A little less lazy

Two things, laziness and the fear of making the wrong decision, have left me with nothing to show for all my brilliant ideas and capabilities. If you think this is about unrealistic goals a woman (like me) might set, e.g. losing 10 pounds by going on a raw vegan juice diet or having the shoe closet perennially organized, then you are mistaken. I won’t deny it, I did at one point think I was super woman, but with old age came the realization that being ordinary, odd and ignorant can be really fun. I no longer pretend I know who Steven Spielberg is.

So if everything on my list is something I love doing, what’s stopping me? Yesterday, was significant because I got to cross out an item on my list :)

To-do item: Visit Coit Tower

Reason for procrastination: Must learn photography to be able to take good pictures.

Outcome: Beautiful walk to the tower ending in a well deserved fried chicken sandwich @ The Naked Lunch. Overexposed and blurry pictures pictures taken in Manual mode and some decent pictures taken in Auto mode.

IMG_2628IMG_2631IMG_2640IMG_2642IMG_2647IMG_2651IMG_2653IMG_2655IMG_2665IMG_2674IMG_2680IMG_2695IMG_2698

Next to-do item: Complete Machine Learning assignments on coursera. Fingers crossed!

London Vs New York – an Indian perspective

A careless, opinionated and utterly pointless comparison of the two cities !

The Queen and Politeness

If you have a queen, you have got to learn to bow ;-) Londoners are generally very polite and well mannered. They can hate you and still manage to be polite. A New Yorker would have a hard time doing so. They (New Yorkers) sway between nice and friendly to loud and annoying with politeness lost somewhere in between.

Till today, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II distributes honorific titles like Sir or Knight which the English would die for (quite literally). In America everyone is a Sir, and the only title of any importance are Millionaires and Billionaires which again most New Yorkers would die for – quite literally.

Power of the wheel

If you’re from India you know the law of the road. The more wheels on your vehicle the more powerful you are. Walking on streets / footpaths is completely at your own risk and isn’t recommended for the week hearted.

At heart, the New York traffic scene isn’t quite different from India except that the madness is toned down a bit. New Yorker’s have little patience for anyone obstructing their way and would prefer if walking on streets was illegal.

Now, Londoner’s love to walk and secretly envy cyclists. Disrespecting a person on foot would clearly indicate you are not a Londoner and a menace to the city.

Subways and Tubes

When compared against each other, the London Tube is a zillion times cleaner. It looks clean, it smells clean, and it IS clean. Except that they seem to spend so much time cleaning it, that its always under maintenance!

The New York Subway not only looks like a coal mine but also feels like one. On the bright side its always up, even past 1 o’clock at night, after the London Tube had decided to nap.

Supermarkets and cheese

Supermarkets in London are easy to find. Huge supermarket chains have mini versions of their store spread out across the heart of The City. Do not be fooled, real-estate in London is as outrageously priced as New York. Good food (a synonym which Europeans use for their cuisine) is cheap.

Manhattan has no supermarkets. Enough said. European food is either costly or badly made depending on where you ate it.

Indian Food

Indian Food is everywhere in London. In the supermarkets, in the restaurants, on the television BUT all of it is crap. How did Indian food go so wrong in a country that came to India for its spices !?

Indian food in New York is a dream. Its easily accessible, cheap and a land where “Indian” means “from India” and not the Indian Subcontinent ;)

GAP, Ted Baker & Skin

The dressing in London is smart. People quite rightly wear clothes that make them look attractive. The dressing in New York is casual. People quite rightly wear clothes that make them feel comfortable.

It is a common perception that women in the USA are fatter than their European counterparts, but the ones in Manhattan are definitely not. Women of both cities seem to be doing pretty well on the diet front. Sadly the same can’t be said of the men. Most men in London are athletic and dressed to impress, most men in New York.. oh well.

Also, women in London are a lot more conservative in their dressing showing a lot less skin than their New York counterparts. They even hide their toes with open footwear being quite uncommon. (Given the weather, what choice does one have?)

Which brings us to ….

The Weather Channel

Checking weather constantly in the hope that it will change is a obsessive compulsion you are born with in London. Sadly its contagious, and any newcomer will soon be infected. The sky in London is always overcast, the scene is always gloomy and rain is always around the corner. Some months the rain will be kind enough to drop by only on weekends, how convenient! It is not uncommon for a Londoner to memorize the weekly weather, scheduling each task carefully. No rain on Wednesday afternoon, great – pick up dry cleaning.

With all that rain, its no surprise that the sun decided to take his summer vacation in New York.

A Birds Eye View

When the seatbelt sign goes on and you being to descend into London, you see (weather permitting) pretty red houses, as pretty as you would have drawn them in school. The sight is quite different with New York where you will be overwhelmed by amazing twists and turns and butterfly patterns made by highways that meet the horizon.

I like New York. It makes me feel at home, it reminds me of Mumbai. That might seem like a strange statement to make. Maybe it is strange, but it is also true, at least for me.

The Lake District road trip

Narrative Mode: Third-person omniscient

When four friends got together Mr. Todkar couldn’t resist a road trip. He had long wanted to take one, ever since he had arrived in UK, but the opportunity had never presented itself. His dream had finally come true. Lake District he thought would be the perfect place, but with only two days to spare driving to and fro London definitely looked daunting. This of course was not going to deter him and he seemed thoroughly convinced and optimistic. Sadly for him, his wife wasn’t. Like all married couples they finally reached a compromise. They would take the train to Windermere in the heart of the Lake District which would leave them with enough time to do a mini road trip – one day to be precise.

Lake District Travel Route, Google Maps

Route Map

Detailed Google route map for the road trip

Click for details

There was nothing un-tourist-like about the trip. Mr. Samel, his friend, woke up religiously at half past three in the morning to make the sandwiches. Euston Station wasn’t far, but after Mr. Todkar’s guarantee of finding a taxi anytime faded, panic set in. The husbands hunted for a taxi while the wives were left with the luggage all by themselves. Finally they made it.

The journey to Oxenholme oscillated between dozing and vehemently discussing the authenticity of motion sickness. The two parties argued passionately if the illness was nothing but a mind game and finally fell asleep. Sleep ironically being a perfect cure for motion sickness! A short change at Oxenholme took them to Windermere, the mother of all lakes.

Red-breasted mergansers

Mergansers

Windermere at Bowness

Windermere at Bowness

Little Gull

Little Gull

Little Girl

Little Girl

The first view of the lake left everyone in awe as they merrily strolled past flocks of red-breasted mergansers. At thirty two quid an hour, a self driven motor-boat seemed like the perfect way to explore the charming lake cuddled by mountains. Each one of them waited eagerly to get behind the wheel which involved some rather daring trade of positions. Fortunately, no one fell. Contrary to the excitement in driving the motor-boat, none existed for the car, for only Mrs. Samel could drive. One of them had lost his license, the other had an expired one and the third had a license but couldn’t really drive!

Their final halt was to be at Denton House, where they would spend the night. Denton House a pretty guest house was located at the northern edge of the Lake District in the very small town of Hesket Newmarket. They were in no hurry to get there and were keen on exploring a great deal of the Lake District on their way up.

High Kingate

High Kingate

Ambleside

Ambleside

Kirkstone Passage

Kirkstone Passage

Kirkstone Pass Inn

Kirkstone Pass Inn

They passed the picturesque and grand mountains of Ambleside at the base of which stood the Kirkstone Pass Inn, run indisputably by a very lucky owner. They found it rather amusing that the scene reminded every single one of them of the great Himalayan Mountains of Ladhak though none of them had ever been there. It wasn’t long before they were driving along the scenic shore of Ullswater, which in time led them to the Aira Force waterfall. The Aira Beck stream that flows over the waterfall met the lake at Glencoyne Bay and it was here that Wordsworth drew inspiration for his poem Daffodils. The Somnambulist, another of his creations spoke fondly of the region.

Wild streams of Aira, hold thy course,
Nor fear memorials lays,
Where clouds that spread in solemn shade,
Are edged with golden rays!

Ullswater

Ullswater

Aira Force

Aira Force

Rare white faced woodland sheep

Rare Woodland sheep

A pheasant - kindly suggested by Imran

Pheasant

As the sun prepared to set, the four friends drove down the narrow winding lanes towards Hesket – a little excited by the unknown, a little enchanted by its beauty and a little annoyed by the absence of directions. For when they started, they were unaware that Cumbria was largely a rural county and Mr. Todkar’s trusted Network was soon going to fail them. The network did show its face on and off and with the help of lady luck and some skilful driving they had made it. Or so they thought, for soon they discovered the only pub in town had closed for the day and they found themselves driving again, this time fifteen miles to the south to the town of Keswick in the hope of a late night meal.

The journey to and from Keswick proved out of the ordinary. Paths cut across mountains, much alike the drawings of little ones and Mrs. Samel drove through sheep and horses who failed to acknowledge the vehicle or its horn. They swore to take a different path on their way back, and they did, but by then the sun had left their side and the paths looked eerier than they had hoped for.

Paths of Cumbria

Paths of Cumbria

Denton House, Hesket

Denton House, Hesket

First House in Scotland

First House in Scotland

Gretna Green @ Old Blacksmiths

Gretna Green

When they met at breakfast the next morning, Mr. Samel was determined to eat as much as he possibly could, for when and where he would find his next meal in Cumbria was uncertain. Though they had originally planned to return from Hesket, the proximity of Scotland tempted them all and they set off for Gretna Green.

Gretna Green situated at the mouth of the river Esk was historically the first village in Scotland, famous for runaway marriages. In 1753 England and Wales passed the Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act which prevented couples younger than 21 from marrying without parental consent, but this did not apply to Scotland, which saw hundreds of young couples eloping to the first border village! Till today, Gretna Green is one of the world’s most famous marriage destinations!

M6, A66 and A592 got the four friends to Windermere. It was a trip they would all remember for a very long time to come.

~~~

Drop a comment if you would like to view the Picasa Web album! Some random pictures:

White Leaves

White Leaves

Jhendu in Pot

Jhendu in Pot

Poor fly's illusion

Poor fly's illusion

5 days in Cochin, Kerala

Day 1

The flight to Cochin was estimated at a little over two hours. It started off brilliantly with an aerial view of the Bandra-Worli sea link. It however, refused to end. The merry-go-round over the Indian peninsula was in its third hour. Finally, we landed, in Calicut. We waited as the overpriced airplane cookies sold out. Four cookies down, we got the green for Cochin and another 26 minutes later, we had arrived.

It was a bit ironic. Last July we had dropped the idea of visiting Kerala as the monsoon rains were to be dreaded. And here we were in the middle of summer under a rainy thunderstorm. C’est la vie :)

View from Aircraft - Bandra Worli Sea Link

Bandra Worli Sea Link - Aerial View from the clouds

On arrival we were greeted by our cab driver who had obediently waited at the airport the whole time. That brought a smile on our face, and surprisingly his too! I suppose the fellow cab drivers had a pleasant time, chitchatting as the rains healed the burns.

The delay left us with little time that day, all we now wished for was a traditional sea food meal. Le Meridien, Cochin being far far away from the city left us stranded for choices. We settled for the in-house Lagoon restaurant, which was a pleasant surprise! Not only was the food delicious, but it also did not have 5 star prices slapped all over it. I loved the Karimeen Pollichathu served in a babana leaf. Yum.

Grilled Karimeen Pollichathu in a banana leaf

Grilled Karimeen Pollichathu in a banana leaf

Day 2

Nothing to rave about. A quick visit to the city followed by a ferry ride to Fort Cochin to see the famous Chinese Fishing nets. The ferry cost us 2 rupees 50 paise. I couldn’t believe it.

Le Meridien, Cochin

Le Meridien, Cochin

When in Cochin, I had no clue, how interesting the nets were and missed them in action ;( Shame on me. I just checked a few YouTube videos and its really quite amazing. The whole structure drops into the shore and when they roll it back up the fishes are in the net. I’m sure it was quite ingenious back in the 12th century when they were set up by Zheng He. A man of lazy disposition, isn’t he ;-)

Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Cochin

Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Cochin

Day 3

We spent the day visiting Munnar, which I must admit turned out more hectic than I had expected. Every time I decide to go easy on my travel plans, “tourism” gets the better of me. On the bright side, we were blessed with lovely weather and I also got to shop for a lot of tea.

Periyar River, Kerala

Periyar River, Kerala

Tea garden, Munnar, Kerala

Tea garden, Munnar, Kerala

Day 4

The Munnar trip left us a bit confused. Should we relax and soak in the sun (more squeeze out the sun if you are in India ;-) or should we allow our friends to mock us for having skipped the backwaters of Kerala! I think you know who won.

Paddy fields behind the coconut trees

Paddy fields behind the coconut trees

Backwaters at Alleppey

Backwaters at Alleppey

The backwater ride at Alleppey was very scenic. Though initially, the driver, a cheeky little bugger refused to take us to the pretty narrow backwater villages unless we tipped him upfront! He tried to trick us, and then we tricked him, and ultimately no one felt too good about it. Oh well!

We tipped off the day with a dip in the pool. I ain’t no swimmer, but the surplus fat in my body helped me float easily allowing me to learn the backstroke! Yay!

Three level pool @ Le Meridien, Cochin

Three level pool @ Le Meridien, Cochin

Day 5

The last day was spent relaxing (finally ;-) and getting an ayurvedic massage. I took one which felt like a rice bath :D It wasn’t particularly relaxing, but it was an interesting experience :)

Aurvedic Kerala Spa

Aurvedic Kerala Spa

All pics have been uploaded on Picasa. Nothing beats travelling! :)

Fancy Shakespeare as your lunch buddy?

So, lunch breaks coming up and you’re going to get together with your regular set of buddies and bash your bosses. Again. Some people, especially bosses, seem gifted with an endless pool of bad qualities, don’t they? However, as exciting as that may sound, why don’t you take a break and watch a play instead for lunch. If that sounded ridiculous, check out the “lunchbox” offer by the Bridewell Theatre.

What’s Lunchbox? It’s a great opportunity for you to leave your desk and enjoy a bite of culture with your lunch. You can bring your own lunchbox or you can buy sandwiches, snacks, coffee or beer from our Café Bar. Performances start at 1pm prompt and are about 45 minutes long. We have everything from classics to brand new pieces by up and coming writers.

Now THAT is an ingenious idea. And the best part is “you can bring your own lunchbox” – without being conned into buying overpriced stale theatre sandwiches! Love it!

Last Wednesday I watched Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” for a mere £5. It was short and sweet, lasting around 45 minutes as promised and the actors were great too. Brenden Lovett who played Malvolio, Olivia’s steward is most amusing!

Lunchbox Theatre is an ingeniously convenient way to add some culture to the otherwise perfect <joke> corporate life that we lead.

  • You can check out what’s on at the Bridewell Lunchbox Theatre here.
  • The play was performed by C Company that can be found here.

Des fleurs @ Parc du Thabor

The spring of 2008 was a pretty one, and this was particularly true of le parc du Thabor. When I moved to Rennes on the 28th of December 2007, I wasn’t quite chirpy. The city hadn’t disappointed, for it had the classic European Christmas postcard look I grew up with as a child. But I soon discovered to my dismay that receiving a winter postcard and being in a winter postcard were two very different experiences.

Though I wasn’t really a tourist, the first thing I did, once settled, was to browse the Rough Guides for Rennes. Rennes is a little city, the capital of Brittany, to the north west of France. The region of Brittany is pretty and was quite popular with the French artists during the impressionist age – including Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh’s beloved friend turned foe! Rennes wasn’t exactly loaded with tourist attractions, but Le parc du Thabor was listed and I thought it must be worth a visit.

I was all excited. My French adventure was going to begin, even if it was with the little garden in my backyard! The enthusiasm didn’t last for very long, as the only things that stood tall in the botanical gardens of Thabor were the name plates for plants. In French. It was winter. What was I thinking? It was France, not wonderland!

I did of course go back in spring and it was of course fabuleux!

Allium

Allium

Mur Mahal

Mur Mahal

Lamnathes

Lamnathes

Rose

Rose

Pasta Flower !

Pasta Flower !

Nemophila

Nemophila

FREE ENTRY – TATE MODERN

The last week of October 2009 was blessed with an Indian summer. I’m on my way for a walk along the Victoria Embankment all the way up to Westminster Abbey – for not venturing out on a bright day like this is nothing short of criminal in London. Starting at Goswell Road, I walked down to the famous St Paul’s cathedral, passing the infamous Barbican and the Museum of London on my way. As people relished their lunches in the courtyard of St Paul’s, I captured the magnificent structure in every possible angle, only to be distracted by a herd of people, all walking towards a grey gloomy building across the Millennium bridge. It read, FREE ENTRY – TATE MODERN.

 

No self respecting museum would put free entry in its NAME! Even worse, BEFORE its name! They seemed to be targeting the “It’s free! What is? Does it matter? Let’s go!” mentality! And… it worked.

 

Walking in through the River Entrance, I stood at Level 2 staring at the six floors above and the one floor below me. With seven floors to explore and 4 hours to closing time, I panicked. Overwhelmed with anxiety, convinced I would miss out on the most life changing pieces of art ever made by mankind, I decided to immediately come up with a plan. What is it about museums that turn me into a psychotic know-it-all wannabe I do not know, but such is the case.

 

A quick look at the map and I discover that levels one, two, six and seven exhibit no art. I breathe a sign of relief. Why a museum would have four floors dedicated to coffee and restrooms and three dedicated to art puzzled me, but nonetheless left me very happy.For £ 3.50 I pick up a fancy touch pad audio-visual guide, my escape from faking intelligent expressions including stares of wonderment, deep nods and occasional squints while facing a masterpiece. All equipped and excited, I head off to Level 3 – Material gestures, the section on your left if you climb up the stairs!

Level 3 – Material Gestures hosted post war American and European art with works of famous painters like Francis Bacon (really weird disfigured human painting), Anish Kapoor (one pretty looking open ended spherical structure), Paul McCarthy (really really really weird psychosexual videos, I dare not look) and our very own Claude Monet! How Monet’s water lilies made the transition from ‘impressionism’ to ‘modern’ one cannot tell, but then again since he actually painted 260 Water Lilies it’s only fair that every museum gets one!

  

The right wing on Level 3 – Poetry and Dream, featured fascinating surrealism – art used simply as a means to represent deeper philosophical ideas. The whole concept is quite intriguing and the results are quite unexpected and surprising.

A classic light bulb joke :)
Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Fish.

Level 4 wasn’t free and was not visited by me! Except for a quick visit to its terrace where I caught a glimpse of St. Paul’s at dusk.

 

Level 5 – States of Flux was filled with cubism, futurism and art movements I’d never heard of. The most interesting piece though in this section was the sculpture ‘The Kiss’ by Auguste Rodin depicting lovers Francesca – who falls in love with her husband’s brother Paolo from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Finally, the wing, Energy and Process, was the most modern and recent of them all with art from the 1970s. The pieces were interesting, though not quite breathtaking, or may be I am simply not a fan of the living artist? As random domestic thoughts crossed my mind, I heard the audio-visual guide beep. Was this a sign that the museum was closing its doors? It was strangely a low battery warning, something I had never experienced with traditional (read non-modern-audio-only) guides! All the fancy pictures and touch screens (read technology) had to come at a cost!

I made my way down and returned the instrument, admittedly a little embarrassed for having exhausted the battery! Having collected my driver’s license I finally headed for the most crowded room in most museums, ‘The Museum Shop’ to buy some lovely postcards to take home with me!