Monday, October 11, 2010

Current Affairs

Being unemployed is bliss, provided you have a sponsor. Financial support apart, it is still a tricky place to be in. It is one thing to dream of being jobless, and another to be actually sitting on your couch swatting flies. Apparently the sudden shift from a tight wired purpose oriented life to an absolute erasure of any kind of social and institutional engagement leaves one craving for the very same structured existence that was so emphatically abhorred. Call it a Paradox or the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-syndrome, whatever it is, it is extremely unsettling to maintain your sanity and your serenity when exposed to a time overload with absolutely no means of keeping yourself occupied. When peeping into face book window every other minute seeking updates of people you would hardly share a coffee with becomes your primary means of socialisation, that my dear, is the point when you know for sure your life is slipping into deplorable stagnation. But God Bless the brains behind Internet and social networking. If I were asked the oft repeated and utterly pointless if-stranded-in-an-Island-question that are recurrent in celebrity interviews, I know what i would need. "An auto-re loadable refrigerator and wi-fi access thank you very much!" Digression and hypothesis apart, i have a plan of action for the lavishly barren days staring me in the face...

First and foremost among the list of things to do inevitably is the quest for my lost jaw line. Yes, it has disappeared and it has to be reclaimed. Fortunately my  introduction to Yoga has got me started on the path to recovery.

A good thing about having abundance of time at your disposal is you get to read like a lunatic and that is precisely what i intend to do. I have recovered unread books from the cupboard and as if that were not enough, restocked it with newer titles bought passionately bargaining with the road side vendor. Reading multiple books at a time is an interesting means to add literary variety although there is always the risk of confusing one plot with characters from another story. But who cares, as long as you are entertained the purpose is served. And oh i am looking forward to the Masala Chai Book Club meet, nothing like being amidst social bookworms and pretending like i read a lot.

Another extremely time consuming activity to kill the lingering hours is to grab a paint brush and splash the colours on the canvas. Yes, i have taken a fancy for painting and i am addicted for the time being. I find the colours theraputic. Lets see how long this lasts...

Excavate the guitar stacked away in some dusty corner of the house and re join classes...

Getting a licence would be thoughtful considering the implications of driving without one...

Maybe learn stitching. No body makes clothes my size!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Queensland Chennai - What to expect and what to detest.

Visiting a theme park was one of our agendas this vacation when all of my in laws were home for their annual break. Not a problem. But when you have multiple theme parks and no clue as to how well maintained these might be, the decision of selecting a park becomes complicated. We were a group of 11 in the age group of 9-75 so all round entertainment for all age groups was something we were on the lookout for. After asking around personally and posting a few enquiries over Facebook, we rounded up on Queensland as our destination of choice simply because that seemed to be the one frequented by our friends circle. When in doubt follow the crowd.

Set in the Bangalore trunk road, Queensland Amusement Park is just half an hours drive from Chennai city. So accessibility wise it is a definite yes. The park works all days except on Mondays from 10 am-7.30pm. The earlier you enter the better. Considering the sprawling 70 acre area of the park, be prepared to walk your feet off if you intend to see the whole of the park. There are food courts that give you average dishes but not the place to dine like royalty. I guess outside food is permitted since i saw a lot of school kids carrying their tiffins in. Surprisingly, there were no security checks at the entrance! You get so used to it while in the city that the lack of it strikes you strongly. These days even a shabby security check with worn out equipments puts me at ease. Big lapse there in impressing visitors with high end gizmos.

They tag you with a wrist strip that counts the rides you take. You cant repeat any rides and it makes sense because there wont be enough time left to try everything if you stay back for repetitions. Proper dressing is crucial. One of the lady's on a Tora Tora went flying off and hit her head hard on the floor when her duppatta got stuck in the security locks and gave away the latch. Apart from right outfit, a strong sun screen and comfortable shoes are highly recommended if you don't want to end up looking roasted and with sore feet. Chennai summers are brutal so make sure you are hydrated throughout. This trip is going to literally fry your brains out, plan it for the later half of the year when the fury of the sun calms down a bit. We made the trip in early August and it was hot but tolerable.

As is obvious i am going to be a bit pricky in this review and this is so from my exposure to a couple of other theme parks i have visited in South India. Although it was a long time ago, Veegaland was the best in my list till date. Coming back to first impressions on Queensland, honestly, the whole of the park was a little too dry and colourless for an Amusement park. I know it might sound unrealistic but ideally stepping into a theme park should feel like stepping into a fantasy world. In my opinion visual overload is a must in a theme park whether it be in flashy paints, colourful cartoons, exotic landscapes, over the top interior/exterior design and deco. Now i know i am being hard to please. Clearly, Queensland wasn't Disneyland, but they could still pay a little more attention to detail in making the park a bit more exciting to the eyes. I mention this in particular because i am obsessed with clicking pictures and the dull background didn't give me any appealing shots.

Putting aside this initial impression, i have to admit the park does offer a wide array of dry land rides. My personal preference is for extreme rides that make you puke your guts out. Keeping this criteria in mind the free fall, the roller coaster and the different variations of giant wheels that rotate and incline at varying angles at super dizzy speeds are must trys. Nothing like the high you get from having your head spinning and subjecting yourself to voluntary self torture! The main USP of Queensland i guess is the variety it offers. I haven't yet been to a theme park that offers cable car rope way rides, 3 km long joy train ride, Gaming arcade plaza and Go Kart race tracks all at the same place. They also have the Horror house, Fun House and Mirror House kind of entertainment. Individually they might not be perfect but collectively it gives off an impression that there is a lot on offer.

The water games however were a huge disappointment simply because there wasn't much on offer. The Himalayan Water ride that i was dieing to try was out of order. The only things left after that was the wave pool and the slide pools. The wave pool didn't make any massive waves and it was a misnomer to call it that. It was at best only a large swimming pool. For some reason they close it of at 4.30pm. The slide pool too, for me at least, was another big dissapointment because i wanted crazy scary slides and what they offered the lady's section were only kids slides which even my 9year old nephew slid through like a piece of cake. All the long and tunneled slides were on the men's side of the pool. Not fair!

But just being in the pool lifts up your spirits and you can have a ball of a time if you really want to. Since ladies and gents have separate sections in the pool you might want to make sure you have enough company of your sex before venturing in. Or else you might end up a lonely duck flapping on your own. I had a ball of a time pushing and splashing around my nieces and nephew. In the process i realised once again that the secret to enjoying a theme park experience is to push yourself to go for the rides that challenge your guts and forget acting your age!

So my verdict on Queensland is out - worth a visit once but not the place for water rides. The pricky me would give it a rating of 2 out of five simply because there is a lot of scope for improvement. Tonnes needs to be done before they claim the so called international standards.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Of Faith

There was a time when i was in the zenith of my spiritual frenzy - during the tenth standard boards! A good score and clearing the horrid maths exam were my top prayer requests. I was a regular at the daily mass and ardently listened to the sermons of the parish priest. There were no questions, no doubts just blind belief. But that was a long time ago.

Then college happened and literature happened and scepticism happened. Going to church became a habit out of practice. Listening to sermons and mentally dissecting it to locate flaws or dig up the power dichotomy being conveyed became a medium to survive the hour long mass. Praying, well, that continued, but not with the same firm faith. As i got introduced to philosophers whose names i could hardly pronounce, religion became a possible entity that was constructed to reign in people with the fear of divine reprimand. Every religion was a construct of its time and consequently propagated ideologies that ensured its propagation, practise and power circulation. The loss of faith was looming large and i was officially a doubting Thomas.

This is not something i am proud of. I wanted my faith back. But it was an every day struggle to start believing in my religion all over again. I believed in God, the existence of a supreme power, but whether that power was the one described by religions, i had by apprehensions.

Queries were galore :

If God knew everything why would he want us to pray?

Repetitive prayers made no sense. God should be capable of comprehending our thoughts.

Why should we be sorry for the things we love to do? Doesn't God want us to be happy?

If God is all power full why would he let Satan/Evil survive?

If the things we do are evil why would God let it tempt us in the first place? Can't he mentally programme us to hear, see, do or think no evil?

And most importantly, why would God let us suffer when he could easily choose to alleviate our pain.

Shouldn't God be broadminded enough to understand his creations and not be pricked by human blunders?

I had my own views on God. And then i read the Bible.

I have attempted reading it before but found it insufferably tedious. But this time it clicked. Maybe i read it with a receptive mind to explore God rather than just knowing what it says. This time it felt as if messages were being showered on me with the sharpness of an arrow. Each line seemed solely written for me. My doubts were getting erased and the faith i lost was coming back to me. (Excuse me, do i sound like those freaky gospel preachers?)

My hallelujah moment was during the five day retreat i attended. The first few days were a struggle against sleeping and falling off the chair. Then i started concentrating and there were instances which were infuriating. But towards the end there was a sense of calm and divine presence that i haven't felt in a really long time. When you see miracles happening, cancers and lumps disappearing, you just can't sit there denying it. And for those like me who think it could all be arranged with a little money spend on hiring people, you still can't ignore the miracles that happen to you on a personal level.

I realised it is better to leave some things unhampered with your meagre knowledge of the world and feel the power of faith. Faith can work wonders and it is better to have faith if it offers hope against utter hopelessness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Culinary Escapades!

Whoever said that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach is a big fat liar! It is most definitely through his other senses if you know what i mean. But the way to your in-laws heart lies straight through their tummies. You can look like Angelina Jolie, recite the Wasteland in reverse and head 100 people to war and that still wouldn't make a difference if you cook like shit. So ladies here is the hard truth - as a Daughter-In-Law you are judged solely by your culinary skills. The tastier and the faster you cook, the better your prospects of topping the charts of a prized DIL. If anyone tells you otherwise they are in denial.

I thought i was the luckiest girl on the planet when my husband looked me in the eye and earnestly uttered those sugar coated words "Honey, if i wanted some one to cook for me i would hire a cook." He remained truthful to his words and hired a cook right away to save me the mundane worries of sweating it out in the kitchen. Peace was restored in our paradise and we lived happily. But not for long. Soon enough everyone (including my mother) made it their private business to smirk at me when they heard of the cook! How i wish i could borrow Mr. Potters invisibility cloak and hammer out their teeth!

Gradually, I realised cooking is a necessary evil that follows women unto their grave, especially so if they are married. Whether you like it or not, in most cases you dont have a choice of remaining a non-cooking wife. I guess my hatred for cooking goes way back to the day when i was a 12 year old and sweetly offered to help my dad in grinding the dough. I ended up forgetting the number one rule of using a mixer - to tighten the lid! The result was a gorgeous splash of dosa mavvu on the kitchen wall that could rival a modern art painting any day. Life hasn't changed much from that initial disaster. Even now my kitchen looks like a war zone after my attempts of putting together a breakfast in the mornings. If i hate cooking, i abhor cleaning up much more. Why do women end up doing all the dirty jobs? South Indian cuisine i am sure, was designed to make women end up panting like dogs and sweating like pigs with the never ending line of grinding, pounding and steaming. After all this effort if someone dares snub my dishes i swear i wont think twice to shove it off their throats and choke them to death!

Even the modern day inventions like the grinder and oven isnt of much use. After all your neighbour wont offer to stand in the steaming kitchen and cook your meals. Forget the neighbour, even your better half wont be of much help after a point. My husband for instance offers to help, but i dont have the heart to make him go through this torture after 13 hrs a day of office work. It was my secret dream to strategically marry a chef to avoid cooking post marriage. My plans were aborted immediately after i heard from a girlfriend whose husband was a chef and still remained adamant on not cooking at home as he does it all day long at work. Life hasn't got much hope you see, unless someone invents an All-Purpose-Super-Cooker-Robot and sells it cheap!

So my dear sisters get prepared and learn to cook if you plan to survive a marriage and guys be grateful for the efforts the women in your life put to keep you well fed and thriving.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cochin Carnival

Here is something that happens to women after marriage - no amount of time spent at their home is ever enough!

No matter how boring or uneventful your home seemed before marriage, post marriage, you feel like it is the comfiest cradle in the entire world. Your body develops a magnetic impulse to bounce back to your roots at every chance you get. It isn't necessarily because you aren't happy with your new surroundings. It might be the best of metros or even the costliest of suburbs. But the longing for your home remains unquenched...

I have an insane urge to go back to my home every time a holiday comes up. Maybe its the pleasure of reigning like a queen, pampered by my dad and ordering around my mum that is the cause of this desire. Yes, my folks do get senti about my staying away and i dutifully take full advantage of it. Surprisingly enough, your parents do your bidding uncomplainingly because, "after all she is staying away, lets humour her while she is here". Mind you these are pleasures i never knew while i was staying with them before marriage.

Its not just your home that you miss. Even your home town, no matter how dead a place it was, eventually develops a magical charm. For instance, these days i long for the lush green canopy of my state. It is utterly inconsequential that i grew up in Kochi, seeing very little of this greenery while i was there. You start developing romantic notions about the long days of monsoon rains, which earlier used to be a pain. Even a bite of the local savala bajji and parippu vada seem divine treats.

I had been waiting the whole year for New years to go home. Its not that we don't visit frequently, but this time we had planned a relatively longer stay - 4 days! Yeah it is sad, but most of our visits are over the weekends lasting only 2 days tops. Anything more than that is a luxury we don't afford (thanks to the psychotic boss of my better half). I had vowed to make the best of these few days at home and enjoy every bit of it. More importantly, i had another mission in mind - to introduce my better half, to the New Year revelries at Kochi. Being raised outside Kerala, he hasn't had the pleasure of seeing any massive celebrations at Xmas or New Years, except the church rituals.

We started with the streets, loitering around aimlessly on New Years eve soaking in the sights and sounds of a crowded Fort Kochi that was all dolled up to welcome 2010. If you didn't know, Fort Kochi is at its best during New Years. It is the best time to feel the spirit of the place. It appears as if the whole town is out to party. Bunches of families walking around, kids swinging in the park, ladies doing last minute cake shopping at the bakeries, foreigners clicking pics, couples enjoying dinners at the wayside restros, colonial-mansions-turned-hotels bathed in light, people crowding in at the beach to watch the grand finale of burning the Santa as the clock strikes 12 ushering in a new year and the youth dancing away on roadside stalls - the town was oozing with merriment. It is the only time of the year when you get to see so many people on the streets in the middle of the night in this part of the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed showing around my husband the rows of houses decked up with lights, the humongous Xmas tree at the Velli ground, the entire stretch of 50 feet road shining in silver hangouts studded with stars on either side, the Santas lined up at every junction and the Bascillica glowing with rows of snowy stars. Maybe its just my fancy, maybe not every one feels the same, but for me this little laid back town, during this season of the year is a blissful dream. I cant explain what a boost it gives my spirits to be just a part of the crowd, to be in the city i love so much with the love of my life.

Watching the carnival on Jan 1st is almost like a ritual in the family. I remember going for it ever since i was a kid hanging on my dads shoulders. I was eager to show my hubby dearest the crowd and the madness that is the Cochin Carnival. The Carnival flags off days ahead, festivities and revelries engulf the town with a slew of cultural programs and competitions. It seems the Cochin Carnival originated as a beach festival in 1984, but some do trace back its origins to the Portuguese during colonial days. On Jan 1st, everything culminates to a grand parade that rolls out on the street pulling in thousands of spectators from all over. The rally starts at 3 pm from the Velli ground with an assortment of local art forms, youth in drag and tableaus showcasing socio-political issues.

There are years when this annual rally offers variety and then there are years when it offers nothing but vulgarity. I say vulgarity, because there have been times when the only thing you get to see are men engaged in their fancy of dressing up like women in revealing costumes. If done in moderation it is fun to watch, else it can make you sick because you end up watching hairy arms caressing fake boobs! Whatever said and done, i dont think there will be a Carnival where you cant see these men in drag. I believe this is so because in the guise of teasing women, men here do take a private pleasure in cross dressing. Nothing else can explain why year after year you see so many men engaged in this act so persistently and so shamelessly.

Whether the Carnival is good or bad, what always remains is the crowd. You have to see it to believe it. The entire place is swarmed by hoardes of people. Men, women, kids and oldies from all walks of life are out on the roads to watch the show irrespective of how good or bad it turns out to be. It is of course but natural that if not many, atleast some among them are not in their senses, drunk till their noses. Be warned of pickpockets and gropers. Look out for your own good. Police are doing a good job of locking up the causes of public nuisance but in a crowd of thousands you would better want to watch yourself than regret.

And for the record, this time everything was arranged in good taste. Amazing variety in themes, some of the tablueas leaving us in splits of laughter. My husband thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. And i think he finally gets the hang of the origins of the "Kochi- Achi" adage.