantastic!
    9. My other favorites are Soimoi's affirmative "ho" dialogs, Balbir's anger towards everything, Vidya's passion for hockey, Komal & Preeti's fights, Bindia's pride, Rani's encouragement towads Soimoi.
    10. The fight scene at McDonald's. There's more to be said about this last one.

    After I read about moments in filmi feminism (the first installment in an occasional series): the restaurant brawl in Chak De! India
    and 16 Angry Women today, I had to write this post.

    And while I was reading more about this film and this particular scene, I found out that this incident actually happened in real life and the scene was inspired from that:
    The scene where they start fighting, happened to us when we were returning from a game in Bangalore, and some boys started passing comments...

    To be honest, I find this scene so much more fun to watch than inappropriate for the message it might convey about violence, "not cleaning up after yourselves", "making a mess in someone else's place". It is because it shows triumph, triumph of women over men, that women or not any less than men, that they are not mere objects of entertainment, and that men making lewd remarks towards them should be responded back royally. This scene is an inspiration for women who feel they can not voice their feelings, their humiliation, the disrespect shown to them by those men who think anything goes when it comes to women of my country, who think of women to be lower than themselves, who have no respect for women.

    One film where I remember I got really upset while watching was Lajja (2001). I hated some of the scenes in the film but at the end, I realized that it was actually the bitter truth of how women are treated in our society. Also, having a first hand experience of this harassment on trains, on buses, in theaters, in schools, in colleges and practically everywhere we go, every time some woman gives back what these men actually deserve, it gives me a sense of gratification. Sort of happiness that one can never imagine unless they experience it themselves. I say more power to these women!

    I felt blessed the day I set my foot in the US. Here there were no boys winking at me while I walked back after school, no boys to ask me out the second time after I refused for the first time, no men staring at me on buses and trains while I traveled, no boys chasing me on their scooters while I rode my bike from that market, no men sitting on their parked vehicles talking about me and laughing while I crossed the road, no strangers asking the kiddie-me to sit in their laps on buses so they can make an attempt to touch me in wrong places, no men to stalk me up to my home, no men to make harassing phone calls to my neighbors or asking their friends to try and get to me. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was able to go out with an all girls group and not be harassed at all even if it was 11 o'clock in the night.

    So when I look at these 16 girls beat up those &*%^&^*^$*&^ men, I wanna go "yayyy! go for it girls". My three cheers to you.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Happy Independence Day!

    This is one song that has an ability to make my eyes filed with tears and make the hairs on my body stand up.

    जय हिंद!

    Video courtesy: Bharatbala Productions

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Gold medal 1 and counting...

    By now the whole world knows that India has, at last, won the very first ever gold medal in the Olympics, thanks to Abhinav Bindra. Hats off to the guy for all the hard work and to his parents for supporting him to achieve this goal! It's fantastic news. Congratulations to Abhinav & India.

    While the billion plus of us Indians are getting joyful with tears in our eyes and celebrating this achievement, some of us also feel helpless, shameful, angry, upset, ... (list continues) for not being able to make it to the top ten list despite being the second largest populated country in the world.

    Question is: Why do we feel the need to show off without putting any efforts? I'm not talking about the people who've already made it there and are participating... they have actually worked very hard to get there and they should be very proud of that. I'm talking about the kind who sit in front of TV, make wisecracks about others but refuse to move their rears. When will these people learn? Don't they realize that what sowed is what will be reaped? And if nothing is sowed, there won't be anything to reap. And when they are argued with, they blame the country and everyone else but themselves. Why is it like that?

    Another thing I couldn't help notice is that Mr. Bindra comes from an extremely rich family and has studied in the USA. Why does it take a freaking rich father to achieve something so grand? I do not think India has anything to be ashamed of with the fact that this was the first and only gold medal. The progress by Indians have been made in so many significant and variety of fields and it's only growing strong by leaps and bounds. Olympics is not the end of the world. And for those of us who feel it is, are we putting in enough effort for it? I highly doubt it. It is true that we are learning from our mistakes and avoiding the ones we are aware of. We are also learning from observing others and the creative minds and hard work are helping take things to next level. While all of this progress is going on constantly, there are challenges, higher than the highest mountains we have ever seen. Challenges to earn the daily basic needs for us, for people around us. Challenges that keep us from moving further in our paths. We will only be able to continue this if we have good support in every area of the society starting from the lowest level to the top most. The awareness needs to be created at every single level. The carelessness would need to go away gradually and it is possible. When everyone's needs are fulfilled and they feel satisfied with what they are receiving, and they know they are deserving, they will get more motivated to do more of what they're good at. Parents need to start encouraging their talented children to master the areas they have an aptitude for. Sports and other extra-curricular activities are not something derogatory and something that replaces education. These two can coexist and progress can be made. These changes need to start from ourselves and then move to people around us. May India and Indians keep progressing in all fields and God give us courage and strength to change with time.

    Jai Hind!