Wednesday, August 6

Thailand Sojourn


Yes. It HAS been 6 weeks that I haven’t written to you. Sorry. Big sorry. Like the super mammoth one. Guilty as hell, but all with good reason.

Being busy at work is stale news, but what’s absolutely taaza maal is that I was nominated for a popular award “Rookie of the Year” and I won with a thumping majority. My colleagues voted for me with all their love and goodwill, branding me the most talented, inspiring, motivated recruit of the year 2013-2014. Ten months in Hitachi Consulting and I thank God I came here every single day. My work and team are great, and as I enjoy what I do, work pressure is totally absent in my life. Good thing, I don’t need stress right now anyway.

Another piece of news is that I celebrated my birthday in July so my hubby and I took off to Thailand to celebrate. I brought in my last birthday in Goa so we had to make it large this time. While Thailand appeared an off choice to most people, we realized that we could do an international tour for the same cost as a domestic package. The only venues I am interested in India are Kashmir, Agra and the North East. July is not the most ideal time to visit any of these locations and voila, Bangkok-Pattaya it was!

A week in Thailand and let me tell you it was relaxing for sure if nothing else. Food and communication were a challenge even to a non-veg loving avid traveler like me, and that could be a serious concern for traditional, vegetarian tourists. KFC and McD’s abound there but none of them serves even one vegetarian option apart from the drinks and fries. Seafood is cooked and sold right on the streets of Bangkok, while the fancy restaurants are expensive and serve limited veg options. Akhilesh thoroughly enjoyed the chicken at KFC, but I did not relish it much. My birthday Thai lunch in Bangkok, I must say, was exciting – a Thai chicken curry with steamed rice and Crab spring rolls. Apart from that, I had to rely on the snacks that I had carried from India – my mum’s homemade delicacies and some other packed stuff.

To tell you the truth, Bangkok resembles Mumbai and Pattaya is like Goa, even the Bangkok-Pattaya motorway is identical to the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Shopping and sex are the main sources of income throughout Thailand, and that is evident on the billboards and streets. Semi-nude women (none of them sexy or alluring in my opinion) dancing and luring tourists embarrassed my loyal, loving hubby in Pattaya and the Alcazar show was also quite repulsive to him. Sadly, I was looking forward to it and it turned out to be disappointing.

Indians were not rare, and the loudest hoots and cheers came when “Nach Le” was played in the theater. Even in Bangkok, Indians came running to dance on stage when they were welcomed at Safari World… Some enthusiasm our lot’s got! And lack of hygiene as well. There were signs specially put up for Indian tourists to keep toilets and surroundings clean. It was shameful, but I was compelled to agree. It’s sad really, to see that we have absolutely zero bathroom etiquette, even the educated ones amongst us. These things need to be taught at home right in childhood, else we grow up and bring disgrace to our country and fellowmen.  

So, on to more pleasant topics… What did we see in Thailand?

Mini Siam, Pattaya – This lovely place has miniatures of a lot of famous spots around the world on display. While the absence of Indian monuments is striking (they only had a poster of the Taj Mahal), they have a lot of international and local attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, London Bridge, Opera House, Colloseum, and Thai places of importance. This sprawling garden can get tiresome to tread, but the displays are beautiful, and the maintenance mind-blowing. We also discovered that Ramayana has a parallel story in Thailand as we were browsing the souvenir shops.      

Underwater World – This is one attraction you absolutely can’t miss in Pattaya. There are a variety of marine creatures here and it is very exciting to watch them all surrounding and floating around you. Scary, too! We went berserk taking pictures. Thank god for cams on cell phones! Since we were not allowed to go for the Coral island tour, this was certainly a must-visit for us.

Alcazar Show – The highlight of Pattaya, meant to be a cabaret, but it was sadly low on energy and enthusiasm. The colors, costumes and glamour were intact, and dance forms from around the world were included in the show. Indians, needless to say, were howling like idiots and taking pictures, even video-shooting the entire show, desperate buggers.  

Pattaya beach – Very clean, that is what I remember about the seashore. The water was transparent and crystal-like, and it was such a refreshing change from what we see in India. No rubbish in the water, no garbage on the sand. No shacks either, for that matter. There are some beach chairs, and you can only sit on them for a fee. That part was ridiculous, but I guess that’s the price you pay for the maintenance.

MBK Mall – This is a famous electronic and garment mall, similar to several other malls in Bangkok like the Platinum Fashion Mall and Golden Plaza, etc. While items are not dirt cheap, they sure have a lot of variety for smaller sized women and men. The worst bit is that all shops shut by 8 pm so you can’t saunter around leisurely. Street markets are on until late, but the malls will be deserted as soon as dusk sets in.   

Safari World and Marine Park – Another attraction you cannot miss at Bangkok. This is a zoo cum circus which offers full day entertainment to children and adults alike. We thoroughly enjoyed the Orangutan show, Elephant Show, Dolphin and Sea Lion Show. The ride around the Safari Park was quite amazing as well and I was reminded of my thrilling safaris in Africa as a teenager.

Bangkok Temple Tour – While Bangkok has over 4000 temples, there are some that are hot tourist destinations. First among these is the Golden Buddha temple which has an 18 carat golden Buddha statue that is about 10 feet tall and weighs 5.5 tonnes. It is quite a mesmerizing sight, this dazzling glowing piece of work, and you need to walk all of 3 flights of stairs to gaze upon its marvelousness. The second is the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. This temple is known to be the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage (but I only realized that while browsing just now). The temple has more than a thousand Buddha images, the most significant among them being the reclining deity 160 feet in length. It is stunning to say the least, and should you be interested, you can check this link -
We also saw the Garuda temple in Bangkok – honestly all the temples and idols look the same, and I am not the historically inclined types. But yeah, the 2 mentioned above, surely were worth a dekko.  

We stayed at the Ibis in Pattaya and the Best Western in Bangkok, both very decent hotels right in the heart of town. Indian restaurants are many in Thailand, but the food was pretty average and obviously costly. Shopping for clothes and souvenirs was all we did, as neither Akhilesh nor I are very fond of this expensive pastime. Besides, you find everything everywhere these days so no item is a novelty.

A four hour nonstop flight brought us back to Bombay from Bangkok and we got back the 1.5 hours that we had missed while flying to Thailand. I managed to catch up a bit on my reading (“Only Time Will Tell”) but I could only finish the book a few days ago back in Pune-land. My fingers are now laid upon A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and I have enjoyed watching movies like Hercules and Kick. Of course, family engagements and other domestic chores are back on…

So now you know what I have been up to these past couple of weeks. See you sooner next time. Hope you are enjoying the rains!


Wednesday, June 25

Good, Bad or Just Meant to Be...

The sun grabbed a cushion of billowing white clouds and lazily opened one eye to the world. How would it be if he refused to get up and follow his daily drill today?

Humans despised monotony, hell, he was a god more powerful and free. But with great power comes great responsibility, as a famous movie said. And he was all ready to take on all the duties that he was bestowed with (hell, did he have a choice?)

She awoke with a groan, waking up early had never been easy for her. But she had to, coz he needed to get up and get ready for work. 

She was the proverbial black sheep, not good for the family reputation and community, but she was what she was. And she had no intentions of changing for anybody or anything. And yet, when she married the man of her dreams (or so she believed), she had to lay down to rest some of her dreams and lifestyle habits.

She was prepared for it, she said. And everyone believed her, since that is what she screamed she wanted. When someone raised a concern about how much her life would change, she convinced hem (and herself) tha it was all for the best…

She got him all that he wanted or desired. And that soon turned against her, as he started devoting more time and attention to those objects than to her. Such is life, when you try to fulfil the wishes of the one you love, he starts loving those objects more than you yourself. And then he claims, he never really wanted anything anyway, and that you have been an obstacle in his achievements, personal and professional.

She wondered how and where she was going wrong. Was it wrong to fulfil the wishes of the one you loved? Was it better to have him yearn and wait for his dreams? Coz her sacrifices were going to waste either way. There was absolutely no appreciation or thankfulness on any front.

She had always been independent, in thought and action, financially and logically. Yet, her biggest failing was her emotional dependency on the people that she loved. Him. More since they had committed to being each other's. And he either did not understand that, or he enjoyed making her feel lonely and empty inside.

She was confident, and yet in some situations, she felt as naïve as possibly Shashi (from her favorite Bollywood flick English Vinglish) on her maiden trip to the US. Her husband, who prided himself on his many qualities supported and loved her, and made her feel inadequate in turns. Making her hate him and their relationship ever so often. Her confidence was not as great as she thought when he was involved in the situation.

But then, that’s how some things are… You think you know what you want, and you struggle for it, and then you wonder if what you fought for and achieved was really the best that you could have got. Can we be assured of a better future if we refuse what is in front of us?

And what was in his heart...? Was it the same turmoil, or did he simply not care...???


Friday, June 13

Beauty has an address! - Awesome Oman

( Psst.... !! This is an entry for the Indiblogger contest: Beauty has an Address... Please vote for me by going to this link and click "read post". Even if a handful of you lovely 115 followers do this, I could win a trip to Oman and share my actual, completely non-fiction experience with you!! )

What do you do in a country that boasts of a coastline of 1600 km? You take morning walks on the seashore, relax in the calm waters in the afternoon, engage in adventure sports in the evening and lounge around in the rocking restaurants at night! For a beach lover like me, this spells absolute bliss.

But the magical country of Oman has so much more to offer than just a beach experience.

Be it the majestic mountains that are a photographer’s delight or picturesque forests with wildlife galore. There are imposing forts with awe-inspiring history and there are friendly people in colorful markets. Bask in “Arabia’s jewel”, the royal capital city of Muscat with tall, golden minarets and peaceful lawns and flowers. The old capital Nizwa also has its quaint historical monuments and handicrafts that appeal to all culture loving tourists. Step into the magical world of Bahla and listen to the mysterious myths and legends. Or feast on the sight of the Wahiba sand that dissolves into the Arabian Sea. Finally, get away from it all at the idyllic Masirah island. And these are just a few of the many things to do in Oman… Beauty does have a marvelous address!

No wonder then that the tourism industry is flourishing in Oman. Being a travel enthusiast, it would be a dream come true for me to win an all-expense paid trip to this exotic destination. Amen to that!

So, if I were to indeed be the lucky one chosen for a holiday in Oman, here’s how my vacation would look like…

I would start my sojourn at Sohar, popularly known as the birthplace of Sinbad the Sailor and not just because the Arabian Nights is one of my all-time favorite books! This place was an ancient capital of Oman and is now a bustling port and marketplace (locally called “souk”). I would then head to the vacation capital of Salalah and spend some lazy time on the beach and explore the archaeological sites. Camel racing will be on my agenda as well. The traditional hospitality typical of Oman would welcome me and make me feel at home instantly, and I would continue my journey to Sur to taste the culture and traditions Omani style.

 After some bargain hunting for jewelry and souvenirs, I would move on to Jebel Akhdar, 'The Green Mountain' with scenic terraced villages. The highest point on the Arabian Peninsula would be the perfect location for a camping trip! Nestled in the lap of nature, I would then visit the beaches of Ra's Al Hadd, the nesting ground for the endangered green sea turtles.  

How can I not visit the capital city of Muscat? Of course, I would not be able to enter the beautiful mosques for religious reasons, but the museums, parks and glorious forts in Muscat would more than make up for it. I would like to watch the dolphins and go snorkeling while in Oman, and also enjoy a lovely barbecue on the beach at Marina Bandar Al Rawdah.  

I would also be glad to participate in some of the famous Oman festivals if the timing is right, such as the Muscat Festival, Salalah festival, Sindbad Classic or Offshore Sailing Race.

All in all, it would an escapade of my dreams.

As-salám aláykum, Oman. When do we meet?!!


This blog post is an entry into Indiblogger’s "Beauty has an address!" contest in association with Oman Tourism ( Pray I win and thy prayers shall be answered, pretty people !!! :-)


Wednesday, May 21

May Matters


Naah, won't start off again with the "Sorry for not writing in sooner." 

It's a fact and I may as well accept it (like it or not) that I am unable to connect with you, dear readers, more frequently. There are multiple reasons for this, and one of them (regrettably) is my laziness and addiction to mindless games on my cell phone. But hey, I've been reading and watching Roadies as well when I can, which is pretty rare given that we are now in the process of moving into our new apartment. Yeah! 

Yippee! Finally! The house we bought in Jan last year is now our home, and we will be shifting before this month ends. The house warming ceremony was a grand affair though we planned a modest pooja with few invitees. All god's wish. It looks fabulous with the delightful decor and lovingly handpicked knick knacks. However, I must tell you, while hubby is ecstatic at relocating, I still can't shake off the homely feeling that I get at our old rented flat that I am yet to feel at the new one. The new house is too spacious and posh. Time will iron the wrinkles out, I am sure. 

I complete 2 years of wedlock with Akhilesh  next month! How time flies... 

While our home front is kinda settling down, the national scene is also pretty joyous. Narendra Modi has won hands down and it is quite a record that he has set in terms of number of votes achieved. I really hope he lives up to the expectations and does the country and countrymen some good. The Congress has desecrated the nation enough and while no one person is flawless, NaMo seems the best of the lot. Ready for TsuNaMo, Indians?!!!

I  watched Revolver Rani yesterday- it's an engaging movie with a brilliant first half and wonderful performances. Kangana Ranaut is really grabbing meaty roles and living up to the character. Vir Das plays her love interest, and the story is fairly entertaining, though not as path-breaking as Queen. Too many songs, though. I missed the Amazing Spiderman, but I didn't hear rave reviews about it, so  no regrets. No other popular movies in the pipeline, I guess.   

Did I tell you I finished reading Roadies? (The journey X1 is over too, with my predicted winner emerging victorious - Nick. Kudos!) Basis Raghu's recommendation, I have purchased the Devil and Miss Prym and there are heaps of other books on my unread shelf such as Be Careful What You Wish For (Jeff Arch - Clifton Chronicles), And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini), I Am Pilgrim while Siva still remains 1/4th un-done. Dozens of movies also lie unwatched on my laptop, and I wish I had a few dozen holidays to do justice to all of them. Plus go on a short holiday (yes, already!) to Mahabaleshwar if nothing extravagant. I am just so exhausted and rushed all the time, even weekends seem to last no longer than a few hours... I miss partying and dining out someplace fancy. I want to swim and sleep in late. I yearn to go clubbing and traveling. Walks, shopping and drives remain a dream. I wish I could apply for work from home for a week or two, but as they say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Rest, well, whatever else there is, is fine. Work keeps me super busy and riding all the way to Magarpatta and back takes its toll on my body and mind. Shifting will help in that regard for sure, and will cut my commuting time by half. No travel plans for work yet, but you never know. I am also getting offers to write articles (freelance) and reviews for books and movies and websites (commercial). No time to spare :-(

Got your pay hikes this year? I heard a lot of companies are just about scraping through. Hitachi has given moderate increases and well, I am not complaining. For a person who joined merely 7 months ago at an ambitious package, there is nothing that I can crib about. Plus the day shift, autonomy, position and perks. It's a merry world here. Touch wood. 

And as if all of that was not enough, they cast me in a video for a contest by "Great Places to Work" - You can check it out here and please share and like it!!

Impressive, eh?!!

And so, there we end. See you later, alligator. 


Tuesday, April 15

Vote for a Better India (and other gupshup)

Hi everyone, 

As the biggest democracy goes to the polls, it's a crazy mesh out there of different political parties proclaiming their greatness and exposing the crap out of others. 

While I am not too politically inclined, I sure do plan to exercise my right to vote... and so should you. The Congress has done enough damage in 10 years and later, there is no point in blaming politicians if you could not take this tiny step yourself to make the nation a better place. The right people are doing the right thing by going as far as to declare a holiday so that employed citizens can cast their vote so as to not miss a day at work. Is it not our obligation then to stand by our country and do our bit?  

Pune has elections on the 17th - I urge you, please vote. I know of some folks who find traveling more important on this day, or cite excuses as silly as routine logistics to avoid taking the effort. It's not becoming, I implore you. Please do vote. Don't think it's only a matter of ONE vote. Every vote makes a difference. I know Arun Bhatia, who I thought a very deserving candidate, did not win majority votes and hence could not bring about change in the city. Take a cue - all our individual votes put together could bring your favorite political party to the forefront (not that either of them is blemish-free and faultless), but let's choose the lesser evil. Let's make that choice by casting out ballot. 

Modi or AAP, now that remains the question. Only if the "single largest party" in the country does not miraculously emerge victorious yet again. Rahul Gandhi is not someone who can handle this vast nation, so the choice is between Kejriwal and NaMo. Frankly, they have their pasts, their errs and their supporters. May the best man win. 

Having made my appeal, let me move on to the other topics at hand. First of all, apologies for the long absence - personal and professional commitments have kept me very occupied. I had my Udyapan / Ujawna for Gangaur and Suraj-rota (you'd have heard of it if you know about Rajasthani culture), and we're now planning a trip with the family to Jabalpur, my maternal native place. This shall be the first time my husband travels with the entire Rathi clan out of station, so I am looking forward to it as well as to the childhood memories of Bhedaghat and Sadar Bazaar, coolers and gardens. With our new home almost ready, housewarming is also round the corner and it seems like busy times are only going to continue in the recent future. Fret not, for I shall keep dropping a line as and when I can. 

Secondly, thanks a ton to all the new readers who have reached my blog and have made my day by sending me appreciation notes. I really am touched, thank you so much. Knowing that I'm touching your lives even without seeing you face to face means a lot to me. Do keep coming back and let me know what you feel about my writing. 

I'm now trying to make time for reading, and I've got One Amazing Thing on my bookshelf, Bhagavad Gita on my laptop and Ramayana on my cell phone - all English versions, obviously. The Sanskrit ones were very tiring and did not make sense to me. Better to understand what I am reading than merely to put a tick mark on these holy books. I am sure you know that the Mahabharata is my all-time favorite book, but I am reading the others on insistence of my dear mum. They're quite interesting too, thankfully, the websites that I am referring to. And then, conversations with my Ammi, Abba, husband and mum all turn out to be enlightening in their own unique ways. We thrash ideas around and discuss experiences that match or contradict what is passed down over the ages. Helps us bond, and helps us better comprehend these mighty tales. 

I recently watched Captain America - pretty good movie, but very stretched I think. English films ought not to be longer than 2 hours. Bhootnath Returns seems to have good reviews, but I don't have the patience for that right now. I gave Ragini MMS2 a miss, owing to the gross trailers and Sunny Leone's presence. I'd much rather watch a porn movie at home followed by the original Ragini MMS (neither of which I am in the mood to endorse).

Mango season is here, and it's fairly hot most afternoons. Best not to get out of the house between 12 and 4 pm, and get out those sunscreens and sunblocks. Naah, not me - I can't be bothered with all of that. I've got my hands full anyway with my loads of aches and cravings. I just don't seem to be getting enough sleep these days, though my darling spouse has opted for a (comparatively) earlier shift. Weekends also rush by, so I'm wondering how I will be able to cope with it all. That I get to watch Koffee with Karan and Roadies XI is itself a miracle, coz I am sure the clock plays pranks on me and shrinks 24 hours to 2. I wish I could have 30 hours in a day for starters, and sleep for 15. Hehe. Mulla kii daud masjid tak. 

On that note, let me say goodbye, time to sleep!

Don't forget to vote.